May 04, 2012 10:08
| Food and Drink
There is certainly no shortage of Asian restaurants in London, so a new one would certainly have to stand out in what is a crowded marketplace. Umami, on Cromwell Road, launched last month, offering a menu of small and sharing plates with influences from Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Korea.
The menu is certainly eclectic, with favourites such as chicken satay and Thai fish cakes alongside signature creations like sweet basil, garlic and peppercorn tossed squid.
There are curry dishes, stir fry dishes and noodles – with the idea being that you can pick and choose a few tapas-style plates to share among yourselves.
The restaurant is decked out in neutral colours, and we sat in a cosy booth by the window. The prawn crackers brought out to start where lovely – not like the insipid white foamy circles you get in Chinese takeaways.
To start, we tried the tempura lychee on seared scallop – Umami’s signature dish – which was different and really good. The sweet lychee with the crispy battered outer was great. A duo of spring roles were also lovely – fresh and crunchy and with a delicious sweet chili dipping sauce.
Unfortunately, the rest of the meal was disappointing. A lamb curry was bafflingly bland, and a dish of grilled red snapper in banana leaf served with sweet tamarind and chilli was well cooked, but tasted primarily of soy sauce and little else.
Dessert, too, was underwhelming: the mango and rice pudding was overpriced given the ramekin of rice and a small fan of unadulterated fruit. But the ice cream was good – one with a proper firey ginger taste and another with chocolate and chili. If the curry had been hotter it would have been a cooling end to the dinner.
The highlight of the meal was the lovely jasmine tea we were served after – it was sweet and refreshing and soothed a full stomach.
Perhaps Umami just needs to get going, but the chefs need to be braver with their spicing if they are going to compete with the plethora of other Asian restaurants out there. There were some moments of brilliance, but generally, it’s a could do better.
Three course dinner for two with wine is around £80.
Umami, 100 Cromwell Road, London, SW7 4ER / 0207 341 2320