Recommended Asian Restaurants in London

Most Chinese restaurants in London range from fairly ordinary to thoroughly lousy, Cantonese-style, with menus similar to others in big cities around the world, and less interesting seasoning. You’ll find two offbeat, modernized variations below. Indian restaurants are the inexpensive staple here, at least filling and cheap, but their menus are all pretty much the same, and the cooking can be indifferent; lately, there’s been a trend to "modern Indian" cooking, lighter and departing from cliches, worth a try. Prices aren’t inexpensive, though. I offer two for consideration. Traditional Japanese restaurants never caught on here, but a few modernist, hip, razzle-dazzle places are the best of the lot. (Available websites follow at the end of the listings.)



The decor is corny, flamboyant, pure Bollywood--palm trees, a waterfall, old-fashioned murals; it’s sheer, laugh-out-loud camp. The food, though, is reasonably serious, some of it based on French colonies in India (a piece of history most of us had probably forgotten), such as cassoulet de fruits de mer or duck breast pullivar. There’s a full complement of well-prepared conventional Indian food, and a wide-ranging, good-value lunchtime buffet. Recently, someone had a corker of an idea, pairing Zinfandel with things like tandoori-seared foie gras with dates, marinated tuna, casseroled quail, and yogurt-marinated tender lamb cutlets from the tandoori oven. It worked. The Zins join more than 100 other pricey but interesting choices from around the world. La Porte des Indes, 32 Bryanston Street, London W1H 7EG. Tel: +44 (0)20 7224 0055. Open seven days a week for dinner, lunch every day but Saturday.

Nearest Tube: Marble Arch

Nearby Attractions: Oxford Street shopping, The Wallace Collection





London’s trendiest in-spot--the waiters dress better (by Issy Miyake) than some of the customers. The wine list includes fresh sakés, and 120+ Rieslings from Germany, Alsace, and Australia, Sauvignon Blancs from the Loire, New Zealand, and California, and a few light reds from all over. The long menu has many original, elaborate dishes, so a good option is omakase, the chef’s choice. We got sea bass and yellowtail sashimi, tuna tartare with caviar, an array of sushi, duck and foie gras, miso-glazed black cod, and a chocolate-passionfruit eggroll, with a profusion of sauces and spices, all delicious and remarkable.

Nobu, 19 Old Park Lane, London W1Y 4LB. Tel: +44 (0)20 7447-4747.

Open Monday-Friday lunch, Monday-Saturday dinner. Reservations difficult but essential.

Nearest Tube: Hyde Park Corner

Nearby Attractions: Buckingham Palace



Umu is an elegant exercise in high-concept dining. Wild fish are flown in from Japan, as are vegetables and drinking water, tofu is made on-site.There are three menus–sushi, a la carte, and an expandable traditional Kaiseki meal, created by the head chef and ranging in price from very expensive to astronomical; we opted for the a la carte, a dozen dishes (from a choice of about 60), mostly superb, especially a savory mackerel tartare, miso oyster gratin, minced quail and foie gras potato roll, duck with onion and mustard, and brown-tea ice cream; portions are small but rich. There are 300 wines listed, and 70 sakés, ranging up to £300, and seven kinds of tea. We put sakés to the test; they passed easily--lightly cooled, they showed clear differences and pleasant flavors. Service is informative and relaxed–an important plus with a menu like this.

Umu, 14-16 Bruton Place, London W1. Tel: +44 (0)207 499-8881.

Open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner.

Nearest Tube: Bond Street 

Nearby Attractions: Bond Street, Berkeley Square



This is on most people’s top-10 list, not only for the high quality and careful preparation of the food, but also for a superb wine list and helpful service, necessary when you have a menu with more than 80 small-plate items in half a dozen categories. Now they’ve introduced a tasting menu consisting of a dozen staff recommendations, more or less a greatest-hits compilation, which probably provides a better set of choices than most of us would make on our own: five are variations of raw fish, two very differently cooked beef, two cooked fish, the best miso soup you’ll ever have, and some amazing desserts, including green tea and banana cake. The wine list is astutely chosen and wide-ranging, with about a dozen by the glass, changed every couple of weeks.

Zuma, 5 Raphael Street, London W7 1DL. Phone: +44 (0)20 7584-1010.

Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Nearest Tube: Knightsbridge

Nearby Attractions: Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols



Roka’s specialty is charcoal-grilling, on massive iron grills in the center of a three-sided bar (a small kitchen prepares sushi, noodles, tempura, and vegetarian dishes). Black-clad chefs wander around the grill, tending the food, brushing it with flavorings. There’s something monastic about the place; the food’s terrific, but not necessarily fun. Grilled salted shallots with BBQ sauce were delicious but hard to eat with chopsticks, and a rice hot-pot of ginger and mushrooms was like mushy risotto lost in translation; everything else was fine, especially pork and scallop dumplings, scallops in butter, pork and crab skewers, and sea bream with miso-onion sauce. The wine list is medium-sized, a middle-of-the-road cross-section of mostly New World varietals, with a few premium-priced wines.

Roka, 37 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR. Tel: +44 (0)207 580-6464.

Open for lunch Monday-Saturday, dinner seven days a week.

Nearest Tube: Goodge Street

Nearby Attractions: British Museum, Soho



The concept here is dim sum, the Chinese tea lunch of dumplings, rolls, meatballs, small casseroles, and unidentified frying objects, for lunch and dinner. It works well, adroitly modernized, and upgraded: wagyu beef with enoki mushrooms (£38), sea bass and pine nut dumplings (£26), soy-marinated veal chop (£15) scallop dumplings, sea bass or crab rolls (£14), to a broad selection for under £10--deliciously savory venison puffs, tea-smoked ribs, chive dumplings and more conventional offerings. There is a long and pricey wine list, with a very few ordinary choices by the glass.

Yauatcha, 15-17 Broadwick Street, Soho, W1F 0DL. Tel: +44 011 (0)207 494-8888.

Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Nearest Tube: Leicester Square

Nearby Attractions: Soho, Theaters



The words ‘innovative’ and ‘Chinese food’ don’t often go together, but in this starkly elegant basement, the kitchen pulls it off. Lemon chicken tastes sharply of both, so light it floats, steamed dumplings are reinvented into bundles of fresh flavours, pan-fried beef in sweet soya is glorious, jasmine tea-smoked chicken ethereal. But it looks like an over-designed dungeon, reeks with attitude, and puts the din into dinner with several QLight Series TQ230 loudspeakers cranking out rock music. The wine list features many of the world’s best producers, expensively.

Hakkasan, 8 Hanway Place, London W1P 9DH. Tel: +44 (0)207 927-7000.

Open seven days a week for lunch and dinner.

Nearest Tube: Tottenham Court

Nearby Attractions: Soho, Theaters



Tamarind’s stated aim is “changing your perception of Indian dining†with brilliant modern Indian food. Done! Some of the dishes may have familiar names (saag aloo, rogan josh), but they don’t at all resemble what you’d find in a neighbourhood curry house. Ingredients are prime, spicing complex and fascinating, even though fairly subtle, much of the cooking done in the tandoor oven. The wine list is international, judiciously chosen, and not bad value, with a dozen by the glass and in half-bottles.

Tamarind, 20 Queen Street, London W1J 5PR. Tel: +44 (0)207 629-3561.

Open for lunch Sunday though Friday, dinner seven nights a week.

Nearest Tube: Green Park

Nearby Attractions: Berkeley Square, Mayfair



WEBSITES. Reservations are always recommended, and these are also good previews: Nobu at; Zuma at; Roka at; Tamarind at