Zuma: Wabi-Sabi

Restaurateur Rainer Becker’s Sumptuous Japanese Dishes Brought to Life

The artfully handcrafted sushi, robata grill dishes and desserts of German chef Rainer Becker’s contemporary Japanese cuisine restaurant Zuma are celebrated in still life photographer Thomas Brown’s stop-frame animation. Based on the award-winning London eatery’s informal Japanese “izakaya” style of dining, in which dishes are continuously and steadily brought to the table throughout the meal, Brown’s short opens with the red laser projections used to precisely set each table and features Head Chef Li Ong’s delicately prepared chow. “He is the ultimate professional,” says Brown of Ong, “incredibly passionate and with expert skills. It was an honor to watch these dishes being crafted––Li made it look effortless.” Becker’s first Zuma restaurant arrived to critical acclaim in Knightsbridge in 2002 after its mastermind had spent six years perfecting his art in Tokyo. “I immersed myself in the whole culinary culture of Japan from street food yakatori to kaiseki. I could identify with the subtlety of flavor, the importance of texture, the rules of the cooking techniques and presentation,” explains Becker. Stylishly decorated with marble pillars, unyielding wooden surfaces and natural stonework by leading Japanese interior designer Nori Muramatsu, and based around an open floor plan and exposed kitchen to evoke an “authentic” Japanese restaurant, Zuma offers 40 different varieties of sake, including Biwa No Choju––exclusively brewed from the waters of Lake Biwa in Japan’s Shiga prefecture. Frequented by numerous celebrities and high-profile guests including Kate Moss, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the culinary destination has expanded over the past decade into Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, Miami and Bangkok. 

Maguro No Tataki (Seared Tuna with Chilli Daikon and Garlic Chips)

Serves four (six slices per portion)

  • 500g tuna fillet (ask for small diameter cut of the loin) 
  • 2 tsps sea salt 
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 1 red chilli
  • 2 stems of ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 25ml sake
  • 25ml soy
  • 25ml rice vinegar
  • 15g caster sugar
  • 5 stems of spring onions (sliced very thinly, green part only, and washed to remove the strong taste)
  • 40 pieces garlic chips sliced on mandolin and cooked in oil at 120 degrees till crisp)
  • 2g momiji oroshi (Japanese chilli paste) 
  • 15g daikon (peeled and finely grated)
  • 160ml Ponzu sauce

  1. Prepare and trim tuna fillet into rectangular-shaped log. 
  2. Heat a pan to smoking point, lightly oil the pan and rub with paper towel to remove excess.
  3. Oil the fish fillet, season with salt and pepper and seal in the hot pan for 15 seconds on each side, seal on all four sides evenly.
  4. Once sealed, place in ice water to stop the cooking process.
  5. Slice the tuna tataki into thin 3mm thick slices.
  6. Finely slice the red onion, and very finely chop the chilli, ginger and garlic.
  7. In a hot pan add a little oil and cook the onion a little; add the chilli, ginger and garlic and cook just till the onions are tender but not soft. Deglaze with sake, soy, rice vinegar and sugar.
  8. Place the onions on a tray in the fridge to cool.
  9. Divide onions into four serving bowls.
  10. Place six folded-over slices of tuna tataki on top of the onions in each bowl.
  11. Finish with the five or six slices of spring onion over the tuna.
  12. Mix the momiji oroshi and grated daikon together and place next to the tuna in the bowl.
  13. Add 40ml ponzu sauce (method for making the sauce below) to each bowl.
  14. Sprinkle 6­-8 garlic chips onto the tuna.

For the ponzu sauce 

  • 50ml soy sauce
  • 15ml mirin
  • 20ml rice wine vinegar
  • 10ml sake
  • 10ml tamari soy
  • 10cm konbu
  • 5g bonito
  • 1 whole orange, sliced

  1. Combine the mirin and sake and bring to the boil.
  2. Cook until all the alcohol is burned off.
  3. Add the remaining liquid ingredients and the konbu.
  4. Just before the liquid comes to the boil, remove from the heat.
  5. Add the bonito flakes and orange slices and allow to cool.


The ponzu sauce can be kept refrigerated for up to three months and used on grilled fish, meat or vegetables.

For an exclusive interview with Zuma founder Rainer Becker and to download GIFs from Thomas Brown's animation check out the NOWNESS Facebook page here.

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