When Santoku landed, it felt like a watershed. Situated under a landmark development of luxury apartments, it represented the first international-class high-end restaurant in the city. The big hotels had their smart dining rooms, and Il Cavaliere Pazzo at the polo club had an ostentatiously expensive, if not very imaginative, take on Italian dining. But Santoku was a step on from that: with links to Nobu and an interior by Hubert de Givenchy, it was the arrival of those name-dropping, design-conscious restaurants that wealthy jet-setters love. A slice of London or New York, even if trend-watching diners in those cities have moved on from remixed Japanese food.
Whether you love or hate this kind of dining, Santoku does it very well. The room is comfortably the most stylish in Accra, from the artful lighting right down to the cool, custom-designed grey tunics worn by staff. The cocktail menu is an inventive fusion of classic mixes and Asian ingredients, though a Hangtang Mule lacked the punch you’d expect from a drink containing vodka, sake, coriander, lime and ginger. It was also disappointing to see the range of Japanese beers gone – they were offered at opening, but later traded for Belgian brews, which are far too robust and yeasty for delicate cooking like this.
Food swept away most of those quibbles. A bar snack of crispy fish skin was supremely addictive, coming up in big shards that shatter satisfyingly in the mouth. Disappointing steamed buns, presented as sliders, were saved by the unctuous, sweet, slightly nutty barbecue pork inside. And the signature dish of miso-marinated black cod – a borrow from Nobu – was simply divine, the delicate flesh yielding an impossible depth of flavour. Santoku can feel a long way from Accra, but if you’re out to treat yourself, you won’t go home disappointed.