May 13, 2015
Worldwide love of sushi continues to escalate unscalably. 15 years ago, eating raw fish made you one of two things – well exotic or off your rocker (practically akin to tucking into a raw pork loin). In the UK today, it’s as common – in the capital, at least – to pop out for sushi as it is for a pizza, a curry or a Chinese. Not only is it conveyor-belt quick, it’s extremely tasty, an art form in itself and, importantly, crammed with natural
ingredients such as fresh fish, vegetables and rice to keep your omega-3, vitamin D and fibre levels high.
And it’s not only young, trendy types who nibble nigiri (hand-pressed fingers of rice smeared with wasabi and topped with raw fish) and chomp their way through platefuls of chumaki (medium-sized roll, rice on the inside, seaweed on the outside). オハイオ州のNO! (Japanese for ‘Oh no!’). It appeals to all ages – even young kids are keen, no matter if the initial lure is popping edamame (soy) beans from their pods and attacking each other with chopsticks.
Speaking as a well-fed sushi monster myself, here are my top five London sushi restaurant suggestions:
Zuma on Knightsbridge’s Raphael Street (a dart across the A4 from Harrods) is best kept for an occasion. An upscale take on Japanese tradition, its interior is dimly-lit and its clientele a little on the decadent side, some scantily-clad, draped over the bar and possibly making their way steadily through the 40 varieties of sake. The restaurant itself is more upright and if you can get seats facing the chefs, do – a team of serious-faced sushi masters slice slippery fish to within micrometres of their fingertips and create platters of food so beautiful that you barely dare eat it.
Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, with 11 restaurants in Copenhagen, is an initially confusing amalgamation of Danish and Japanese but what you quickly realise is that it’s authentic sushi served in innovative, Nordic-style. There are branches in Covent Garden and Greenwich – plus one that’s just popped up in Canary Wharf – but my favourite is the Wimbledon one for its industrial warehouse-style dining room. Children are warmly presented with drawing paper and crayons, and their food – either ‘sticks’ (skewers) of chicken or salmon, or sushi – comes in bento boxes filled with edamame beans, carrots and cucumber, plus a fish-shaped chocolate for later. Adult menus are far more sophisticated and it’s some of the tastiest, most artistically presented food I’ve ever eaten. It’s also very affordable. Unbelievable, actually.
If you really know your sushi, Dozo (in Soho and in South Kensington) will not disappoint. Sitting at a sunken table – hidden away in a private alcove if you like (though mind your knees when you exit it, post-sake) – the extensive and highly sophisticated menu can be baffling. My advice: try the ‘Volcano Maki’ roll with eel, leeks, bonito flakes, eel sauce, avocado and mayonnaise. Sounds horrific but it’s extraordinarily good and, even if you don’t like it, it’s worth ordering just for the sight of sushi sculpture.
You’ll go blind if you Google ‘sushi delivery’, so don’t do it. Feng Sushi has nine delivery branches across London and what they bring you is fresh, sustainably-sourced sushi that’s reasonably-priced (plus, if you sign up to their email alerts you’ll get 20% off at least once a week). If you’re watching your health or your waistline, they have specific menus which accommodate the Atkins, Dukane and 5:2 diets. If you’re not, don’t forget to add chocolate Mochi (japanese rice cakes) balls to your online order.
Sushi Tetsu in Jerusalem Passage in Clerkenwell has just seven seats and competition for these is so fierce that, when the booking line opens twice a month, you have to dedicate some serious time to hitting redial (better still, speed dial) for a slot up to six weeks in advance. You’ve got to really want to go. But, run by a husband and wife team who have a reputation for sourcing the finest ingredients, it’ll be worth your while – and the sizeable dent in your wallet. This is the only place I can’t give you first-hand knowledge of…I’m still banging my head and hitting redial.