sushi of shiori
My first outing to Sushi of Shiori was roughly six months ago, when I dropped in for a quick chirashi lunch as research for my Sushi in London series. Impressed by the high quality sashimi I made a mental note to return, and recent rave reviews from fellow sushi lovers reminded me of my vow to revisit. Wanting to get the full experience I booked B and I for the omakase, where the menu is literally “left in the chefs hands” and inarguably the best way to sample an itamae’s wares. It needs to be ordered in advance with prices starting at £30 a head and I was told on the phone that most people opt for the £40 or £50, so in a bid not to miss out on the good stuff, I went for the £50.
The box room of a sushi bar seats only 9 and doesn’t look like much from the outside (or the inside for that matter), with ex-Umu chef Takashi Takagi in the kitchen and his wife attending to customers. We took our seats at the counter and after Mrs Takagi amusingly checked B’s age for the Asahi he ordered, our omakase began. Kicking off, we had a starter of lightly fried yellowtail with shredded onions and carrots, in an appetising tangy vinegar dressing. It was well-balanced, with enough acid to tease the palate but not mask the delicate fish.
A small glass bowl followed, cocooning a neat pile of handmade pink ume (plum) somen sitting in seasoned dashi. Topped with strips of nori, prawn, marinated shitake and spring onions, it was another subtle yet flavourful dish.
Until now we had been the sole patrons in the restaurant, but as Takashi’s wife presented us an artistically composed Aji Tartare with Mountain Yam, others started trickling in. A wonderful medley of tastes and textures – crunchy, slightly slimy (not in an off-putting way) tuber vegetables and sweet fleshy horse mackerel tossed together with a ponzu soy vinaigrette.
The arrival of additional diners led to a lengthy pause as Takagi san struggled to keep on top of all the incoming orders (he holds fort in the kitchen alone). But the sashimi course was worth the wait. Deftly-cut Sea Bass with dabs of umeboshi, exquisite slices of silky Scallops concealing a ‘surprise’ of black truffle salsa, creamy Spot Prawn (botan) with shiso pesto and minced Otoro with fresh wasabi and shiso, rolled in nori and yuba skin.
The nigiri plate offered a solid selection of sushi, but wasn’t quite as dazzling. The thinly-cut squid (resting on a small square of nori) and the Japanese grilled pepper nigiri were outstanding and the salmon, ama ebi (with another smidgen of black truffle) and yellowtail avocado maki were all very good, but the chutoro sadly lacked both fat and flavour. The cooked fish (mackerel and eel) were ordinary, made worse by the tightly-packed rice being cold and dense (surprising as on my first visit the rice was pleasingly warm – as it should be). Their rice to fish ratio on the nigiri was also off kilter (traditionally the fish should almost conceal the rice), and as a result the sushi course really filled me up.
Next up was more sushi, this time Wagyu Beef and Iberico Pork nigiri with ponzu jelly and spring onions. The pork had a real clean taste and was offset nicely by the ponzu, but the star was definitely the fatty slice of charred wagyu. I may have been full, but upon finishing it, I immediately craved another and gazed longingly at a plateful yet untouched by my neighbour.
To finish we were given a choice of ice creams and sorbets. Our scoops of matcha and black sesame came adorned with large discs of crisp seeded tuile biscuits. I preferred the lighter-textured green tea ice cream (paired harmoniously with adzuki beans) to that of the denser sesame, but both were delicious and a fitting ending to our meal.
My natural instinct was to draw comparisons to our incredible omakase experience in LA’s Urasawa, but with Sushi of Shiori being a small man and wife operation, that would hardly be fair. Takagi’s exceptional knife skills, superbly-sourced fish and his wife’s attentive service is a winning formula, and the press attention of late is a testament to this. They have coped admirably in such a tiny space, but with the place fully-booked 2 to 3 weeks ahead and a multitude of walk-ins turned away every night, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they were to move to bigger premises in the near future. From the looks of things they could benefit from more space to allow for a sous – currently with everything resting on one chef, quality at times inevitable suffers. Nonetheless Sushi of Shiori does serve up some of the finest sashimi in London, and I would wholeheartedly recommend the omakase to anyone. Be sure to pre-order it when making your reservation and allow plenty of time for your meal (our dinner lasted just shy of 3 hours).
Sushi of Shiori
144 Drummond Street
London NW1 2PA
t. 020 7388 9962