sushi (chirashi) in london – part 3
It may appear that I have forsaken my pursuit of Sushi in London as things have gone rather quiet on the chirashi front. Not so. I’ve actually been busy scoping out the chirashi lunches at West London’s Kiraku and Suzu, Atari-ya‘s busy takeaway off Oxford Street, established old favourite Edokko and new kid on the block Tsukiji Sushi at The Westbury Hotel in Mayfair. As I already have two posts in the series behind me, I will skip the waffle and cut to the chase with my findings…
This relaxed Japanese eatery is just down the road from the latest addition to Atari-ya’s stable (at the former site of Sushi Hiro) in Ealing Common. I picked the chirashi set from the lengthy lunch selection and settled into my magazine. A page into my article the chirashi arrived, and with it came a miso soup, simmered hijiki, green salad and small fruit plate. The donburi looked inviting, topped with a thin slice each of salmon, prawn, mackerel, ark shell clam, chutoro, otoro, and seabass, as well as a thick wedge of tamago, crab sticks and a dollop of briny salmon roe. A premium selection of fish, making it reasonable at £13, although I did question the skills of the chef on duty as the fish were unevenly and haphazardly-cut. The sesame and nori-sprinkled bed of rice was also overcooked and too sharp with vinegar. Not too bad, but it’ll be up against some tough competition once the neighbouring Atari-ya opens.
Kiraku, 8 Station Parade, Uxbridge Road, Ealing Common, London W5 3LD (020 8992 2848)
A few tube stops away in Hammersmith is self-proclaimed Japanese Tapas Bar, Suzu. I’m baffled as to why it brands itself as such as their menu, safe for edamame, gyoza and tempura, is composed almost entirely of sushi. Dinings this place is not. The place resembled a café or wine bar, and seeing no sign of an itamae I almost turned on my heel to leave (even at Yo Sushi have sushi chefs on display). Instead I took a seat and ordered the Kaisen Don (£12) which featured a small dome of rice draped with generous amounts of ikura-dotted yellowtail, salmon and scallop. Fresh enough but lacking in flavour and not dissimilar in quality to the fish found in high street sushi chains. Also on the plate was a bland cooked prawn, dry un-sauced unagi and a coil of wasabi that looked suspiciously like it had been squeezed out of a tube. To top it off the rice was cold and heavy on the vinegar. Not great.
Suzu, 170-172 Hammersmith Road, London W6 7JP (020 8741 1101)
This charming authentic old-timer tucked away on Red Lion Street is very popular with the surrounding office folk and was packed to the rafters when I popped in around 1pm. From my seat at the sushi counter I watched the chef preparing my order – neatly arranging alternating slices of salmon, tuna and sea bass, then finishing it off with a cooked prawn, a spoonful of flying fish roe and thick slabs of tamago. He carefully covers the box with a lid and it’s whisked away by the waitress to present to me. Not an entirely exciting array considering the £18 price tag (I caught myself wistfully staring at the chunks of toro resting on the counter) but there were plenty of extras – green salad served with a delicious house dressing, a tasty but slightly oily aubergine appetiser, miso soup, pickles and a large unpeeled clementine. The fish itself was good, except for the tuna which was bland with a faint bloody aftertaste. I also wish there had been a fresh shiso leaf (so good eaten with tuna, especially of the toro variety) in place of the off-putting bit of plastic greenery. Nevertheless it was a satisfying lunch and the service, warm and friendly.
Edokko, 50 Red Lion Street, London WC1R 4PF (020 7242 3490)
#14: Tsukiji Sushi
This sleek restaurant had only been open for a fortnight when I visited, quite apparent from the shaky service from the overly-eager staff. The chirashi set opened with a salad of baby spinach and finely shaved radish doused in a lovely ponzu dressing. Wanting to photograph everything together, I left it untouched, much to the confusion of the manager who sent a waitress to inquire if I was ready for my main – a sad bowl of rice covered with four anaemic slivers of fish (all pedestrian varieties), a piece of cooked octopus, a boiled prawn, a thimbleful of ikura and slices of sweet flabby egg. Although there was no faulting the quality of the fish, the portions were stingy and certainly not worth £19.50. The mushroom-strewn rice also lacked seasoning and the tackiness of perfect sushi rice. I did however enjoy the somewhat un-Japanese dessert of chocolate mousse with stewed pineapple, garnished with a tuile biscuit. Given the other excellent sushi options nearby I would give Tsukiji a miss, especially as after the addition of £5 for green tea (I was unknowingly charged £2.50 for a re-fill) my bill crept up to £27.50 – the cost of a 3-course set lunch at The Ledbury.
Tsukiji Sushi, 38 Conduit Street, London W1S 2YG (020 7629 7755)
Apart from Edokko, a sadly lacklustre line-up so far. Thankfully Atari-ya didn’t let me down. I’m aware that I’ve previously reviewed their Swiss Cottage branch, but this outlet offers a Super Delux Chirashi unavailable at the former location, hence in my opinion well worth a gander. This tiny sushi bar does mostly takeaway (there are a couple of tables if you wish to dine-in) and with its prime location, the lunchtime wait can get a little crazy. Clued into this I called ahead so my chirashi was already bagged and waiting for me at the till. At £14 it was a few quid more than its non-delux sibling, but the bowl overflowed with thick slices of marinated mackerel, horse mackerel, otoro, chutoro, maguro, scallops, squid, salmon, yellowtail, amaebi, ikura, flying fish roe, crabsticks, and pickles, making it easily the best value of all the the chirashi I sampled on this leg of the sushi tour. The well-seasoned rice may have cooled by the time I dug in but wasn’t cold, and the bounty that lay on top was impeccable as one would expect from the city’s foremost sashimi-grade fish supplier. Definitely the choice if you want a treat but need to chow down at your desk.
Atari-ya Take-away, 20 James Street, London W1U 1EH (020 7491 1178)
A mixed bunch but I still have many more spots to plough through so hopefully there will be more hits than misses in Part 4. Be warned, you may have to wait a while for the next installment as soups, stews and pies hold far more allure for me than sushi during the winter months!