Sushi

Nizuni – Fitzrovia (Charlotte Street)

I can’t actually remember what Nizuni on Charlotte Street used to be. I walk down Charlotte Street all the time, and for almost as long as I can remember, the space was in development. All of the sudden, Nizuni came out of nowhere.

Looking in, the place looks slick. Walking in, it’s a minimalist’s dream. Clean lines, beautiful neutral colour schemes, whoever did the interior decorating for Nizuni  is my hero.

We were a bit early for lunch (12:30), and thus were the nearly first to arrive in the restaurant.  We were greeted by, who I assume was, the manager. When we told him we’d never to the restaurant been before but were very excited to try, he had the kind of pride and excitement on his face that you only get if you put your heart and soul into a something. I liked that – it felt more personal.

We started with the Agadashi Tofu:

Some of the best I’ve ever had. Light, crisp and completely impenetrable to the gorgeous sweet soy sauce it was bathed in. Just as it should be.

For mains, I went down the maki route, while my colleague tried the Yaki Udon Noodles.

The Spicy Hamachi Roll was difficult to rate. The spicy sauce on top (most similar to Tabasco than anything) drowned out any taste of the fish. I got a slight amount of onion from the greenery inside, but that was it.

The Unagi and Avocado Roll was good quality, but as you can see, missing the sweet soy drizzle that – face it – makes and unagi avocado roll an unagi avocado roll.

Better luck was had with the noodles. Thick slippery udon with tender slices of beef and wok-tossed veggies. We both agreed it was a winner.

As an added treat, we split the Chestnut Cake with Green Tea Ice Cream:

Top marks for presentation, but I couldn’t help feeling the green tea/chestnut pairing was a bit off. Individually they were both fine, but together it was a bit mismatched.

Any restaurant less than a month in has growing pains, so I’m not really too fussed about the misses we had at lunch. With tea and service, it was £18 a head. Admittedly, it was a bit much for lunch, but completely reasonable for dinner.  With the uber-expensive Roka across the street being the only other Japanese sit-down restaurant option on Charlotte Street, Nizuni is a very welcome addition to the neighbourhood

Hi Sushi Izakaya – Covent Garden

I love the ballet. I go to pretty much every ballet that’s on at the Royal Opera House – way up in the cheap seats, mind you, but I still go. Because the performances usually start at 7:30, and I’m done with work about 6:30, I have just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat. I usually end up going for something super cheap – takeaway or M&S, but on my way to see As One/Rushes/Infra (the last triple bill performance of the Winter series), I decided to treat myself.

I had a craving for sushi, and found Hi Sushi Izakaya just around the corner from the Royal Opera House.

As a single diner, I was immediately shuffled to the counter. It was fine, but I always prefer to be given the choice. I order a glass of Gewurztraminer and the Spicy Fried Tofu to start.
Hi Sushi Izakaya

While I was hugely impresed by the portion for just over £3, the tofu breading lacked anything ressembling spiciness. It was bland and a bit overdone. No dipping sauce either!

I ordered two rolls for dinner:Prawn, avocado, tempura with eel sauce and a hamachi spring onion with sweet chili

Hi Sushi Izakaya

Hi Sushi Izakaya

Both were actually very nice. At around £5 each, the portion was more than adequate, and the rolls were fresh. The prawn roll was a little skint on the eel sauce, but when I asked for more, they happily brought me a side, which I promptly used as a dipping sauce for my over-fried tofu. Bonus!

My only complaint (apart from the tofu) is the waterfall. I’m guessing a waterfall that goes into a mini koi pond is supposed give the restaurant more of a Japanese-relaxing-‘spa’ touch, but the thing was so bloody loud, it felt like I was eating next to someone drawing a bath. They could really tone that down a touch.

Otherwise, good. Recommended. Just avoid the tofu.

Hi Sushi Izakaya on Urbanspoon

Tsuru – Southwark

London has a lot of sushi takeaway places. There’s Istu, Samarai, Wasabi and probably a few I’m missing. They’re all just ok (Itsu is my preferred), and as I’ve mentioned before, hit the spot for a quick lunch if you don’t want to pay £25+ per head for dinner.  Tsuru, however, is in a different league. Sure, it’s primarily takeaway, but the quality far surpasses any of the others I’ve been to.

I went here with a bunch of other Qypers for a sample of their menu and some lovely sake-based cocktails (apart from one with Japanese whisky) from Akashi-Tai Brewery.

tsuru qype sake menu

We started out with some Chicken Yakatori – a slightly sweet, slightly spicy starter:

tsuru chicken yakatori

Followed shortly by some amazing Agedashi Tofu, Prawn Tempura and Gyoza Dumplings:

I’m always impressed by tempura in restaurants. I’ve tried once to make it at home. It’s difficult. I leave it to the experts. Big thumbs up to the tofu as well. It was perfect not-too-soft consistency.

The only slight disappointment for me was the Chicken Katsu Curry.

Everyone raved about this dish, but for me the curry sauce was lacking a little punch. It was still good, but probably the only thing that night I wouldn’t order again.

There was of course some sushi, which definitely beat out all of its competitors in terms of presentation, taste and quality:

tsuru sushi

And the cocktails? Gorgeous.

People really don’t order enough sake. It’s most likely because they don’t know what to order, which – in all honesty – is fair enough. However, sake cocktails are completely accessible and a fantastic introduction to the flavour of sake itself.

We tried the Kappa Saketini, a martini made with shochu and Akashi-Tai honjozo ; the Nippon-Fashioned, a take on an Old Fashioned made with a Japanese whisky and clementines; the Tokiwa Honeytini (Tokiwa shochu with Drambuie and honey; and the Ume Hot Toddy – a warm drink with Umeshu plum sake, shochu, cloves and lemon slice. My favourite had to be the Tokiwa Honeytini.

Only problem is Tsuru is way too far out of my way (South Bank behind the Tate Modern)! I’m barely ever over there, so I fear that until they open up somewhere closer, I might not make it back for a while.  However, if you live/work over in that area, definitely check it out.

The rest of my photos are here.

Tsuru on Urbanspoon

Tajima-Tei – Chancery Lane

When I lived back in the States, I used to have sushi all the time. I still love it, but I find to get proper sushi in London, you usually end up paying an arm and a leg. If I’m every really craving it, I might have Itsu for lunch, but even then, I end up spending £7 or £8 for something that’s not really high quality.

So, essentially, I’ve been avoiding sushi as much as I can. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to find a place I like because I know it will be expensive, and I know I’ll just want to go all the time. Tajima-Tei is a perfect example.

I went here on a very cold and rainy London evening. My dining partner had said that he heard about it from a friend who said it’s the only place he goes for sushi in London, and that it’s the only place Japanese people in London go for sushi. Walking in, that seemed to be a true statement. I think we were the only native-English speakers in the whole place. Good sign.

The first thing I order at any sushi restaurant is hamachi. Ninety-nine percent of the time, you can judge the quality of a sushi place based on the quality of their hamachi. For example, what did I think of Hakuba‘s hamachi? Not great. Tomoe‘s hamachi? Actually quite nice, and a good price. Japan Centre‘s hamachi? Meh. And that pretty much sums up my feelings of all of those restaurants in general.

And what, you ask, did I think about Tajima-Tei’s? My god, just look at it:

Lovely, rich and buttery. A fantastic fish.

The rest of the evening was filled with things like eel and avocado:

Tuna, prawn, mackerel, salmon, scallop and some sort of weird egg thing on rice:

Veggie tempura:

And the star of the show, a massive ‘Spicy Tuna Tempura‘, which had sweet prawn, tuna, crab stick and salmon mixed with spicy mayonnaise. This picture doesn’t do it justice – each piece was seriously about the size of my palm:

I really liked this place. It’s a bit out of my way, which is probably a good thing as I won’t be tempted to come back too often, and it’s not the cheapest (food and two carafes of sake and service was about £65), but it was definitely tasty.

Tajima-Tei on Urbanspoon

Hakuba Sushi – Bloomsbury

My arm is easily twisted.  On Friday night, after a tough week at work, my friend Lewis asked if I wanted to grab some sushi.  Even though I was trying not to spend money and really could have used a night in, sushi sounded reeeeeally good.

Hakuba is situated off Great Russell Street in between Fitzrovia and Bloomsbury.  The interior is really sharp and there are some fantastic tables for private dining. However, I find it odd that it was completely EMPTY on a Friday night. There was no reason, it was perfectly nice. I’m just not sure how a restaurant can stay in business with no business on a weekend.

Tuna carpaccio

Tuna carpaccio

On to the food:

Tuna carpaccio – The tuna was very light in colour, it almost looked like hamachi.  This was just ok. 4/10

Spicy hamachi – Not great. That’s all. The hamachi wasn’t very flavourful. 3/10

Spicy salmon – Odd that the same exact roll with different fish could be so good.  There was a nice sprinkling of togarashi on it that was a nice touch. 7/10

Spicy Salmon

Spicy Salmon

Spring roll with sweet chili – A little bit greasy, but otherwise a perfectly respectable fried stick of vegetables. 6/10

Rainbow roll – It was a rainbow roll. 3/10

Nagoya (tempura maki layered with unagi and avocado sprinkled with aonori, tempura flakes and smelt roe) – Yum!  Love it when tempura is done correctly. I love eel.  This was easily the best of the night. 7/10

Nagoya

Nagoya

For six dishes, 3 glasses of wine and a beer, it came to £60, including service.  It’s not a very cheap night, but you could do a lot worse in this town.  The food was much better than your average upscale takeaway, worse quality than Sake No Hana, but a much better price!

The rest of my photos from the night are on Flickr.

Hakuba on Urbanspoon