Tag Archives: Japanese

Atari-ya

20 James Street
London W1U 1EH
0207 491 1178
http://www.atariya.co.uk

Opening Hours
Monday to Sunday 11-8pm

It’s absolutely amazing how easy it is to overlook this little take-away place. Located on one of the streets off Oxford Street, surrounded by lots of eating places, Atari-ya is very easy to miss. Also, the fact that it is just a take away shop, with just about 10 seats inside, and about 6 more outside, makes it seem like yet another lousy sushi take-away. However, the quality of the food is unlike what you would expect from a take out.

We first read about this place because of an online review, which mentioned that Sushi Hiro gets its produce from the Atari-ya chain. In fact, another review somewhere else mentioned that Atari-ya supplies the sashimi to Nobu as well. We’re not sure how true this is, but since we like the food at both Sushi Hiro and Nobu, especially the sashimi at Sushi Hiro, we wanted to go to Atari-ya and check it out.

The first thing we have to mention is the prices. We were shocked to find out how cheap the sashimis are at Atari-ya. For £1.70 you can get 3 slices of salmon sashimi, or 3 slices of scallop sashimi. The entire list of sashimi rivals any top notch Japanese restaurant, and I dare say that the sashimi at Atari-ya is fresher, and more thickly cut than those you’ll get at most Japanese restaurants around. As I’m typing this I’m seriously craving for their scallop sashimi.

 

We’ve been there twice now, and we’ve had their salmon, scallop, sweet prawn, sea bass and fatty tuna sashimi. All of them have been consistently good. The slices are thick and generous, and everything is incredibly fresh. For both of our visits we went at about 3pm, yet the quality of the sashimi wasn’t compromised. We recommended this place to QJ, and she couldn’t stop raving about it when she came back after her visit. She had as well the yellowtail, which she thoroughly enjoyed.

 

We’ve also had the ikura and the tobikko sushi; both were not bad as well, though the tobiko came with wasabi as we forgot to tell them to not include any wasabi. A notes that the tobikko was a little salty, as if it was soaked in soya sauce. On our second visit we decided to try their maki rolls, and we ordered the spider roll and the black cod roll. The spider roll was disappointing, and contained very little soft shell crab, but the black cod roll was pretty nice, though not something we would order again.

In short, Atari-ya is pretty much the best place in London to go for fresh sashimi and sushi. We simply can’t stress that enough. The fact that it’s just a modest take-away is just mind-blowing. The prices are cheaper than what we get in Singapore, and the quality of their fish is incomparable. 

Food: 7.5/10

Advertisements

Tsunami

93 Charlotte Street
London W1T 4PY
020 7637 0050
http://www.tsunamirestaurant.co.uk/

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12-3pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 5.30-11.30pm

Being so near to where we stay, we have frequented Tsunami on a couple of occasions. It has hardly ever disappointed us, though A notes that it has lost a little of its appeal, perhaps because the novelty of having such food has worn out.

The décor in Tsunami is very pretty, but the dim lighting and the red hue makes it very hard to take good photos of anything at all. The toilets are also very dark and almost claustrophobic, and in general the whole place could do with a lot more light.

Food wise, Tsunami serves some very nice dishes. The quality is a notch below places like Roka and Nobu, but its price makes it much better value for money. One can’t always have the best food everyday – Tsunami is our alternative to Roka, its poor sister if you may.

The assorted seafood tempura is always something we order. At £6.50, as compared to £4.90 for just shrimp tempura, it’s a no-brainer. However, as with most seafood tempura, we can never make out what fish they are serving us. We are told it’s black cod, but it could very well be something else and we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

We also always go for the deep fried baby cuttlefish, though it has never been very good. It could definitely do with a little more salt. Till today we have no idea why we never stop and tell ourselves not to order that dish ever again.

The Gin Dara (Black Cod with Miso) is a must have for us. We have had black cod done this way in a couple of restaurants, and there is definitely a difference between say, Roka’s and Tsunami’s. Tsunami’s Gin Dara has a slightly slimier texture than Roka or Nobu’s, but for the price, we’re very willing to look beyond that imperfection. One plus point to Tsunami though, is the dipping sauce that comes with the black cod. There is a very special taste in the sauce, and we can never get enough of it. If they sold it in bottles, K would buy it and drink it. But I wouldn’t let him.

We usually try to go easy on the maki rolls, but we simply can’t. We love the unagi and foie gras roll. You have to try this for yourself to understand what we mean. The unagi is grilled to perfection, and the foie gras lends something very special to the dish. The first time A tried foie gras at Roka she hated the buttery texture, but at Tsunami, this foie gras is done perfectly well. You also cannot go wrong with the dragon roll (shrimp tempura) and the soft shelled crab roll. Sashimi at Tsunami is also very nice.

Another dish we like a lot is the Lamb Cutlets in Korean Chili Sauce. Once again, the star is the sauce. We usually end up just eating the sauce by itself because it is that good. The lamb cutlets are also very nice in their own right, though they tend to be on the fatty side.

Overall, we love Tsunami, and highly recommend it to everyone. A brought her sister to Tsunami when she flew over to London for a holiday, and she loved it as much as we do.

Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10

Kikuchi

14 Hanway Street
London, W1P 9DD
020 7637 7720

Opening Hours
Dinner:
Monday to Friday 6-10.30pm
Saturday 6-9.30pm

This was our valentine’s meal. This year, Valentine’s Day fell on Chinese New Year, and we busied ourselves by having guests over to celebrate. So we decided to have our Valentine’s Day meal one day late instead. Based on reviews, this is one place that you need reservations to ensure a table. When I called to make my reservation there was some form of communication breakdown as the receptionist didn’t seem to be able to get my name, or contact number, or time of booking right. As a result, I walked over to confirm my booking instead. Luckily, this wasn’t very far away – just a few minutes from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station.

Kikuchi serves very fresh and very good Japanese food. When we were there the table next to ours had a group of Japanese business men – always a good sign. The menu was quite long, but we knew from online reviews that whatever is available would be as authentic as any restaurant in Japan. A very interesting review from reknown food critic and Top Chef judge Toby Young was pinned to the wall next to us, in which he praised Kikuchi for giving him the most authentic experience in a Japanese restaurant he has ever had. He was admonished for ordering edamame as a starter, as it is something only a ‘salary man’ would do (whatever that is). “The correct thing to order is miso soup”, his server recommended.

Miso soup we didn’t have though, but we would imagine it to be very good, as all our orders were of a very high standard. We had agedashi tofu, crispy fried squid, and chawanmushi to start. The chawanmushi was without question the best we have ever had. It was smooth and silky, and had the most wonderful fragrance of mushroom ever. The seafood tempura was good as well.

The sashimi and sushi selection we had was incredibly fresh as well. This was reminiscent of what we had at Sushi Hiro, and we remarked to ourselves that this would be the perfect substitute for Sushi Hiro, since it is located in a much more conveniently accessible part of town. We kept wondering to ourselves why we hadn’t discovered this gem of a restaurant sooner.

The next thing to arrive was something we had looked forward to – marinated squid. Now, what we were expecting was the succulent baby squid marinated in this red sauce that we’re so used to having in Singapore. What was presented to our table made us laugh nervously a little. It was quite something else. It was marinated squid all right, but it looked raw as hell, and slimy as hell. It may seem a little to strange to complain about raw food, being in a sushi restaurant, but this was something way out of what I consider to be food that I had to take a deep breath before putting one of those slimy things in my mouth. The taste wasn’t particularly pleasant, but I could totally see this being, in some strange way ala rotten shark, a delicacy in Japan. This is one of the rare occasions where I’ve met my match and found a dish too unbearable for me to finish. My hat’s off to Kikuchi for that.  

The other dishes soon made me forget about that. The grilled mackerel was fantastic, and the chicken wings were delicious. One of the other highlights of the meal was the soft shelled crab maki roll, which A thought was brilliant, and the addition of the tamago (egg) in the roll put it head and shoulders above the countless other soft shelled crab rolls we’ve had.

In short, we were very excited about finding such a fantastic restaurant. We received two 5pound vouchers for our use the next time, and we definitely intend to make use of them. It’s a shame this restaurant isn’t better known, as it deserves to be ranked among the best restaurants in London.

Service: 7.5/10
Food: 8.5/10

Sushi Hiro

1 Station Parade
Uxbridge Road
Ealing W5 3LD
020 8896 3175

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Tuesday to Sunday 11-1.30pm
Dinner:
Tuesday to Sunday 4.30-9pm

In one of the most unlikely places in London, all the way in Zone 3 is this gem of a restaurant. A couple of months back we drove over to Sushi Hiro after a road trip, and we were not given a table as they insisted they were fully booked. Frustratingly, the restaurant was almost empty, and we tried to persuade them that we eat quickly and would have been out in no time at all, but they refused to sit us at a table, and we had to resort to take out and eat in the car. Armed with this knowledge we made a reservation this time round, and we were very quickly ushered to our table.

Sushi Hiro is one of the most unpretentious, no frills restaurants you can ever find in London. It is bright and very simple looking, perfect for photographs. They serve the freshest fish, supposedly supplied by Atari-ya Foods (watch out for another post about this). There is no kitchen in Sushi Hiro, and everything they serve is made at the sushi counter right in front of your eyes.

We had the sashimi selection, which was glorious. The fatty tuna melted straight away in our mouths, and the shrimp was wonderfully sweet. The scallops too were surprisingly sweet, and overall this was almost the perfect sashimi platter. It would have been absolutely perfect had it salmon sashimi, which we love.

We ordered some a la carte sushi, and a sushi set, which we shared. Everything was extremely fresh and delicious. The uni (sea urchin) was divine, the ikura (salmon roe) was bursting with goodness, and the salmon sushi was to die for. Everything was excellent. K, who eats all the gari (pickled ginger slices) even felt that that was amazing. Every piece of sushi came with a generous topping, which was as fresh as you it could come, and which was in itself worthy of being a part of a sashimi platter.

In short, we cannot fault Sushi Hiro for their food. This is Japanese food at its very best. All the flavours were clean and they didn’t need to rely on any gimmicks to distract from their food. Such is the confidence they have in themselves that you have to simply give it up to them.

Service: 8/10
Food: 8.5/10

Zuma

5 Raphael Street
London SW7 1
020 7584 1010

Opening Hours

Lunch:
Monday to Thursday 12-2.15pm
Friday 12-2.45pm
Saturday to Sunday 12.30-3.15pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 6-11pm
Sunday 6-10pm

We went to Zuma on the eve of New Year, and it was absolutely packed. The dining room had golden balloons all over the ceiling, and we were told by our server that last year, one chap took every single balloon and gave it to his date (the cheap fella). We nicked one ourselves (pardon the hypocrisy).

Anyway, Zuma is owned by the same dude as Roka is, and if you thought Roka was expensive, wait till you try Zuma. The menu is very similar to Roka’s, and everything we had was very good. The clientele that Zuma attracts is quite different to that of Roka’s. In Roka we see more families and the atmosphere is quite relaxed. In Zuma however, the people around us were more of the young, model wannabes, and in the words of one of our dining companions in Assaggi, you’re likely to see a Russian prostitute sitting at the table next to yours at Zuma. Strangely, I thought the lady at the table next to ours looked just like what I thought a Russian prostitute would look like. This is translated to the menu as well, as there is a slightly more pretentious feel to the food at Zuma.

We had the crispy fried squid with chili and salt, which was very good. The soft shelled crab was also very good, and our server was attentive enough to our request for no wasabi in any of our food and warned us beforehand that there was wasabi in the dipping sauce for the soft shelled crab.

The deep fried prawn was a real pleaser as well. We think it’s hard to go wrong with fried food. Maybe we should train ourselves to be a bit more discerning in this aspect.

The sake grilled chicken wings were also very nice, though there was no sign of the sake in the wings at all. A reminds me that one usually never tastes the alcohol in such dishes, which makes me then wonder why bother with it at all.

We ordered the wagyu beef with truffle sushi, and it was one of the highlights of the meal. We happened to order this by accident, as we thought this was another dish that the lady in the table next to us was having, which we wanted. Turns out we ordered this instead, which we didn’t mind at all since it was very, very good. In a strange twist of events, the same good lady in the table next to us saw us having this, and ordered it for herself too.

The other dishes we had were the lamb cutlets, which A thought were on the salty side, the tempura, black cod, and a selection of sushi and sashimi. All of these were pretty good.

The desserts were excellent. We read many reviews about the desserts, and on hindsight we should have just ordered the whole lot. The lady next to us had 2 desserts for herself – we should have just taken her cue on that, bless her soul. (As you might be able to tell, we were very entertained by her throughout the evening. It’s not everyday that one gets to sit next to such an interesting character.) We had the green tea and banana cake which doesn’t sound like much, but was absolutely divine. We just came short to licking all the goodness off the plate. We also had the green tea ice-cream, which came topped with a delicate sesame seed biscuit. That too was amazing.

In short, Zuma is pretty much Roka’s very spoilt sister. It definitely has the goods to back it up, but we think that we’d probably not be going back as we prefer something less obnoxious, and will happily settle for Roka instead. (The money earned goes to the same person anyway).

Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10

Roka

37 Charlotte Street
London W1T 1RR
0207 5806464
http://www.rokarestaurant.com/

Opening Hours
Lunch:
Monday to Friday 12-3.30pm
Saturday to Sunday 12.30-3.30pm
Dinner:
Monday to Saturday 5.30-11.30pm
Sunday and Bank holidays 5.30-10.30pm

Roka holds a special place in our hearts. The first time we celebrated our anniversary together, we went to Roka. Since then, we’ve reserved Roka for special occasions, and every time we’ve been there we’ve not been disappointed. It is perhaps for this reason that we’re slightly more biased in our ratings here, giving it a 9 for food, when it should probably be an 8.5. However, we had to give it just that little bit more, to emphasize how important this restaurant is to us. In fact, on one occasion, when we nearly burnt our house down (stupid, stupid mistake), we felt so crummy that we went to Roka to cheer ourselves up, and it did. We feel that food should be more than just the taste in your mouth, but also the experience and memories it leaves you, so we feel justified in giving Roka a 9 for food. (And also, it’s OUR blog so we do whatever we want!)

Service at Roka is excellent. We’ve been there 4 times now, and we’ve gotten different servers each time. However, all of them have been professional and respectful, and we are always made to feel welcome there. (The door staff however, tends to be a little more ‘cool’ in that aspect.)

We’ve had so many items from their menu it’s quite hard to keep count. The first time we went, we had the premium tasting menu, which gave us a very good feel of the restaurant. The food is modern Japanese fusion, and every dish is well thought and a stand alone in its own right.

The outstanding dishes at Roka include (and we order this over and over again):

Sashimi: These are supposedly supplied from the Atari-ya group, and everything is fresh and delicious. You’re definitely paying the premium for dining at one of the most stylish restaurants around, as for a fraction of the price, you can get the same at Atari-ya. However, since you’re already at Roka, it would be a sin to skip sashimi there. (We would skip the squid though – not a fan of it.)

Yellowtail Tartar/Tuna Tartar: Very good, and we love the sesame seed cracker at the side. Our only complaint would be that the portions are too small!!

 

Wagyu Beef Tartar Sushi: We had this when A’s sisters and cousin came to visit, and they absolutely loved it. So do we. 

 

Lamb Cutlets: This is far better than the version at Tsunami. The lamb is not too fatty, and the sauce has a nice kick to it that we love. Unlike Tsunami, there is only just a little sauce on the side, but we don’t think it’s necessary, as the whole dish is incredibly flavorful by itself.

 

Baby Back Ribs: The combination of the cashew nuts and spring onions with the tender ribs is perfect. This is a real pleaser.

 

Soft Shell Crab: Roka has one of the best soft shell crabs around. The soft shell crab is the star of this dish, unlike many restaurants, which coat everything in too much batter that it completely distracts from the crab.

 

Scallops: A’s youngest sister loves scallops, and when we first tried it, we knew we had to order it for her when she came. The scallops are absolutely huge, and perfectly cooked. You really feel like royalty when you pick up the scallops with the skewer and put it in your mouth. The sauce it comes in is very subtle, and allows the natural freshness of the scallops to truly shine.

 

Black Cod marinated in Yuzu Miso: We’ve had this dish in so many restaurants, and though Roka’s isn’t the best (that distinction is given to Nobu), it is still pretty darn good.  

Chicken Skewers with Spring Onion: This doesn’t seem like an intuitive choice, after all, how spectacular can chicken skewers be, and why should I pay so much for it? Well, go try it. This comes with a little spoonful of sea salt, which gives the wings a burst of salt with each bite. Each wing is perfectly grilled, and we’ll willingly overlook the price and order it without fail.

Dark Chocolate and Maccha Pudding: Just one word: DIVINE.

 

The dishes that we tried once, but won’t order again include:

Foie Gras with Umeshu Plum and Nama Nori: The Nori is amazing. We were fascinated by how thinly sliced it was. The Foie Gras on the other hand, let’s just say we haven’t quite acquired the taste yet. It was too much foie gras, too full on.

Rice Hot Pot with King Crab: Nothing too special, its purpose would be perhaps to fill you up.

Marinated Quail: This was very tasty, but I guess quail just isn’t one of our favourite meats.

Lobster and Black Cod Dumplings: The black cod is quite non-existent in the dumplings, and could have very well been any random fish. But having said that, it is a very good dish, and A did like it. She disagrees with me on this, and thinks I’m overly harsh.

Fried Eggplant with Sesame Miso: Just alright, not bad, but not worth a second try for us.

The sushi and maki selection is quite limited, but sufficient to satisfy. We particularly love the Shrimp tempura roll, and the Ikura sushi always puts a smile on our faces. This part of the meal is not the most spectacular, and we would recommend going more for the other dishes, as they are truly wonderful and shouldn’t be missed.

Service: 9/10
Food: 9/10

 

Soseki

20 Bury Street, 1F
London EC3A 5AX 
020 7621 9211

Soseki is fortunate to be located in a building with a beautiful view of its famous neighbor, the Gherkin.

Note to restaurants: first impressions are very important. The way your customers enter your restaurant is one of the first things they notice. The sliding doors outside Soseki refused to slide, and we had to almost push it with all our body weight to get into the restaurant – truly bizarre. The same happened on our way out – not good.

Once inside though, we were seated by the sushi counter in a discreet corner and presented with the menu. We must have interpreted the toptable offer wrongly as we were told we could only have the Haiku (sushi kaiseki kappo) set at 50% and not the Hanashi (kaiseki kappo). That was fine though – the Haiku was cheaper than the Hanashi anyway.  One thing to note about dining at Soseki is that it is a Japanese Kaiseki restaurant. Kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. When you order, you do not know what will be brought to you – everything is left to the discretion of the chef, who creates the menu based on what ingredients he has for that day. So this was extremely exciting for us, and we were prepared to be wowed by the day’s offerings. Having said that, there is still a very limited selection of a la carte dishes, designed possibly for those who are less trusting.

Our first dish was Chawanmushi, which was very light and flavourful – an excellent start. Our Sashimi came next. We had requested for no wasabi on our sashimi, and we sent this back since it had wasabi on the pieces. When the fresh portions came, it was very quickly gobbled up (read: small portions). We happened to be sitting just in front of the sashimi part of the sushi counter, and K very much wanted to reach over and grab some sashimi for himself while the chef wasn’t looking.

Our next course was something wrapped in a parcel. We don’t remember what it was called, but the dressing had a very nice acidity to it, which complemented the fish inside the parcel.

On the side, we ordered tempura, which came at this point. The tempura was good, but not outstanding.

The main was quail with mushrooms and Chinese vegetables. By this point we were beginning to wonder about the flowers that were placed in almost every single dish. K happily ate it not even stopping to think if they were indeed edible, but since he’s still alive, we guess they were.

Our palate cleanser was less successful. Once again this came with flower petals, and while it did cleanse our palates successfully, we’re not sure if that was for the better.

The sushi selection came next. This was very nicely presented and tasted pretty good. Nothing stood out for us though. We tend to see a general pattern with sushi platters. Hardly any sushi platters seem to wow us – they’ve all just been competent, though fortunately, never bad. Maybe we should just be thankful for that.

The penultimate course was salad, miso and pickles. This was once again rather ordinary, bordering on the sour side.

As earlier mentioned, the nature of the Kaiseki dinner is such that you do not have a choice of what you will end up eating. Hence, we were praying for this particular dessert which we had heard about from an online review. I’m not sure if we got it, but it seemed pretty close to the description given by said review, and it was very good. Our dessert was a chocolate lava cake with a very nice ice-cream and vanilla sugar underneath.

Overall this was an interesting experience. We probably won’t go back again, since it’s not the most affordable restaurant around, and the food is just alright. The novelty of not having a say in what you’re going to eat wears off very quickly, and I’d rather go for the certainty of being able to order what I feel like having instead.

Additional Comments: We had the toptable offer of 50% off their set menu.

Service: 8/10
Food: 7.5/10