Tag Archives: sushi

Teppan-yaki at The Matsuri St James

I have wanted to go to Japan for years but have never quite made it. So I’m thrilled that finally, tickets are booked for next spring (honeymoon!) and have been literally feeding my excitement by visiting some of the best destinations for Japanese cuisine here in London.

The Matsuri St James is a traditional Japanese restaurant in the heart of Mayfair. It specialises in authentic (I’m told – ask me again after spring 2015!) and theatrical teppan-yaki, in which fresh fish, meat and vegetables are cooked by a chef on an iron grill in front of customers seated around a semi-circular table.

On arrival, you are greeted by a gigantic mask made of washi paper and bamboo – apparently the symbol of one of the largest Japanese festivals, called Nebuta. The rest of the restaurant carries on this festival theme, such as the colourful kimono worn by the waitresses.

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We started with a newly invented cocktail which as yet has not been named by the skilled barman; the combination of unfiltered sake and passionfruit pulp gave an unusually silky, creamy texture.

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Just the thing to wash away the day’s stresses.

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You can order individual dishes from the a la carte menu at The Matsuri, but it’s more fun to let the knowledgeable staff guide you through the suggested menu of impressively showy dishes, many of which are prepared before your eyes.

The first course was a selection of sushi; turbot, salmon and seared tuna sat atop palm-warm parcels of rice.

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Then the house special, Matsuri roll with plenty of chilli bite:

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Next came tempura, which Mark pronounced the best he’s ever had. The batter was impossibly light and not remotely greasy; it encased perfect specimens of prawns and vegetables.

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Meanwhile the teppan-yaki grill was being fired up and the chef began to prepare the next course in the procession, egg fried rice. Watching the deft knife and stir fry action was mesmerising.

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As well as being a dab hand on the teppan-yaki, the chef was remarkably affable, sharing a couple of trade secrets.

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Top tip: the secret to egg fried rice is to use day-old rice; the dryness means the grains will brown better and give more flavour to the dish.

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I wouldn’t want to betray any of the courses by picking a favourite, but special mention must be given to the black cod, which is marinated for a minimum of three days until it is meltingly cloud-like.

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Chunks of rare, flash fried fillet beef, served with a mild wasabi dip.

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We couldn’t help but rubber-neck at the table next to us, who were clearly having fun with the company card and ordering amazingly marbled wagyu beef:

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To complete the experience, the Fireball Ice Cream is a must for dessert – brandy is poured onto ice cream to create a huge fireball which is then served on a pancake with grilled pineapple.

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For those not in the mood for pyrotechnics, the matcha green tea ice cream is a lovely way to round off an excellent meal.

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Every course was matched by an excellent selection of wines and to finish, the whisky trolley was wheeled over, groaning under the weight of an impressive array of rare Japanese spirits.

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The experience at The Matsuri has made me even more excited to visit Japan; and I will know just where to come to help along the slow countdown until our flight takes off.

I was invited to dine as a guest of The Matsuri and to give an honest review. I will be back!

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See Sushi, Paddington

All too often the Japanese food experience for a busy London worker bee is grabbing a plastic-encased, fridge-cold platter from a high street chain to be consumed al desko.

So it’s a real treat to take time to savour properly made sushi over a whole evening. I was invited along to a bloggers’ evening at See Sushi to do just that.

(Disclosure:  the poorly lit, badly focused pictures are taken by my smartphone. The good ones are nicked from Leyla Kazim aka The Cutlery Chronicles):

We started with salmon and tuna tataki…

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Followed by red dragon sushi…

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Spider sushi with soft-shell crab…

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Ebi deluxe – prawns in light and crisp pastry

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Agedashi tofu with aubergine and a radish toadstool

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The star of the show: Black miso cod! I need this back in my life, soon. Beautifully cooked, juicy, meaty and tender.

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There is always room for dessert, especially when it arrives on a wooden galleon! Selection of beautifully carved fruits and chewy, gooey mochi balls filled with ice cream…

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The drinks list boasts an impressive range of spirits. Sake, obviously, but also Shiu Jing Fang Baijiu, a traditional white spirit popular in China for strengthening familial and business bonds, plus Koshu wine which is perfect with sushi.

The “Japanese fusion” menu also includes pan-Asian items such as satays, laksa and pad thai.

Next time I am in the area with a hankering for decent sushi, See Sushi is where I will go. That black miso cod is calling…

Full menu details and prices are available at www.seesushi.com

Sticks ‘n’ Sushi Covent Garden launch

The website for Sticks ‘n’ Sushi carries the tag line “voted best sushi in Copenhagen, trying hard in London”.

The Danish brand’s efforts here have so far focused on the Wimbledon restaurant which opened last year. Wimbledon is an unexpected location to open a new restaurant, particularly one keen to expand (there are eleven locations in Copenhagen) but the brand’s UK flagship became popular with well-heeled locals and a favourite lunch spot for “yummy mummies”.

They also ran some clever marketing during the tennis to take advantage of the borough’s annual fortnight of inflated popularity, but for the rest of the time the brand’s Twitter feed worked hard to persuade non-locals that Wimbledon was really not that far from central London.

Now the first Sticks ‘n’ Sushi  venue in zone 1 has opened its doors and I was happy to be invited to one of the preview launch nights. The interior has a minimalist, Scandinavian aesthetic with both table and bar seating. Downstairs is the place to go if you want to glimpse your food being made in the open plan kitchen.

Cheeky “Denmark vs. UK” messaging is visible throughout the venue, even on the staff’s t-shirts which have slogans like “Danish lessons on the house” with snippets of translated vocabulary. Glossy table-talkers show stylish black & white images of landmarks, cultural references and scenery comparing the two countries.

However the fun, cutesy tone is secondary to Sticks ‘n’ Sushi’s main point of difference: the menus declare that this is a sushi restaurant “for people who don’t like sushi”.

The “sticks” part of the name does not refer to chopsticks as many assume, but to the meaty yakitori skewers which make up around half the menu. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is a decent compromise for couples or groups of friends where one party has a sushi craving while the rest crave steak.

Of course I love both so ordered a few things from the Ikea catalogue style menu. This is not meant as an insult; I usually run a mile from restaurants which display pictures of the food (they’re usually dodgy kebab shops or awful tourist traps) but Sticks ‘n’ Sushi’s menu is a great example of how to do something differently, with glossy pages, clear images, attractive styling and carefully considered layout.

Chargrilled edamame, with patches of scorched, smokey skin, were perfect to pick at with cocktails while we decided what to order.

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Tuna tartare with tobiko and quail’s egg yolk had beautifully clean, subtle flavours.

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This sushi platter would probably make purist Japanese sushi chefs furious but I couldn’t resist ordering something called “Hell’s Kitchen rolls” – tempura shrimp, spicy sauce, avocado and tuna.

Our waitress also recommended the Salmon New York Nigiri which includes garlic – one of the most popular dishes apparently (seen in foreground).

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Yakitori skewers with a decadent foie gras and truffle glaze.

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The spare ribs were the dud of the dishes we tried, with a somewhat dry, tough texture and way too much coriander.

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Yakiniku steak served with kimchee was a fusion dish done well, although the kimchee did not have the punch of the New Malden version.

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We finished our meal with a foursome of miniature desserts which caused serious spoon-clashing as we fought over the last morsels. It would have been no problem to polish off full sizes of all of them, particularly the chocolate fondant with hazelnut and caramel brittle.

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The restaurant may be “trying hard in London” but as long as it continues to ensure that both sides of their offering are equally high quality, they can relax a little. I dare say we will be seeing more Sticks ‘n’ Sushi restaurants opening up around London before long.

Sticks N Sushi on Urbanspoon