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David Dowell

Sushi - does it actually exist in London?

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I love sushi.

& I am here on an extended stay in London.

To date, my sushi experiences lead me to conclude that London sushi places have no actual concept of what they are trying to do.

The quality is low, the pieces are small, the prices are high.

I first tried Itsu in chelsea, well enough recommended by Time Out. By the time I left, I was practically laughing it was so far off the mark.

Zuma I just tried last Friday on strong recommendation from the Economist. Very medium quality, very small portions. The sake (drink not salmon) was good. The grill did pretty respectable grilled sea bass. But why would I go there again?

Other small places I have tried have not left me impressed.

I'm looking for quality at reasonable prices. With an actual sushi bar - forget the converyor belt approach! I'm not looking for quality at mega prices (hard though this is in London)

Ok, to be fair, I've spent 6 months in Japan and at home in Portland Oregon have a fabulous local sushi place with a sushi chef from Kyoto, great quality, modest prices, etc.

But surely London can compete on the sushi front with Portland Oregon - or can it??

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If you don't mind a tube journey then Sushi Say in Willesden Green (Jubilee Line) is excellent, but it's not cheap (surely, in London anyway, cheap sushi is an oxymoron?).

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If you don't mind a tube journey then Sushi Say in Willesden Green (Jubilee Line) is excellent, but it's not cheap (surely, in London anyway, cheap sushi is an oxymoron?).

The closest I've found to cheap decent sushi in London is Cafe Japan on the Finchley Road, although it's a year since I was last there

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Go East along Gerrard Street (Chinatown) and take a right at the end and directly on the left on the corner is a cheap Japanese but I cannot remember the name. NOT chic.

Instead of comparing the prices of London (one of the few really major cities in the World) with Portland Oregon (one of the many, many minor cities in the World) you may want to compare like with like (i.e. New York) but I get your point as Sushi is expensive in London however it's even more expensive in Paris or Rome!

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I have often pondered the sushi-in-London question and have come up with a number of explanations (that may sound like apologies).

My brother lives in San Diego and has treated me to some outstanding sushi - dishes that the conveyor-belters at Yo Sushi could never even dream up. I know the type of sushi you're thinking about.

That type of sushi (to my limited knowledge) does not exist in London. Perhaps some of the long time Japanese ex-pats who live here would beg to differ. Nevertheless, I have never stumbled across it - here's why... (in my humble opinion)...

1. Proximity of London to the Pacific Ocean makes authentic sushi a bit difficult to achieve. Chefs have to make due with other types of fish - its expensive to fly speciality fish over from Japan or anywhere in the Pacific for that matter. Of course there are freshness issues involved as well. When was the last time you saw abalone on a menu in the UK? I rest my case.

2. What you do get is expensive because its not readily available (see above reason).

3. Large portions and London restaurants generally do not mix. It doesn't matter if you're looking for sushi or anything else (see the hated A.A. Gill's write up on Thyme in this Sunday Times). Large portions (certainly by American standards) are hard, if not impossible to come by.

My advice is, don't look for good sushi in London. I wouldn't go to Tokyo and expect to find an outstanding English breakfast.

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I have been recommended the sushi place (Sushi Hiro?) opposite Ealing Common tube, as having a good quality/price ratio, although have never had the courage to visit.

v

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When was the last time you saw abalone on a menu in the UK?  I rest my case.

The branch of Royal China in St John's Wood, has quite an extensive range of abalone on its menu...

honestly give Sushi Say a go - I'm thinking of having an egullet event there in the not too distant future so come along if you can.

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...don't look for good sushi in London. I wouldn't go to Tokyo and expect to find an outstanding English breakfast.

yes, Hallie's comment much sums up the conclusion I am coming to.

absolutely, from my experience in Japan, it would be impossible to find even a moderately acceptable English breakfast there... much less an outstanding one.

So, perhaps I'll shift my focus from sushi to English breakfasts!!

as for sushi, it's not so much about price (though I don't want to pay a fortune) as it is simply good quality. that I have not seen.

this said, thanks to all so far for your recommendations.

English breakfasts notwithstanding, I'll continue my sushi search with your recommendations!

and, report back as I try them

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I'm looking for quality at reasonable prices.  With an actual sushi bar - forget the converyor belt approach! I'm not looking for quality at mega prices (hard though this is in London)

And therein lies the rub.

To be fair, there are quite a few excellent sushi restaurants in London -- you will have to pay for the privilege (about $150-200 per person easily). Most are located in St. James's.

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There's also a few in Old Compton Street (near Piccadilly Circus) which have been there for eons and full of Japanese. Not cheap but not expensive.

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The branch of Royal China in St John's Wood, has quite an extensive range of abalone on its menu...

honestly give Sushi Say a go - I'm thinking of having an egullet event there in the not too distant future so come along if you can.

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So mogsob, peterpumkino...

any names?

I'm willing to give it a go at a price just to see if there actually is any quality sushi here.

I work in St James's Square - so I'm close.

or to conclude it's the search for an outstanding English breakfast in Japan...

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I'd rather have mediocre sushi in London than an excellent English breakfast anywhere. :wink:

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Defune - George Street, W1

It won't satisfy the "low cost" criteria so much, but certainly the quality is there... sit at the sushi bar...


www.nutropical.com

~Borojo~

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Wow.  Good scouting Charlene!  Abalone.  It must be expensive.

I have been meaning to try the Royal China in St. John's Wood.  Is it really good?  I mean, above and beyond Chinatown standards?  (Which in some cases isn't difficult to achieve).

I'm also really impressed by your sushi recommendations.  Please tell me more about Sushi Say.

the abalone was expensive - about £40. Royal China was great on our last visit, excellent friendly service and superb food. A belly of pork dish was sublime as was a dish of green beans with pork. Smoked shredded chicken was v.tasty. Only duff dish (the one I picked :sad: ) was beef with green peppers.

Sushi Say is on Walm Lane in Willesden Green run by a husband and wife team. There is a small sushi bar at the front where you can sit but also about 15 tables as well as a tatami room at the back. Wonderful belly of pork (do you sense a theme here?!), delicate super fresh sushi including buttery soft toro as well as loads of other stuff if you don't like sushi.

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I've had some decent sushi at the counter in Ikkyu - basement Jap place north of Tottenham Ct Road (NOT the one in Chinatown)

Decent quality; reasonably priced (for a Japanese), fresh fish. Sushi chef seemed to know what he was doing (always a good sign)

Also some nice sushi in Matsuri a couple of weeks back, though as it was a junket the selection wasn't very good (salmon, tuna loin, yawn)

J


More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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I have often pondered the sushi-in-London question and have come up with a number of explanations (that may sound like apologies).

My brother lives in San Diego and has treated me to some outstanding sushi -  dishes that the conveyor-belters at Yo Sushi could never even dream up.  I know the type of sushi you're thinking about.

That type of sushi (to my limited knowledge) does not exist in London.  Perhaps some of the long time Japanese ex-pats who live here would beg to differ.  Nevertheless, I have never stumbled across it - here's why... (in my humble opinion)...

1.  Proximity of London to the Pacific Ocean makes authentic sushi a bit difficult to achieve.  Chefs have to make due with other types of fish - its expensive to fly speciality fish over from Japan or anywhere in the Pacific for that matter.  Of course there are freshness issues involved as well. When was the last time you saw abalone on a menu in the UK?  I rest my case.  

2. What you do get is expensive because its not readily available (see above reason).

3. Large portions and London restaurants generally do not mix.  It doesn't matter if you're looking for sushi or anything else (see the hated A.A. Gill's write up on Thyme in this Sunday Times).  Large portions (certainly by American standards) are hard, if not impossible to come by.

My advice is, don't look for good sushi in London.  I wouldn't go to Tokyo and expect to find an outstanding English breakfast.

i would have to disagree with your reasons for the lack of quality sushi in london, barring the few exceptions at the very high end. prices aside, the quality of sushi in London is far below its US (coastal) counterparts.

as a note, conveyor belt sushi should not even enter the discussion, as i believe david is interested in "sushi", characterized by good variety of fresh fish, prepared to order - preferably while you sip cold sake at the bar where you will be enticed by the next bite size creation - by a trained sushi chef. shouldn't be too much to ask for in a metropolis like london.

on to your points:

1. proximity to the pacific ocean. NY is just as far from the pacific ocean as is london, moreover traditional sushi is not specific to a variety of fish from a certain area, at least not anymore. it is just as expensive to import fish from london than ny. a more feasible scenario is that the lack of demand, has not created the readily avbailable supply of fish variety.

2. large portions. sushi - except for the odd exception - is never "american sized" in the US. however itsu portions are shameful.

i don't have the answer either, although i am certain it has nothing to do with raw material availability or cost, but more to do with local consumers and their notions of sushi. could it be the lack of a strong japanese copmmunity? someone commented that sushi is cheaper in london than paris...they probably haven't gone to the right places in paris.

dave, you either spend the money and go to ubon, zuma, nobu, etc. or revel in the notion that the lack of sushi in london will proportionately increase the pleasure of your next meal at your local sushi joint.


Edited by CheGuevara (log)

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Try Kikuchi in Hanway St. off Tottenham Court Road (round the corner from Hakkesan).

Not particularly cheap (c.£30-40) but very good quality compared to the others I've tried in London. I was first taken there by a friend who works for Sumitomo - it is always packed with a japenese clientelle. This is all the more pronounced because its 'you'd never find it unless you were really looking' location means it doesn't exactly attract the passing trade.

Interested in what you make of it if you visit.

Gareth

p.s. Walking down St James's the other day I saw Suntory had shut. Does those who have their finger more on the pulse than me know if this is refurbishment or recession ?

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A few places that might fit the high quality/low cost requirement:

1) get takeway from the Japan Centre on Piccadilly, very inexpensive (though not a huge selection) and fresh

2) even better, and nearby : upstairs at Daks (yes,the clothing shop) on Jermyn Street, walk through Waterstones on Piccadilly, exit the Jermyn Street side,and Daks is right next door

3) Colindale "Oriental City" mall, out there on the Northern line, has a large food court with loads of fresh Asian food - and there's also at least three sushi purveyors. The place has always been packed when I was there and the prices are very reasonable.

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If you want to hike your ass over to south east london they do pretty good sushi at sapporo ichiban in catford. The prices are also very reasonable.

Only downside is what the hell else is there to see in catford? (Apart from the giant cat of course :biggrin: )

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what the hell else is there to see in catford?

Well, the dog track for a start. And if you're really feeling adventurous I can suggest a few local restaurants where you can probably eat the loser. David was asking where he could find good quality shitsu in London, wasn't he ?

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Yes, well... inu sashimi - never tried that - shi'tsu or otherwise

Thanks again to all for the recommendations.

CheGuevara you hit the mark with

good variety of fresh fish, prepared to order - preferably while you sip cold sake at the bar where you will be enticed by the next bite size creation - by a trained sushi chef. shouldn't be too much to ask for in a metropolis like london.

Good sushi can be sublime - melting, rich, delicate, echos of the sea...

Yes, one would think one of the few major cities of the world could pull this off over one of the many many minor cities

The search continues...

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p.s. Walking down St James's the other day I saw Suntory had shut. Does those who have their finger more on the pulse than me know if this is refurbishment or recession ?

it's been bought by marco pierre white who's about to turn it into madame prunier's (july-ish)

m

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Personally, I think MPW and Terrance Conran should devote all of their efforts to rebuilding Iraq. :biggrin:

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