Best Sushi in London 2010
Since there've been plenty of changes since oonth started the "Calling London Sushi Buffs" thread in 2007 (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/3903...), I'm starting this new thread to unearth and highlight new gems and old staples on the London sushi scene.
1) Which restaurants serve the freshest highest quality raw fish? (Price is no object)
2) Where do you go for great authentic sushi for under £50/person?
3) Where do you go for good budget sushi besides Japan Centre at Piccadilly Circus?
4) Where is the best place to buy raw fish to make your own sushi? Japan Center or Atariya? Which is the best Atariya branch?
5) For those who've lived in Los Angeles, NYC, and Tokyo, which out of these live up to the standards in those respective cities: Umu, Tomoe, Dinings, Mitsukoshi, Saki, Edokko, Sakana-tei, Kikuchi?
heya...good idea for thread...
-- i went to Mitsukoshi 4 times last month...it doesn't have the variety of fish you'd get at, say, Ushi Wakamaru in NYC, or various places in LA, but it's been a good time every time...it's the only place i really liked in London...
-- Tomoe was *miserable*: bad fish, bad vibe, seemed on the verge of going out of business...
Looking forward to the rest of this thread as i'll be in London in a few weeks, and i plan on trying Sakana-tei and others...
So I finally finished reading the old thread from 2007 (139 replies long!), and have come up with the following questions + comments in attempt to weed out the weaklings...
- I can't decide if Umu is worth the $ without an expense account. If someone could describe what Umu's equivalent is in NYC and how it compares I'd greatly appreciate it.
- Forgot to mention Sushi of Shiori under #5 in the above.
- If I don't like Nobu (overpriced for sushi that doesn't wow you), should I bother with Dinings?
- For takeout, how does Fuji Foods (Crouch End) compare to Atariya or Japan Center?
re: Noodle fanatic
Went to Shogun for the first time tonight and it may have been the best sushi I have had in London.
Recently, I have tried chisou, tomoe, atariya (Swiss cottage), sushi of shiori (I like them so wish them well) but tonight beat all of them hands down. My previous favourite used to be Sakana tei but I think tonight may have beaten them. (I used to go to Sakana tei a lot as my office was just around the corner and I know the sushi chef, owner, mamasan etc. Never had a bad meal there)
Disclaimer 1. Tonight, I went with a Japanese family and they have been going to Shogun for the last 20 years or more so know the taishou, manager etc. We didn't get a menu or a set meal, it was omakase. I did tell them that I didn't like ika/tako so they subtituted with other stuff.
Disclaimer 2. I have no idea how much it cost as I was treated. For this reason, I don't know if Shogun represents Value for money or whether other restaurants are preferable on a taste/cost point of view.
I just know that I really enjoyed it!
Sorry to be a pain wongkei, but care to rank/compare Chisou vs. Tomoe vs. Atariya vs. Shiori vs. Sakana Tei?
I know you didn't know how much it cost, but how much would you be willing to pay for your meal at Shogun hypothetically? i.e. Is it worth £30, £50, £75, or more per person?
I recently tried Tomoe, and thought it was great value for a neighborhood dinner sushi restaurant. Definitely recommend them if you live in the area, but not so much, if say, you live in NYC but are on vacation in London for a week.
Here's my review of Tomoe pasted from another Chowhound thread:
"...found (Tomoe) to be quite reasonable (about £25 per person including service) for very decent authentic sushi and Japanese tapas. Think we'll definitely visit quite frequently since it's so close to our flat. Raw fish was very fresh, and the chefs, staff, and majority of the clientele were Japanese. Quality of the raw fish was same as Atariya. (We'd been going to the Atariya in Swiss Cottage prior to Tomoe). Tomoe will now replace Atariya due to much better service comparatively and proximity to our flat. Atariya is certainly cheaper, but it's a trek, and they have a lot of trouble with getting orders out correctly, plus getting the bill takes forever since no one ever seems to know what they're doing.
Here are the Items that I'd recommend at Tomoe based on our dinner tonight:
- Sashimi salad is a steal at under £10 with many sashimi pieces
- Grilled razor clam. Must order if you love razor clams. So good and great value at £5.90
Other items we had that were good: sashimi nigiri sushi, spicy yellowtail maki, small chirashi don, scallops sashimi (very fresh).
The miso cod was also very good, but we were served a piece smaller than a deck of cards for almost £10. Not great value. Hopefully this was a one-off. Will report back if I get the same dish in the future."
re: Noodle fanatic
It's a bit difficult as they were different dining experiences but I will try from my recent experiences.
Shogun - Apart from a small noodle salad and octopus (which I didn't eat) for starters, it was all nigiri sushi with a couple of makizushi to finish the meal. The chu toro especially was fantastic so ordered another portion. As I mentioned before, I don't like ika/squid so sushi chef made me something different. The squid nigiri had tarako underneath so he just gave me a tarako nigiri instead. Interesting!
We were sat at the counter and the whole process lasted about 1.5 hours. As a sushi experience, perfect but not exactly a "dining" experience if you wanted to relax or were there for a romantic meal for example. (Not that they rushed us)
Price....I would probably be happy to pay £100 including drinks? Normally, I don't go to higher end places unless I was being treated or it was on expenses. Also, I go back to Japan several times a year so tend to get my Japanese food fixes then.
Chisou - We tend to use this place as a slightly higher end izakaya rather than for sushi. Last week, 6 or 7 of us (Japanese salarymen) drank more than ate. I don't actually think I had sushi this time. (Also, don't know the cost as it was my leaving do and I was treated...again) Used to go here for lunch and it was always value for money and never had a bad lunch either.
Sakanatei - Normally a lunch place as the dinner prices can get ridiculous, especially when we start drinking sake/shochu and picking things from the Japanese blackboard. The times I did go for dinner, my old boss (who was a regular there) would treat me. Don't tend to stick to sushi as there are so many great dishes on the menu.
When we'd order tekka-don, the sushi chef would put in a couple of chu-toro slices with a wink and we always appreciated that!
I remember not eating a lot/having a few beers and the cost was £50 or so once. Worth it? Not sure.....
Atariya - went for lunch a few weeks back. Good but not great and we were still hungry so ended up coming back into town and going to Koya when it reopened for dinner service. Nothing wrong with the quality of the fish but from what I remember, the rice was a bit of a let down.
Shiori - Chatted to the husband and wife. Have mutual acquaintance and also, had had a few beers with the bloke a few years back....not that I remembered! Was it as good as Shogun? probably not but for the price, I would choose this place as it's the exact sort of place that should and I'd want to succeed. It was a pleasant leisurely lunch and I was glad that I didn't have to go back to work as we may have had to rush to eat as they do take their time to bring the food.
Tomoe - Another Izakaya place for us. (Apologies if any of you are ever there on a friday night and you can see a big group of Japanese businessmen getting drunk and being loud, this is our football team!)
We do get some sashimi but not sushi on evenings out. Finish with ochazuke or some noodle and then off to karaoke.....
The place is a favourite for sushi amongst my Japanese friends for the quality/price ratio.
Wow! Thanks for the very detailed report wongkei! Have a feeling I'll stick to hunting down places with prices like Tomoe when I'm dining out of my own pocket. It's hard for me to justify spending over £100 on sushi unless it's out-of-this-world or on an expense account ;)
Agree with you that Atariya's rice is a bit of a letdown. At similar price points, Tomoe's rice is much better.
For those who have been to Shogun (London) and are also familiar with the NYC sushi scene, would you recommend Shogun to someone who lives in NYC but is on a business trip in London for a week? Sorry for the frequent NYC comparisons, but being relatively new to the London sushi scene, that's how I gauge where any given restaurant stands in my own little way.
3) Atariya off Oxford Street is the only branch i've been to but their sushi never disappoints.
Was just at Dinings on Monday night, my girlfriend who lives here loves the place and I can see why. The fish was amazingly fresh and the dishes were inventive but still really simple. The highlight for me was the grilled yellowtail collar on special that night. Served with a lemon wedge and it was just amazing. Overall, great experience and like the intimacy of the space (it was just the 2 of us at the bar for 6pm) but can see it getting extremely crowded if busy. Price wise...was a little steep compared to what I pay back home in Vancouver for equally fresh fish but on par for what I've paid at Morimoto, Masa and Nobu in NYC.
Clarification - Did you mean Dinings' price or quality was on par with Nobu? Morimoto and Nobu (about $120usd per person) are MUCH cheaper than Masa in NYC. Quality-wise I'd say Morimoto and Nobu are about the same in NYC. Can't comment on Masa as I haven't tried it personally, but it's got to be ~$400usd per person?
re: Noodle fanatic
NF, you know now that I think about it, you're right. I remember paying about $120USD at Masa for lunch but not coming out super full which I've done at Morimoto and Nobu. I can't say that I detect anything more exceptional about the quality between any of the places, at that level, the freshness of the fish is all about the same. The variation would really come in the cuts and kinds of fish that are available. I've had very interesting types of fish at Morimoto. Dinings selection was definitely more basic. Thanks for setting my comments straight!
Thanks bdachow. Good to know where Dinings stand quality-wise. I'm not really a fan of the sushi at Morimoto/Nobu in NYC. They're good, but personally, not really worth the prices charged (unless you're on an expense account). I prefer En Japanese Brasserie, Yasuda, or Matsugen in NYC for pricey sushi.
Depends what you're looking for, if your looking for the pinnacle of unusual and fresh seafood then I wouldnt waste your time or money. Though if your looking for good to very good sushi and sashimi - more in the Japonica (not in the size of the cuts though) and mishima style you can do fine. My go to spots in London
Ginnan and Tajima Tei in the Farringdon area
Ginnan has to have the best priced lunch sets around and the quality of the fish is impressive for the price. To take away most sets run 6/6.50 - a discount over their delivery price of 7/7.50. Dining in prices are almost double. Though at lunch the room is a bit dark and the place is often empty. Even for take away the rice is always fresh, slighty above room temp, and well vinegared - something you rarely find at even more expensive spots.
If I want a more bustling lunch scene I tend to go to Tajima Tei where its always busy and the range of options is a bit broader. Though cant say that I've ever been overly impressed with the offering. Some people rave about it, i just think its good.
In Notting Hill our go to is Inaho - its small and when full can be a bit cramped and the service can be slow, though we keep going back for very solid standard options and amazing atsuaga shoga (fried and grilled tofu) and anything with salmon skin (always perfectly crispy skin w/ the right amount of flesh still hanging around). Note standard maki portions here are 12 pieces. I've seen many folks order a few portions of maki and then have to either awkwardly eat a ton of rolls or have to send it back. I tend to order half portions of rolls and sashimi (3 pieces rather than 6) to get a good range in.
Otherwise I dont tend to go out of my way for sushi in London and save sushi splurges for time back in NY or occasional trips to Japan.
PS and slighty off topic - I'm waiting for someone to open an Ippudo or other quality ramen joint in town. London tends to be a few years behind NY/LA trends (cupcakes, mexican, banh mi, etc...) so figure ramen has to be coming and I'm buoyed by the fact that Koya is doing well. If I was less risk averse I would be talking to the Ippudo guys myself about opening a branch here.
I went for lunch at Ginnan and the price was great but the food ok. (Not sushi) What is the sushi like? They are Korean owned? (Not that this is an issue, just an observation)
Have you tried sasa sushi a bit further up towards Angel? Not great either but not bad for Angel, which seems to have very little Japanese restaurants...shame.
I do like Tajima tei, not the best but constantly good from what I remember. The owners are really good golf players and always used to to well at the golf competition organised by the company I worked for.
With regards to a good ramen place, some of us keep discussing opening a place in London but we haven't got ourselves organised....yet. We have the financial backing, can get good ingredients as we know people at a Japanese food trading company but then we continue drinking and forgetting that we'd discussed it when we wake the next morning!!
(Also, the problem always seems to be, who will actually do the cooking? We all know when we eat good ramen but we'll probably have to bring someone in from Japan?)
Have you been to Takumi in Dusseldorf? Most of my Japanese friends based in London look forward to their business trip to their European head office in Germany, just so they can eat the noodle!!