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Sushi-Say, London [Restaurant Review]

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

This all started about two years ago while reading the Metro newspaper on the Underground; their regular food writer proclaimed that the only two Japanese restaurants worth eating sushi at were Kikuchi and Sushi-Say. We’ve eaten Kikuchi several times before, often with friends who agree it is not only authentic but very high quality food. Unfortunately, Sushi-Say is located in Willesden Green, which was in North West London in the Zone 2/3 boundary of the Underground; in other words, it was a pretty long trip for sushi. Since we now have a car though, our territorial range has expanded greatly.

Our initial reactions to reaching the restaurant were mixed at best; Sushi-Say looked genuinely authentic from the outside, but did not have the most glamorous of locations (no disrespect to anybody living in Willesden Green). However, the bonus of eating outside central London is not only being able to find parking right outside your destination, but cheap parking too(!).

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Upon entry, we were greeted warmly with smiles and quickly escorted to a table. The interior looked very similar to most other quite casual Japanese restaurants around London; a sushi bar and counter near the entrance with the tables located further inside. A noticeable difference however was a traditional Japanese table in the corner of the room, the type where you need to fold your legs to sit down to eat.

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The menu covered quite a large range of different food, from the usual starters to sushi/sashimi, rice/noodles dishes and fried/grilled food.

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We ordered green tea before ordering our food.

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We started with Ika Somen; ika = squid, somen = a type of thin Japanese noodles, so the idea was that the squid was to be served like noodles. The squid was finely cut in strips and we noticed that one layer of it had very fine scoring done, presumably to better soak up the sauce provided. The sauce was a very light soya based mix, the usual Japanese cold noodle dipping sauce with a healthy addition of diced spring onions (=scallions), minced ginger and seaweed. The squid was unlike any other raw squid I had before, and the Pig Pig who has eaten a lot of ika in the past said this was the best she ever had as it was very soft yet chewy and had a subtle squid-y aftertaste. A must-try, and I suspect we will be eating this very often on future visits.

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Ika Somen

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For the mains we had a Nigiri Toku set. Now I have to admit I could only recognize some of the fish, but it did have the usual suspects (ama ebi = sweet prawn, tuna, salmon, mackerel, unagi, ika, er... and others). The slices of fish were generous and more importantly, amazingly fresh. The ama ebi sushi actually tasted raw rather than marinated in sugar syrup for a week and was a joy to eat. The sushi already had wasabi prepared with it, and we were gently encouraged by the waitress and the menu to eat it with the chef’s recommended dosage of wasabi (although more are available on demand for the hardcore).

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Nigiri Toku

From the lunch sets, we had a Maze Chirashi set. First came a little starter of vegetables in a clear soup base, very tasty. The vegetables had clearly been cooked in the broth for a long time, as they had absorbed a lot of the sweetness of the soup.

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The Chirashi dish is apparently quite commonplace in Japan, and is essentially a mix of raw fish scattered on top of a bowl of sushi rice. Each chef can have his own mix of ingredients, and this may change daily as well. Ours had some fish (I detected salmon, tuna and two other unidentifieds), eggs and shredded cucumber to add some texture. Nice touches from Sushi-Say was having the soya sauce mixed in by the chef already, and providing some pickled ginger, sliced cucumber and pickled radish on the side. I felt the chef was a touch aggressive with the soya sauce but the Pig Pig wasn’t complaining. Unfortunately, the dish was a lot larger than anticipated and we weren’t able to order anymore after this.

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The set also came with a bowl of soup. To be honest, I was surprised it wasn’t miso soup, but I guess it was nice to have a change. It had a couple of floating naruto (the pink spiral fish paste) and tofu bits with a ginkgo nut at the bottom. It was quite clear tasting and refreshing, which I suppose is nice to some people.

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Overall, I felt this might just be our new favourite sushi joint, not only because the food was of very good quality, but we got more smiles and felt more welcome here than other similar places. Total for all that came to approximately £40.

Food - 9.0*
Service - 9.0
Atmosphere - 7.0
Value - 8.5

The food was near faultless, and the freshness of the seafood is undeniable, but we sampled too little of the menu to be able to make a true judgement of the chef’s abilities. Although the restaurant was full by the time we left, service was still quick and with a smile. Lack of Japanese customers at the time made it feel a bit non-traditional at the time, but I hear online that lots of Japanese are regulars at Sushi-Say. Value is tricky to judge, but quality Japanese food comes at a premium and I felt it was money well spent in this case.

Restaurant Review - Sushi-Say (Revisited) - click to read

33b Walm Lane,
Tel: +44(0)208459 2971

Sushi-Say on Urbanspoon

35 oink oinks...:

Wild Boar said...

First thing I have to say is - I want to eat there again!

Pearl said...

wow! that sounds like an incredible restaurant. thanks for sharing! i'll add that to the list of places i mus visit when i go to london!

doggybloggy said...

its a little far for me and I have a car...great review...

Christelle said...

:O I want to gooooooo! I suppose it's only 2hours by train from Manchester now :)))) Thanks for the great review :) said...

This looks like totally authentic sushi. Too bad it's so far away!

Heather said...

it all looks so good!! i want some now!

Bunny said...

Great review!! Everything looks incredible!!

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

Your pictures look great even in the restaurant, they must have had good lighting!

The food looks wonderful!

The caked crusader said...

I love good sushi - your meal looks delicious. One for the "restaurants to visit" list I reckon!

Lizzie said...

My most recent review of Sushi Hiro also has a line saying "it had this fish, that fish, and... err..." I think a diagram is a good idea! I look forward to visiting Sushi Say, it sounds fantastic.

Steven Goh said...

wah... nice, I wanna go there to try out dee. Can you buy me an air ticket to London? :)

Ben said...

I still need to develop my love for sushi. All my friends always tell me how great it is, but I am resilient, LOL

5 Star Foodie said...

This restaurant sounds good - beautiful sushi!

Kitchen Flavours said...

I heard a lot about sushi...but never tasted it...

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

There looks to be plenty of accolades for this restaurant! Good to see that the food lived up to the rep :)

Katherine Aucoin said...

I love sushi, but I have found not all sushi bars are created equal.

noble pig said...

Sounds like it was a wonderful experience. It's always great to find a new place to munch at!

Big Boys Oven said...

OMG! that chef look so cute and so bunny! I am sure a lot of ladies would like to cuddle him! wink! wink!

Big Boys Oven said...

I wonder how it would taste if fresh golden trout or even freah cod is used for sashimi! I miss both so much!

Elra said...

Ah, it's a pity that I live across the ocean!

lisaiscooking said...

Sounds like a fantastic place, and the nigiri looks delicious!

Wild Boar said...

Pearl / / Steven Goh / Elra:
I'm sure that there are loads of places to eat where you guys live that I wish I could go to (the grass is always greener yadda yadda).

Haha yeah. I hope that with this review you might consider trying out what I hope you find a great meal if you do come down to little London.

It was a pretty nice sunny day and there was a lot of good lights indoors, not one of those places trying to set a "cool" ambience.

The caked crusader:
It was on my "to-visit" list for about 2 years before I finally made the trip there, I only wish I went sooner now.

Ben / Kitchen Flavours:
I would suspect not all people will find raw fish tasty, but its always worth trying something new, even if you do find you hate it (I still dislike blue cheese..)

Katherine Aucoin:
Very true. I generally dislike the chains of sushi bars across London and prefer going to the more "authentic" stores (I assume its authentic, I've not been to Japan). You have any bad apples you advice to avoid?

Big Boys Oven:
Eh normally got fresh golden trout/cod for sashimi wan ar? Don't think I have eaten that before. Where you eat?

Sharon said...

What beautiful photos! I will keep this place in mind if I ever come visit :)

Reeni♥ said...

Awesome review!!! The food looks & sounds wonderful!

Tangled Noodle said...

Everything looks marvelous! Now, if only I can figure out how to drive from Minnesota, USA to the outskirts of London . . .

Pam said...

I want to like sushi...I really do but I just can't bring myself to eat raw fish. I am glad you enjoyed the food and restaurant.

Janet @ Gourmet Traveller 88 said...

You guys are so lucky to have so many nice japanese rest to try in UK compared to me living in Switzerland and years back when I was living in UK. I would love to try it already. Am staying in UK these few days but do not have much time to have culinary visits. Will save for next time. Thanks for the review.

Wild Boar said...

Well there are types of sushi that doesn't have raw fish in it. But doing so, you'll miss the best part of sushi to start with (ie. the raw seafood). No need to stress yourself about it though since there are so many other good cuisines in the world to eat anyway.

Janet @ Gourmet Traveller 88:
Well I think you're lucky to be living in Switzerland, which is famous for its scenic mountains. I still haven't gone skiing yet, and its probably too expensive to do it in Swiss.

Natashya said...

You guys do eat well! The dishes are really pretty too.

Chef E said...

What a lovely story you tell with your photos! I had sushi yesterday for lunch while searching for Gordon Ramsey in a small town of NJ...saw lots of the textures and flavors of this experience...

Carolyn Jung said...

Chirashi is one of my fave dishes to order at a Japanese restaurant. This particular rendition looks spectacular.

The Curious Cat said...

I adore sushi! You've now gone and made me very hungry!!!

Sweetiepie said...

wow!what a nice and cozy place to have sushi ..Yum!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Great post. I love restaurant reviews.

Wild Boar said...

Chef E:
Did you manage to find Gordon Ramsey? Was he doing an episode of Hell's Kitchen or something?

Carolyn Jung:
Yeah same here I also tend to like to order chirashi. Rice, fish, soya sauce, all mixed together and easily eaten with just a spoon. Simple, yet tasty and filling :-D

My Carolina Kitchen:

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