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Soseki (Japanese), London Restaurant Review

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

We love eating Japanese food, although I came to the cuisine late, only eating my first raw fish at the age of 18 or so. Nowadays whenever I see non-Japanese kids eating good Japanese food I feel really envious of them. In London we used to go to conveyer belt sushi bars but lately we’ve found more interesting places to eat, Soseki being the latest sampling spot.

Toptable was offering a 50% discount off the £45 set menu so we figured we might as well give it a shot. Also, Helen covered the opening of Soseki in August 2008 and gave it a pretty good review (8.5/10).

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Deep in the heart of a business district, Soseki was in a rather new-looking building which looked rather impressive actually although the entrance was a bit tricky to find. The interior was even better looking with great detail to the décor. Particularly impressive were the more private booths made up to look like out-jutting shacks with a sandy beach underneath (makes more sense when you see it).


Anyway we had the “Haiku-sushi kaiseki kappo course”, kaiseki kappo being a style of cuisine originating in high class Osaka restaurants for wealthy merchents in the 19th century. The dishes itself were on an omakase principle, varying depending on seasonal produce and the chef’s design.

Being a total sake noob, we just went along with whatever the waitress recommended based on our preferences (cold, not too dry, easy to drink). I was expecting a strong 40% liquor but it was more like a 5% cocktail which went down easily.

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We started with some chawanmushi (or savoury egg custard according to the waitress) which was pretty good, smooth, light and had a nice lovely mushroomy flavour. It was disappointingly cool (in temperature) though, something that CK also picked up on his visit half a year ago so I’m guessing it’s done on purpose.

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That was followed up with some sashimi; the waitress identified them as salmon, sea bream and scallop. Except it definitely wasn’t scallop, it was some other fish I failed to identify, making it salmon + two unknown fish. Well anyway they seemed pretty fresh, but the portion size was far too small.

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We had a choice of either some pork or vegetables for the next course; naturally we chose the meat. What appeared was some braised pork belly which was just awesome; alright fine some more details – melt-in-your-mouth tender, delicious, fatty but not overwhelmingly disgustingly so. The aubergine was also surprisingly good as it was flavoured with some miso and not just plain and boring. Only complaint was that it was a touch too salty, some plain rice would have gone well with it.

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Bearing in mind it was supposed to be a sushi set course, I was surprised the cooked pork came before the sushi. So hopefully the upcoming palate cleanser would refresh my salted buds. The melon juice was surprisingly bitter but the chrysanthemum flowers added a nice aroma; it was my fault really as I kept taking sips of it while the waiter later said I should have just taken it like a shot.

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Rather than detailing each piece of sushi, I’ll just summarise by saying that the rice was quite tasty and seasoned well. I thought the sushi pieces were otherwise fairly ordinary although it wasn’t in any way bad.

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soseki sides

For dessert, the PigPig was eyeing a green tea rare cheesecake and ice cream option, and to her delight that was what we were given. The cheesecake had some good green tea flavour going on, but the PigPig wasn’t exactly overwhelmed by it. Unfortunately, they ran out of the white chocolate and miso ice cream and we were served milk chocolate and miso ice cream instead, which I thought didn’t match the green tea cheesecake as well. The ice cream itself was a bit odd for me, as the miso added a salty undercurrent, but the PigPig quite liked it.

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Altogether, the bill came up to £31 each including a 175ml flask of sake that was about £10 or so.

Just a brief word on the staff, I identified only two Japanese waiters out of all the staff and the sushi chef’s had a brief conversation in Cantonese when they weren’t being productive. The clientele were also mostly non-Japanese.

It wasn’t actually bad, but the food wasn’t exactly brilliant either, just slightly better than average. However, that doesn’t match the prices which are more appropriate for Nobu-quality food; without the 50% discount I would have felt incredibly ripped-off.

Best bit: The interior designing.
Worst bit: The price.

30 St Mary Axe 1F
London, EC3A 5AA
Tel: +44(020)7621921

Soseki on Urbanspoon

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