Monday, 6 September 2010
Sushi of Shiori, Euston
Having spent many years in London without enjoying even so much as a half-decent sushi meal never mind one I would consider going back for, the last few months have been nothing short of revelatory. First, Ten Ten Tei in Soho back in March provided a teasing glimpse of a higher standard of sushi. Then, the biggie - Asakusa, a restaurant so vibrant, so exciting, and (perhaps most crucially) so reasonably priced that it has become my new benchmark - the sushi restaurant to judge all others in the capital. So, flushed with these successes, I found myself in Sushi of Shiori, a newish place on an otherwise unpromising side street near Euston station.
As ever, the credit for discovering this and most of the other interesting new restaurants I've been to over the past couple of years must go to Lizzie of Hollow Legs, who not only spotted some glowing reviews appearing on London Eating a few months back, but who has also written it up in her own typically even-handed and economical style. In fact, while we're on the subject, I urge anyone who has even the most passing interest in food in the capital to start reading Lizzie's blog - if indeed you aren't already. Apart from being a frighteningly confident and able home cook there's nobody else I know who can so successfully distil the essence of a restaurant experience into a handful of entertaining and efficiently-written paragraphs. In a blogosphere increasingly dominated by reams of self-indulgent twaddle (and I'm as guilty as anyone in this respect), she shows how this kind of thing can be done in a commendably unpretentious way.
First time we visited Sushi of Shiori, we were on the omakase voyage of discovery, where you give the restaurant a budget and they send you a selection of delicacies traditionally tuned to your individual requirements. As we hadn't specifically given them any specific requirements, we were just presented with a number of house specialities, which fortunately were all delicious. This second time we preferred a bit more control over the menu and so decided to order a la carte, and it's thanks to Shiori's intelligent front of house that despite our rather haphazard selection of dishes they arrived in a such a way as to make a pleasantly flowing meal. First to arrive were a crunchy, briny seaweed salad and some Yaki Nasu - grilled aubergine topped with writhing bonito flakes. The aubergine had been peeled and cut into handy chunks and soaked in a sharp sauce of some kind.
Miso soup was excellent, but I'm afraid a couple of chicken yakitori skewers were slightly too sweet and fatty for my liking. The absence of a proper charcoal grill really shows and it could be argued that they were a rather silly thing to order from a largely cold sushi bar, but here they are anyway. If you want yakitori, go to Roka.
This pretty plate of sashimi contained a few moist pieces of fresh scallop sandwiched in between some thin slices of lemon which firmed up and slightly "ceviched" the outside of the flesh. Served with it were a chunks of yellowtail, a nice fatty fish with a delicate flavour that I shall try to order more often in the future.
Udon were fun - you dump all the ingredients into the broth and then attempt to scoop them all out and into your mouth without making too much of a mess. They weren't quite as tasty and silky as the Koya ones if I'm going to be honest, but then Koya do little else - you'd expect them to have the edge.
Mackerel Saba were interesting - we were told the rice is more tightly packed than normal sushi and I liked the pickled fish on top, but they were really only pleasant to eat. I liked the salmon roe though - I usually do - and the interesting glazed tableware they were served on.
Finally, a huge tray of beautiful nigiri, hosomaki (thin rolls) and futomaki (thick rolls). Some, like the tuna hosomaki and the prawn and avocado futomaki, were familiar from a dozen other sushi meals, albeit still fresh and tasty. But the inclusion of some more unusual delicacies like prawns topped with some kind of herby dressing, scallops topped with truffle sauce and (I think) yellowtail and ponzu made sure you really got your money's worth.
All these quality ingredients, coupled with the care and attention it took to make them, ensured the final bill was a rather premium £45 a head with only one glass of wine, but in fairness you could really see where the money went. In this tiny room, with literally 8 seats in total for paying customers (3 at the bar, 5 at the window), you are served food painstakingly prepared to order by one chef, and served by his charming wife, and if you are lucky enough to have a seat at the bar you can watch the whole fascinating process up-close. And so, from having dismissed sushi in London not long ago, I now find myself torn between two places for my favourite. In the end, and factoring in value for money, I suppose Asakusa still comes out on top. But Sushi of Shiori is still well worth anyone's time, and I can thoroughly recommend it.