I’ll admit, I was a pre-packaged sushi regular before I moved to Japan. But during my time there I learned to appreciate the art of real sushi, the taste of fresh, seasonal fish and expertly cooked, vinegared rice. I came to recognise the tradition and respect that goes along with a sushi meal – something that is not reflected in today’s fast-sushi culture. There is, however, one haven in London where you can have fantastic, fresh sushi in a traditional set up – Sushi Tetsu.
Sushi Tetsu in Clerkenwell is without a doubt my favourite place for sushi in London. And is clearly the favourite of many others as well given how it is pretty difficult to get a reservation. That said, their handy Twitter feed publicises their cancellations so if you are able to be flexible you can get in pretty regularly.
Toru-san runs his restaurant in a traditional fashion – everyone sits at the bar and he makes each piece of sushi himself with painstaking care, love and attention. This can result in a relatively slow meal but it is worth it. You can order off a menu but each time we go we opt for the omakase, leaving it up to Toru-san to decide what he serves us. This ensures we end up with the best of the fish available that day. Toru-san’s lovely wife Harumi-san helps to run the restaurant and under her watch there is a great atmosphere and never an empty glass!
The meal always starts with a few otsumami. First up this time was sardine – sardines must be in season at the moment as (as at Kitchen Table – more here) this first plate was bursting with flavour…
A very good start!
One of the things I love about heading to a traditional sushi-ya and ordering omakase is that every time I end up trying something totally new. Today it was Surf Clam which I really enjoyed.
Slightly chewy, but in a good way, the clam was served with a really delicious sauce of miso, mustard and vinegar.
The next course was squid in bonita.
The sauce that came with this was delicious…so we obviously drained it, revealing a particularly beautiful bowl.
The final omikase was O-toro (or, fatty tuna)
Don’t be put off by the English moniker however… while it may not be the healthiest, fatty tuna just melts in your mouth and has so much flavour. This seared piece (from a 220 lb Spanish tuna) was no exception.
We then came to the nigiri section of our meal. I’m not a huge fan of rice day to day but well-prepared sushi rice is definitely the exception and Toru-san’s is perfectly seasoned and just the right texture.
First up was chu-toro, or medium fatty tuna.
This piece (taken from a 180 lb Wild Irish fish) had a real clarity of flavour and a smooth texture.
Next was prawn…
Sweet, juicy and delicious.
One of the less usual pieces, the fish, with the added flavour of yuzu, was one I’d been keen to see more regularly.
The bonito or yellowtail nigiri at Tetsu is always particularly good, and this meal was no exception.
Another unusual piece followed – snow crab.
I love white crab meat and think it works really well when it’s light, delicate flavour is able to stand out like it is with sushi, rather than being lost in a dish with lost of other flavours and textures.
For the final nigiri we received another piece which had not, until now, made it into my sushi repertoire – Kama, the neck of the tuna.
Often cited as the most valuable part of the tuna, this piece was rich, heavy and, with just the right amount of wasabi and vinegar to balance out the fat, delicious.
Toru-san’s flair with a blow torch, something I always love to watch when eating at Sushi Tetsu, was impeccably displayed when preparing the next piece…
rolls using one of my favourite fish, Mackerel. The perfectly crisp skin really added texture to the piece.
I’d run out of battery by the time it came to the meal’s pièce de résistance, the tuna roll, so you will have to trust me on how delicious this is!
Aside from the impeccable food, the friendly atmosphere at Sushi Tetsu is another aspect that keeps me coming back again and again. Definitely, in my opinion, somewhere to try if you are looking to experience more authentic sushi or, if the offerings of the chains leave you cold, and you yearn after Japan’s sushi-yas