Reviews: Jay Rayner finds the UK's best sushi at Kurisu Omakase at Ichiban Sushi in Brixton

24 August 2021
Reviews: Jay Rayner finds the UK's best sushi at Kurisu Omakase at Ichiban Sushi in Brixton

The Observer's Jay Rayner has both dinner and theatre at Kurisu Omakase at Ichiban Sushi in London's Brixton

I've eaten at the fabulous Endo. I've splurged at Umi and purred over Sushi Tetsu. I do not hesitate to say that what's being served here is some of the very best sushi in the UK today. Yes, there's oceans of technique on display, but there's so much more than that. There is character and narrative and wit. [Chris]Restrepo is chef as storyteller.

I do not hesitate to say that what's being served here is some of the very best sushi in the UK today

It begins with pale pink slices of tuna. Like most of the fish it has been aged to give a denser texture and to deepen the flavour. The tuna has been seared. There is a puddle of a brisk ponzu dressing and a shower of Parmesan for boosted umami.

Next, there must be a fried course, for he is following a formal order. It's a golden croquette of white and brown crab meat. In a nod to his Thai heritage, it sits on a thick green pond of a sweet-sour nam jim sauce. This trio of openers concludes with a miso-slicked piece of hamachi seared on the brazier until bubbling and brown, with a fan of tempura-ed enoki mushrooms, a shredded radish salad and a ginger dressing.

Now he presents the blonde-wood box containing a dozen types of fish. We watch the delicate jeweller's hand movements, the rice scooped and shaped by warm fingers and palm, slicked with water between portions; the wasabi dabbed just so; the lozenge crowned with a curl of pristine fillet. He places each directly in front of us. The rice is just above room temperature and lightly vinegared. Some of the fish is brushed with soy. There is the hiss and pop of the blowtorch. Sometimes the brazier is used to sear the fish. At one point the coals are used directly. It is both dinner and theatre.

Price: £108 for dinner for two

Kurisu Omakase
Kurisu Omakase

Jimi Famurewa of the London Evening Standard discovers glorious heights at the Cadogan Arms in London's Chelsea

Initially billed as something of a blockbuster – the Cadogan Arms is a partnership between publican Dominic Jacobs and all-conquering restaurant group JKS, operating under the culinary direction of Kitchen Table's James Knappett – this grandly rebooted 138-year-old King's Road establishment is actually a warmer, quieter endeavour. A place conceived by pub true believers where dry-aged steak coexists with televised football in the basement, the house pilsner comes in a ceremonial porcelain tankard, and the food (spearheaded by executive chef Alex Harper) has a full-blooded, all-caps spirit of generous intensity from the off.

Buffalo-style buttermilk fried chicken illustrated this sensibility perfectly. It was tender nuggets of thigh meat in a thickly rutted, sharply crisp batter, begging to be plunged into a nuanced neon orange "Bubbledogs" hot sauce – a survivor from Knappett's old place – and a bone-white blue cheese dip of immense, ripe clarity. Boneless lamb ribs – lightly jacketed in a cumin-spiced flour, deep-fried to melting lusciousness and accompanied by a mic-drop of a sorrel and anchovy yogurt – were another drunken fever dream rendered with enlivening care and sophistication.

The roasted brill came as a hefty pedestal of flaking, moist fish, anointed with a heaping of little brown shrimp and golden butter forcefully brightened by squished capers. Giant flagons of silky, by-the-glass Monte Santoccio Valpolicella went down like a dream (at £10, entryish-level on the punchily priced list).

True, my Welsh Mangalitsa pork chop had dried out a little during cooking. But if you finish with the sherry trifle, then you will finish strong. Presented on a doilied plate in an ornate, ridged glass, it is a painterly layering of reds, whites and yellows (strawberry jelly, deliriously boozy sponge, fluffy snowcaps of biscuit-flecked Chantilly cream) that is one of the most joyous puddings in the capital right now. A pensionable old stager of a dish raised up to a glorious new height.

Price: about £130 for a meal for two plus drinks

The Cadogan Arms
The Cadogan Arms

The Telegraph's William Sitwell is left baffled by NoMad London's Side Hustle bar

The hotel is an impressive, stylish place called NoMad, whose sister of the same name is a well-known New York establishment. And, get this description (written by them) of where I'm eating, the bar and Mexican gaff: ‘Side Hustle is NoMad's take on the classic British pub seen through a NoMad lens with a few surprises.'

Except this place is all wooden booths, with greeny-gold thick leather-cushioned seats, spherical golden lamps hanging from brushed-bronze chains, sparkling gold and bronze screens and a shiny bronze ceiling, and classic British grub that is in fact Mexican!

In the fog of lunacy, perhaps I imagined I'd ordered a pint of ale and some pork scratchings, but what arrives first are impeccable Camparis and guacamole with tortilla chips. In, possibly, a nod to the classic British pub there are peas in the guacamole. Perhaps the spectre of a ghost could emerge from this here police station and arrest the chef for crimes against the culinary arts.

There are a bunch of other heaving mounds on tortillas, among which I could pick out crisp kale, a decent soft prawn in batter, and some tasty aubergine. I rescued them as they drowned in onions, pickled cabbage, mayo, thick black garlic, salsa and shredded mozzarella. We also unwrapped a neat, green-leaf parcel of slow-cooked lamb barbacoa: a ‘para todos' to share once more. It was gloopy food for the toothless.

Then I made my escape, yearning for clean and simple reality.

Price: £103 for lunch for two, excluding drinks and service

NoMad London Side Hustle
NoMad London Side Hustle

Grace Dent of The Guardian finds Royale in east London to be one good thing to come out of the pandemic

I wanted to try Royale because it's a spin-off from another very good restaurant, Leroy in Shoreditch. Setting one's stall out as an authority on rotating chicken is brave, because anyone who cooks, even moderately, believes they can do this better themselves at home.

Royale began life as part of Leroy's pandemic survival plan, delivering chicken door-to-door, but has taken root in a long, pretty, exposed brick room with an outdoor terrace that is part of the severely underrated East London Liquor Company.

Chef Lucy Timm is serving a refreshing, simple but delicious spin on Provençal home cooking. Yes, the bird is the main event, but there are also small plates of delicate artichoke on a bed of rocket with shaved Parmesan and dressed lightly with lemon and good olive oil. There is a crisp courgette galette with ricotta and basil, as well as sweet, slow-roasted, lush tomatoes with a generous scattering of bolshie, satisfying anchovies, capers and marjoram.

There are few other frills here. Sometimes, simple is the most beautiful. Eat some chicken and roast potatoes, maybe with a side of crisp courgette frites with fresh basil and a squeeze of lemon. Finish with a slice of homemade cherry and almond tart or a slice of pillowy, soft lemon meringue pie. Almost nothing good came out of the pandemic for the restaurant world, but a good roast chicken is a start.

Price: about £30 a head, plus drinks (service included)

The Scotman's Gaby Soutar is enamoured by the veg-focused menus at Sylvan in Glasgow

The first dish to land was familiar and colourful – a bowlful of padron peppers (£5), their skin suitably wrinkled. blistered and stuck with crystals of salt, which tempered their usual bitterness.

It's traditional to have a drinkie-poo with this dish and I tried their mezcal grapefruit negroni (£7), which was lighter and fruitier than anticipated, with a sunshiney wedge of citrus.

Our dish of smoked tomatoes (£10) helped me understand why the French once called this fruit pomme d'amour. These halved apples of love had been smoked, daubed with harissa or chipotle, or something else smoky and hot, and tasted magnificently complex. They came with a large dollop of cheesy yogurt and a splash of melted chilli butter, plus half a soft and bouncy flatbread. You say tom-ay-to, I say, who cares what you call them, these taste incredible. From now on, I'll only eat my tomatoes smoked.

The mushroom that is hen of the woods (£11) had been treated like its chicken counterpart. Pieces of the fungi, which grows at the base of trees, were coated in a puffy and glossy Southern-Fried-inspired batter, and accompanied by a ragù of various other wild mushrooms, clad in a miso gravy and topped by shredded tarragon. It was intense and feral, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood. Filling too, for those who gripe about meat-free meals not being hearty enough.

Score: 17/20. Price: £41.50 for lunch for two, excluding drinks

Mark Taylor of the Bristol Post discovers a smart new gastropub in the Whitmore Tap in Bristol

The ‘tap room' downstairs is still aimed more at drinkers; walk upstairs, however, and the new dining room created out of a former storage area is genuinely impressive with its open kitchen, skylight and private dining room.

Head chef Andrew Prince most recently worked at a gastropub in London's Clerkenwell, and he has based most of his menu around the robata charcoal grill and a drum smoker.

A starter of beef dripping doughnuts, smoked brisket, honey and soy sauce (£8.25) was as unmissable as it sounds, the three hot, sweet brioche-like doughnuts filled with soft, tender beef with a dribble of soy sauce. Smoky beef doughnuts – three words to quicken any pulse.

Also good was a perfectly made pork and prune terrine (£7.95), which was smooth, peppery, herby and easily spreadable on the ample toasted sourdough.

A precisely cooked whole sea bass (£16.95) was served with a robust and rustic tomato and caper sauce and hasselback potatoes that were fluffy under their crisp, accordion-like exteriors. Lamb hogget (£18.50) – thin, tender slices of leg and croquettes of slow-cooked shoulder – was teamed with a creamy artichoke purée and triangles of pommes Anna with a pleasing crunch to their buttery edges.

The intelligent and measured use of smoke and fire continued with a juicy, perfectly ripe peach (£6.95) still hot from the robata grill and served with splashes of basil syrup, peach sorbet and a black pepper tuile.

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