Like many food lovers, I regularly crave high-quality sushi. Sadly, though, I’m often disappointed by the hyped-up spots in London. For example, in 2010, Sushi of Shiori sounded like the second coming. But when I finally snagged a counter seat there, I was disappointed. Never again will I allow my expectations to rise like that, I vowed. I’ll stay content with my perfectly good, friendly, local sushi joint, Sa Sa.
Jon and I had an 8 pm booking last weekend, and sadly, although there were open seats upstairs at and near the sushi bar, we were told we could only sit downstairs. Oh well. The downstairs is wood-panelled, small and kind of quiet. You’re close to the bathroom and coat check, though, in case those are pluses for you.
Sake tasters are available at reasonable prices. My takeaway: test tubes are weird to drink out of.
Yes, I know I’m visiting a restaurant staffed by skilled itamae. But I still want a prawn tempura roll. Yashin takes pride in flavoring its rice and sushi so that you *don’t need or want to drown it in soy sauce*. This first taste of what the kitchen could do lived up to that promise. The prawns were sweet and still slightly warm, and the rolls were packed with peppery and citrus-yuzu flavor. No need for mayo, much less soy sauce.
I haven’t had a soft-shell crab this juicy and fresh in *years*. The crispy mizuna greens and accompanying rice wine vinaigrette were a perfect foil.
And then the main attraction – omakase. Jon and I had foolishly eaten a late-day snack, so we played it safe with Yashin’s smallest omakase option: the eight-piece.
Much has been written about Yashin’s omakase, so I’ll just note generally:
1. The blow-torch thing is genius. It adds a wonderful charred, smoky flavor to silken raw fish. Let me emphasize: the fish does not get ruined/cooked. It’s just flavored.
2. The different seasonings pair well with the various fish. Salmon with some ponzu-and-wasabi kick, for example. Delicately-sweetened eel. The guys doing the flavor pairings are spot on.
Overall, I loved our food. Definitely worth the pricetag. We paid £94 for two people, and that’s without drinking much.
Downsides: the downstairs room is kind of depressing, and the service, while seemingly well-intentioned, was not the best. We were in and out in under 40 minutes, partly because our sushi arrived quickly, and mostly because the second we took our last bite of sushi, a woman cleared our plates and then nobody asked us if we wanted anything else. In fairness to Yashin, we really didn’t want anything else that night, but blowing almost £100 for a 40-minute meal just feels really weird. As if you just stopped in for a quick bite to eat in the neighborhood, yes?
Yet clearly Yashin aspires to be more of a destination restaurant, so turning a table in less than an hour just seems wrong. i know this is going to sound petty and slightly weird, but it would have been nice of Yashin had spaced the food out a little more and made us feel like we were welcome to linger over a coffee or tea.
So. Fresh, creative, delish sushi. Decent decor and buzz if you’re upstairs. Polite-but-too-fast service.
I’ll be back for the food, and next time, maybe I’ll line up a movie or show after dinner.
Yashin Sushi, 1A Argyll Rd, W8 7DB; 0207 938 1536; closest Tube station: High Street Kensington