I’ve lived in Angel Islington for close to five years now, and I love this ‘hood. The many food-shopping options and shopping options, generally, make me happy. As does running along the Regent’s Canal and being able to walk to work.
What holds Islington back from Best Neighborhood Ever status, I think, is its high percentage of mediocre restaurants. So whenever I hear about a new place in the ‘hood with good reviews, I show up with high hopes, and honestly, I’m usually disappointed. The latest example of this cycle of disappointment: TenShi sushi, which opened earlier this year and has gotten recommended a number of times by TimeOut for being good value.
I didn’t order anything very unusual, and yet it was all sub-par. The prawns in my prawn tempura roll were flavourless, and instead of including crunchy cucumber slices with just the right dab of sweet mayo and wasabi, the rolls were flavored only with soy sauce. In fact, everything at TenShi that I tried tasted of soy sauce: agedashi tofu, udon noodle soup.
Yaki soba, again, tasted mostly of soy sauce with a dollop of grease mixed in. Whoever worked the kitchen that night was a lover of soy sauce, for sure, and I kept thinking of that scene in the Joy Luck Club where the clueless dinner guest destroys his food by dousing it in soy sauce.
Service was attentive and fast, and the prices were low (four mains and two shared starters totaled £60). But if I’m craving sushi and want to stay in the ‘hood, I’ll stick with Sa Sa Sushi (which is closed on Sunday evenings – hence why I was at TenShi on a Sunday evening). So without further ado . . . .
I’ve meant to do a blog post about Sa Sa Sushi for ages. It’s one of those places where I eat very often and take for granted, and I feel very protective towards the kind and welcoming people who work there, so I suppose a part of me didn’t want to subject them to potentially-unfriendly scrutiny. But you know, after eating the fish here at least three times a month for a couple of years, I owe them a shout out, no?
Jon and I don’t vary our orders much here. It’s our prerogative to avoid exploring the menu when it’s just a quick bite out in the neighborhood. Which is all to say, I vouch for the rolls and the nigiri and have no opinion either way on Sa Sa Sushi’s other dishes. Prawn tempura roll, of course, is one of my favorites, as are the crunchy-and-spicy [insert any fish here] rolls. I like, for example, that when you order a spicy tuna roll, you don’t end up with a mayonnaise-chili-mash of last-week’s tuna. Instead, the roll includes a hefty piece of identifiably-fresh tuna that is delicately spiced with chili.
Jon’s an udon noodle lover, so he gets this a lot. I’ve had a taste of his a few times, and it’s good, but when I show up at Sa Sa, I’m there for the fish.
Service at Sa Sa can be slow, but most times the slow-ness is due to the care with which the sushi chefs are making each roll and piece of nigiri (I’ve watched them while sitting at the sushi counter up front).
The restaurant’s decor is bright and inoffensive, if a bit charmless, and prices are reasonable (£4-6 a roll), so the tab usually comes to £20 a person if you’re sticking only with the sushi options (which you should).
I’m not claiming the place is a destination restaurant, but I confidently assert that Sa Sa is one of the best places to eat in Islington and miles better than what I’ve tried at TenShi.
Sa Sa Sushi, 422 St. John Street, EC1V 4NJ, 020 7837 1155; closest tube station: Angel (exit the station and make a left, away from Upper Street and towards City Road).