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Wednesday, 19 July 2017

#TheGrandJourney – A Multi-Sensorial Experience That is All About Flavour

For most people, it is rare the opportunity to consider the flavour profile of a single ingredient and the role it plays to a given dish – but even more so, the opportunity to reflect on 10 different ingredients, their usage, provenance and quality. 

As a food writer, I relish the prospect of such experiences - #TheGrandJourney by Bombay Sapphire is a multi-sensorial experience that is all about flavour, and it is taking place right now (17th to 23rd July 2017) in London’s Banking Hall.

Bombay Sapphire uses 10 different botanicals from around the world selected by the brand’s Master of Botanicals Ivano Tonutti. I am told only the finest and sustainably sourced ingredients go in to produce the brand’s gin, these include juniper berries (Italy), grains of paradise (West Africa), almonds (Spain), lemon peel (Spain), cubeb berries (Java), coriander seeds (Mexico), angelica root (Germany), cassia bark (IndoChina), orris root (Italy) and liquorice (China).

Liquorice from China - one of the 10 Bombay Sapphire gin botanicals

For #TheGrandJourney, Bombay Sapphire built a train - the Laverstock Express (named after its distillery, Laverstock Mill in Hampshire) and is taking “passengers” on a Gin of Ten Journeys, illustrating through a multi-sensorial food and gin pairing dinner, the 10 botanicals and places around the world where these are found.

Collaborating with the brand is Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers of Story Restaurant who created four dishes specifically for this campaign. Using Spanish lemon peel, Tom’s scallop two ways was a delightful dish of raw and pan-fried scallops – Tom mixed diced raw scallops and apple with lemon, crème fraiche and fine slices of radish. The pan-fried scallop was served with a super-light and zingy lemon foam, a very sophisticated hollandaise-style creation brimming with flavour, zinginess and intense citrus flavours.

Another fantastic dish, this time using Spanish almonds, was Tom’s Spanish Iberico pork (served pink) with roasted pear, fresh and sugared almonds and Amaretto jelly. I loved the toasty nuttiness of the almonds combined with the creaminess of the rare Iberico pork and the sweet touches in this dish – the sugared almonds, Amaretto jelly and roasted pear, all came together beautifully in a dish I will remember for quite sometime. Pork and almonds, who would have thought?!

Dessert was also memorable – a refreshing ice cream of herbaceous angelica (considered the 3rd most important botanical in gin, after juniper berries and coriander seeds), with salted blackberry and bitter chocolate.

But the gin botanical inspired creations were not only limited to food – there were a number of cocktails devised by brand ambassador Sean Ware using these ingredients. There were a few favourites – the cubeb berry was a peppery cup of Bombay Sapphire, coffee and cardamom cold infusion with Benedictine and tri-pepper tincture. 

Using orris root, we were served a zesty coupette of Bombay Sapphire, fig and bergamot liqueur, violet leaf tincture, bergamot juice and crème de violet – this was intensely floral.

Perhaps my favourite of the lot was Sean’s Maghreb High Ball – made from 1 part each of Bombay Sapphire gin, water, and Moroccan liqueur (a heady concoction of vodka, dried mint leaves, coriander seeds and saffron) to 2 parts of honey mead, garnished with fresh mint leaf, this was as exotic and spicy as it was refreshing.

Before #TheGrandJourney, three of Bombay Sapphire’s 10 botanicals were new to me - grains of paradise, cubeb berries and orris root. On further research, I discovered that grains of paradise are melegueta or malagueta pepper. This is a native plant of West Africa brought in to South America, especially to Brazil by the Portuguese who had a number of colonies in the continent at the time. Malagueta is the most popular pepper used in Brazil and I love using it in food for its pepperiness and citrus undertones.

I also discovered that cubeb berry is an Indonesian plant that is cultivated for its fruit and oil. Dried, they’re similar in appearance (and taste) to black pepper. I learnt that cubeb berries have long been used alongside juniper as their combination pairs well with other core gin botanicals. 

Cubeb berries - one of Bombay Sapphire's 10 gin botanicals
Have you ever wondered why gin can have such an intense floral quality? Well, one of its botanicals, orris is the root of the iris, specifically from the Iris Pallida and Iris Germanica plants. These are beautiful, blooming flower species that grow widely across the world. A lot of work goes into harvesting orris; after three to four years of growth, the roots are dug up and left to dry for at least 5 years, before being ground to powder for use as a botanical in gin. Dried orris root take on a floral, sweet smell and unsurprisingly has been used in perfumes for years.

If you have not been able to secure a spot for #TheGrandJourney, you will be pleased to hear that Bombay Sapphire will be collaborating with ten leading cocktail bars across Europe, five of these in the UK. For the next twelve weeks from the 17th July 2017, five UK bars well known for their outstanding creativity in cocktail making will be serving limited edition tipples using Bombay Sapphire’s 10 botanicals. In London, bars taking part include The Berkeley (angelica), Three Sheets (coriander seed) and Scout (liquorice), while in Manchester the Science and Industry (grains of paradise) and in Edinburgh the Panda and Sons (cassia bark).

Discovering new flavours, ingredients and how to use them in my cooking and cocktail making is what makes me tick – I have been hugely inspired by #TheGrandJourney and have created my own recipe using two of Bombay Sapphire’s botanicals: liquorice and juniper berries. If you would like to try my meltingly tender, super ‘Slow-Braised Pork Belly in Honey Mead, Soy, Liquorice and Juniper Berries’ dish, you can find the full recipe here.

For more information on Bombay Sapphire gins, cocktails and The Grand Journey, visit their website at http://www.bombaysapphire.com.

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Slow-Braised Pork Belly in Honey Mead, Soy, Juniper Berries & Liquorice - My Recipe in Collaboration with Bombay Sapphire Gin

Gin is one of my very favourite tipples, so I was thrilled to be asked to take part in Bombay Sapphire’s The Grand Journey, taking place between 17 and 23 July 2017 at London’s Banking Hall. But best of all, I got to experiment with some of Bombay Sapphire's botanicals and create a new recipe which I am sharing with you below, but more on that later.

The Grand Journey will be an immersive drinking and dining experience which explores the ten botanicals from around the world used in Bombay Sapphire gin. Ten dishes have been newly created by Michelin-starred chef Tom Sellers of Story Restaurant especially for this event - each will feature one of these botanicals: juniper berries, citrus, angelica, orris root, coriander, liquorice, cassia bark, almonds, cubeb berries and West African grains of paradise.

I recently got to visit Story Restaurant to find out more, and to cook one of these dishes with Chef Tom Sellers. His scallop two ways uses Spanish lemons (one of the gin botanicals), and this is what we made together.

It was a delightful dish of raw and pan-fried scallops – Tom mixed diced raw scallops and apple with lemon, crème fraiche and fine slices of radish. The pan-fried scallop was served with a super-light and zingy lemon foam, a very sophisticated hollandaise-style creation brimming with flavour, zinginess and intense citrus flavours.

Bombay Sapphire brand ambassador Sean Ware was also at Story Restaurant to prepare some fabulous cocktails, some of which will be available at The Grand Journey. I was interested to hear that for Sean, the measurements for a perfect G&T are 100ml tonic to 50ml gin, with loads of ice.

But beyond that, one of Sean’s gin cocktails that really impressed me was the Maghreb Hi-Ball. Made from 1 part each of Bombay Sapphire gin, water, and Moroccan liqueur (a heady concoction of vodka, dried mint leaves, coriander seeds and saffron) to 2 parts of honey mead, garnished with fresh mint leaf, this was as exotic and spicy as it was refreshing.

This was also the first time I got to try mead, an ancient drink thought to be the oldest of all alcoholic beverages preceding even wine, made from fermented honey. Unsurprisingly, it has a pronounced taste of honey and a rich, luscious sweetness. With an alcohol content as high as 14.5%, it resembles a fortified wine.  

Inspired by this experience, I went back to my own kitchen and decided to play around with some of the botanicals in Bombay Sapphire gin, as well as honey mead. One ingredient I thought was crying out to be combined with these – PORK BELLY!

In this recipe, I use one of my favourite cuts of meat, which is a great accompaniment to the sweet flavours of the honey mead, the savouriness of dark Japanese soy sauce, and the botanicals licorice root and juniper berries. 

This is an easy dish to prepare, and one I hope you will try out at home – it will taste even better the next day. All you need is a bowl of white rice and a refreshing Bombay Sapphire gin and tonic to go with it.

Slow-Braised Pork Belly
in Honey Mead, Soy, Juniper Berries & Liquorice
With Tatsoi-Sesame Greens

Ingredients (serves 4):
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1kg g boneless pork belly, in one piece
  • 200g raw brown rice
  • 500ml chicken stock (or water)
  • 240ml Honey Mead liqueur
  • 120ml soy sauce
  • 30g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
  • 8 dried juniper berries, lightly bruised with the back of a knife
  • 5cm liquorice root (can substitute with 1 star anise, whole)
  • 1 tbsp English mustard
  • 1-2 tsp cornflour, dissolved into two tbsp water (optional)
  • Baking paper, cut in a circle to the size of the casserole lid and with a centre vent/hole
For garnish:
  • 200g Tatsoi greens (or Bok Choy), roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp toasted white sesame seeds (optional)
  • Maldon sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper 

1. Heat the oil in a large heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add the pork belly, skin side down, and sear until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Turn over and brown on the other side, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer the browned pork to a colander and run under hot water to remove excess oil. Pour off the fat from the casserole and wipe it clean.

2. Return the pork belly to the casserole. Sprinkle the raw brown rice over the meat. Pour in enough cold water to cover by an inch and bring to a simmer over high heat. Cover with the cut out circle of baking paper with a centre vent. Braise gently until the pork is tender when pierced with a knife, about 2 hours (and up to 6 hours). Add water to the pot if necessary, as the meat should be kept covered in liquid throughout this process. 

3. Carefully remove the pork, keeping it in one piece. Discard the rice and the cooking liquid and wash off any residue off the pork under running water. Dry the pork belly with kitchen paper or a clean tea towel, and let it cool down to room temperature. If not cooking right away, tightly wrap the pork in cling film and refrigerate it for up to 2 days.

4. Cut the pork crosswise into 4 to 8 square pieces of roughly equal size. In a heavy casserole, add the chicken stock, honey mead, brown sugar, garlic cloves, soy sauce, liquorice root or star anise and crushed juniper berries, stirring over high heat until all the ingredients are mixed completely. Add the pork into the pan and return to the boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook, turning occasionally for 1-2 hours or until the pork is very tender.

5. Gently strain the cooking liquid into a clean pan, reduce over a high heat until lightly syrupy and concentrated for about 5 minutes. Do be careful not to over-reduce the sauce as it will become too salty; if you need some thickening help, dissolve the cornflour in a little cold water and whisk in, little by little, until the sauce thickens to a coating consistency. Check for seasoning and adjust.

6. To prepare your garnish, blanch the leaves and stalks of the tatsoi greens in plenty of boiling, salted water for 15 seconds, drain, squeezing as much water as possible with a clean tea towel. Transfer the greens to a bowl, season with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and a tsp each of toasted sesame oil and seeds, mix well. 

7. To serve, top each piece of pork with about 2 tablespoons of the reduced sauce, a dollop of English mustard and the tatsoi-sesame greens on the side.

For more information on Bombay Sapphire gins, cocktails and The Grand Journey, visit their website at http://www.bombaysapphire.com.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Is There Such a Thing as a Good Pan-Asian Restaurant? Chino Latino May Be Your Answer.

Name: Chino Latino

Where: 18 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TJ, http://www.chinolatino.eu/

Cost: Average cost per person is £45 not including drinks or service. The restaurant has three set menus, priced from £37 to £55 per person, offering a range of sushi, sashimi and main dishes.

About: With restaurants in Leeds, Nottingham and Cologne, the London branch of Chino Latino is situated in the beautiful riverside Park Plaza Hotel on the Albert Embankment. 

The London Foodie visited Chino Latino a few years ago, reviewed here, but the restaurant has since then been thoroughly refurbished and moved to the first floor of the hotel, with full length plate glass windows opening to great views of the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament. 

The restaurant group’s kitchens are headed by South African Executive Chef Werner Seebach formerly of Roka, Zuma and Kyashi restaurants, and offers a comprehensive modern 'Pan-Asian' cuisine.

The menu has a range of Japanese-Nikkei dishes from Peru and Brazil, and a smattering of other Asian dishes including Thai, Chinese and Malaysian. The restaurant has a long bar opened to non-residents and offers a range of great cocktails as well as live Jazz music every evening. 

What We Ate: The a la carte menu is divided into small dishes, main courses, sides and desserts, and it is recommended to order a minimum of three small dishes per person. 

We ordered a number of dishes from the a la carte menu, starting with a delectable beef salad (£11.50) with coriander, mint, chilli, shallots, cucumber and red onion – well seasoned and with many textures, this was excellent.

The seabass tiradito (£10.50) came with coriander tiger's milk, jalapeño chillies, borage flowers and chia seeds. With a gorgeous presentation, this packed quite a whack of chilli heat, which I felt somewhat overwhelmed the coriander cream – for me, the coriander’s tigers milk lacked acidity and depth of flavour.

Next up were the Taquitos Three-Ways (£20) – these were served on a dinky chrome frame, and combined crispy taquito cones filled with rare Wagyu beef and aji panca sauce, lobster with an aji amarillo sauce, and the third filled with a lovely vegetable brunoise - carrot, green bean and mushroom, with a topping of finely shredded lettuce and radish. 

The anticucho of wagyu (£14), normally a skewer of slices of beef heart, was deliciously soft wagyu flank beef served with aji panca sauce (Peruvian dried red chilli) that added a layer of smokiness and flavour.

We loved the tempura - red chilli stuffed with cream cheese, and soft shell crab tempura (£10 for 2 pieces) – it was gorgeously presented on a slice of raw daikon, and served with a refreshing ponzu dressing and green chilli aioli. 

From the sushi menu, we chose the surf and turf dragon roll (£20 for 8 pieces), filled with lobster, avocado and cucumber and topped with thin slices of lightly seared sirloin beef, spicy cream and chive. The sushi was well-made, specially the rice and the presentation, although I felt there were too many competing flavours in this roll.

From the main course menu, we chose one of Chino Latino’s signature dishes – their English sirloin steak served on hot black rocks (300g for (£29), with soy, garlic and mirin sauce. Beautifully presented, the steak was medium rare and soft and well flavoured. 

The monkfish tail was served on the bone with yuzu kosho dressing and yuzu jelly (£32.50). I loved their use of yuzu kosho in this dish, this is a wonderful condiment from Kyushu island in Japan made from yuzu rind, chillies and salt, so it is spicy, salty and citrusy all at once. I is a great accompaniment to grilled fish and meats and worked quite well in this dish. 

We had three side dishes. I love making miso aubergine with Parmesan cheese (£4.50), and this was what I ordered, though there was an excessive amount of Parmesan in my opinion. Better was the Peruvian corn sauteed in butter (£4.50) with a lovely sweet tartness from the addition of sugar and lime to heighten the flavours. And finally the cassava chips (£4) – these were fresh and crispy on the outside, they were served with a refreshing aji amarillo dipping sauce. 

Desserts are all priced at £8.50, and include options like salted caramel banana mousse, yuzu cream sugar bulb, and chocolate brownie and peanut butter parfait with blackcurrant sponge. Tempting as they were, we could not try them as we had eaten far too much by then, I will return for those one day soon!

What We Drank: Pre-dinner, we shared the Chilli and Ginger Caipirinha (£9) – this blended Sagatiba Pura cachaça with ginger wine, red chillies, fresh ginger and lime. This was thoroughly refreshing and I loved the way the chilli heat came long after swallowing. 

The Perrier-Jouet Blason Rose Champagne (£12.50) had a lovely strawberry nose and refreshing acidity. 

There is small but well thought out wine list, with 7 white and 6 red wines offered by the glass. The entry level wines are a white Nederberg Chenin Blanc from South Africa and a red Granfort Merlot from France, both priced at £27. But as we chose a variety of fish and meat dishes, we preferred to share two half bottles. We chose the Sancerre Les Collinettes, Joseph Mellot, France, and the Don Jacobo Rioja Crianza Tinto, Boedgas Corral, Spain, both priced at £17.50 per half bottle. These were both excellent, with a great depth of flavour, concentration and complexity. 

Likes: Anticuchos, tempura and taquitos were sensational. Great service and gorgeous restaurant.

Dislikes: the coriander tigers milk lacked acidity and depth of flavour, and there was far too much Parmesan in the miso aubergine. These were minor problems in a overall very good meal.

Verdict: For good quality Pan-Asian cooking, Chino Latino is my ‘go-to’ restaurant. If you are looking for great food, cocktails and a stunning setting overlooking the river Thames, I highly recommend Chino Latino.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Nikkei Beef Picanha with Yuzu, Soy and Chilli Dressing - A Recipe & Competition for Your Chance to Win a Weber BBQ in Collaboration with Irish Beef

Nikkei cooking is a style of Japanese cuisine created by Japanese migrants in different places around the world with significant diasporas – South America is one of these regions, especially in Brazil and Peru.

When my Japanese family migrated to Brazil with millions of others, they yearned to eat the food they were accustomed to, but they lacked familiar ingredients in their new adopted home – so Nikkei cuisine was born, out of necessity, with Japanese inspired dishes being created at home, using the local ingredients they could find at the time.

One of these ingredients was beef picanha - but what exactly is it? 

The picanha beef cut comes from the cap lying above the top sirloin and rump areas; it is a triangular cut and just like the British rump, it has a beautiful layer of fat. It is not a muscle that moves much during the animal’s life, and so it remains tender. The picanha’s thick blanket of fat lends the meat flavour and succulence while protecting it from human error that may occur during grilling.  And because it is little known in Europe, picanha is still relatively cheap.

Picanha symbolizes the authentic Brazilian churrasco where it is grilled encased in a thick layer of rock salt and nothing else. Growing up in my Nikkei home in São Paulo, we tended to use rather less rock salt, but basted the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, lime, garlic and olive oil during grilling.

I am thrilled to discover excellent quality Irish picanha available in the UK, and share this Nikkei Beef Picanha recipe with you so you will not need to travel far to taste picanha. This is a favourite recipe of mine and one I serve often for friends and at my own #NikkkeiSupperClub. As well as being super easy to prepare, it is perfect for the Summer months and once you have tried picanha, I think you will be hooked!

This recipe was created in collaboration with Irish Beef. To learn more about Irish Beef and discover a number of mouth-watering recipes using Irish beef, visit their website here.

For a chance to win a Weber Barbecue and try this recipe out in your own garden, please enter the 'Summer Beef Encounters' competition in collaboration with Irish Beef by clicking here and vote for my Nikkei Beef Picanha recipe, please! Good luck!

Nikkei Beef Picanha 
with Yuzu, Soy and Chilli Dressing

Ingredients (serves 8):

1.3kg Irish beef picanha, whole piece
50g rock sea salt (do not use table or cooking salt or flakes)
120ml soy sauce
60ml extra-virgin olive oil
60ml yuzu juice (substitute with lime or lemon)
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 long red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced (keep ½ for decoration)

Edible flowers like wild garlic, to decorate
Micro coriander, to decorate
½ long red chilli, de-seeded and finely diced, to decorate (see above)


1. Score the fatty blanket on the picanha by making criss-cross cuts into the thick layer of fat covering one side. Cut the piece of picanha into 4 to 5 thick pieces of about 250g to 300g each about 5cm thick, keeping the fat covering the upper surface of each steak. 

2. Place the steaks on a tray and cover them thoroughly in the rock sea salt, this will help to seal in the juices of the meat. Table or cooking salt is too fine and more of it will be needed to do the same job resulting in a very salty barbecued picanha, so do stick to rock salt for this recipe. In addition, rock salt does not penetrate nearly as much as finer salts, giving a delicious and lightly salty crust to the meat. If your salt tolerance is low, you may prefer not to salt the beef and only use the dressing to season it as it is served.

3. Now make the soy & yuzu or lime dressing by mixing together the soy sauce, olive oil, yuzu or lime juice, crushed garlic cloves and ½ of diced red chilli - ½ of this dressing will be used for basting the meat while on the grill and the other ½ will be used as a dipping sauce to serve with the slices of beef.

4. BBQ Method - Get your barbecue hot and ready for the picanha, and generously brush the grill plates with oil. Grill the picanha pieces fat-side up for a few minutes until a little juice leaks out of the steaks. Turn the steaks onto their sides to grill for a few minutes more on each side.  Using a brush, baste the meat with the reserved ½ of soy and yuzu lime dressing every time your turn the steaks. Finally grill fat-side down, moving the steaks away from the hottest part of the fire to avoid over-cooking and to reduce the chance of the fire flaring up from the dripping fat. Grill to your desired doneness, it should take anything from 15 to 25 minutes depending on the thickness of the steaks and how fierce the fire in your barbecue is.  I use the ‘finger poke method’ to know when the meat is done - I like my picanha rather pink, so the meat should feel bouncy but firm cooked for about 15 to 20 minutes in total. Alternatively, you can take one steak out of the grill and cut a small piece of it from its thickest part to check for doneness.

5. Kitchen Grill Method - If you don’t have a barbecue you can still cook the picanha under a hot grill in your kitchen. Place the steaks over a rack within a roasting tin, this is important as the picanha’s fat will drip into it and not in your oven. Grill the steaks for 7 minutes flesh side up, then turn them over and grill fat side up, preferably on a lower rack or at the bottom of the oven, for another 8 to 12 minutes, basting the beef with the reserved ½ of soy and yuzu lime dressing for 2 minutes before the end of cooking time. If using the kitchen grill, a meat thermometer read is more accurate than on the barbecue – the internal temperature of the meat should be 60°C for rare, 63°C for medium rare, 71°C for medium and 77°C for well-done. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, use the finger poke method described above.

6. Let the picanha rest for 5 minutes before serving. Brush off the excess salt. The meat should be sliced thinly and served with the reserved soy and yuzu/lime dressing. In this way, guests can choose the slices they want, some will prefer more rare, others more well-done so everyone is happy!

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Tsukiji Sushi – Tasting Menu Reviewed

Name: Tsukiji Sushi

Where: 38 Conduit Street, Mayfair, London, W1S 2YF, http://tsukijimayfair.com/

Cost: Average cost per person is £45 not including drinks or service charge. There is a set dinner including tempura, a main course and dessert for £45. We opted for the tasting menu at £65 per person, or £95 with a matching sake flight. Or if you fancy just an assorted platter of sushi or sashimi, they are available in platters at either £23.50 or £36.50.  

About: Set in Conduit Street inside the swanky Westbury Hotel, this intimate Japanese restaurant seats just 14 people at sleek red wood tables, plus another 6 at the sushi bar counter.

With Head Chef Show Choong at the helm, Tsukiji Sushi, oozes elegant restraint, and has a sushi chef beavering away behind the bar. 

Simply decorated with white wall panels broken up by red wood borders like a Kandinsky painting, minimalist artwork and an unobtrusive backing track of lounge music, the restaurant has a restful feel.   

What We Ate: The first dish of the Tasting Menu (£65pp) was named buna shimeji (brown beach mushroom). Simply pan-fried, these lovely little funghi were served with a fabulous green sauce of parsley, coriander and spring onions, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. The sauce reminded me of a Mediterranean bagnet vert, it was fresh and with great acidity.

Next up was hamachi (yellowtail) usuzukuri (thinly sliced), served with yuzu ponzu (a zingy citrus dressing made with soy and yuzu juice), topped with a small amount of oroshi (shredded daikon and chilli), and thinly sliced spring onion. 

The tataki chu toro (lightly seared fatty tuna), was served with a delectable and refreshing jalapeño salsa made with onion, vinegar, garlic, ponzu, and an intensely herbaceous Japanese kinomi leaf. With a rich and creamy mouthfeel I thoroughly enjoyed this dish, I just wished there was more of it!

To follow, we had the octopus carpaccio served with a truffle mustard, saikyo miso and vinegar dressing, all on a bed of fennel shavings. The octopus was softly textured, with a thrilling heat from the mustard, tart vinegar notes and sweet miso. This was another refreshing and very well seasoned dish.

A single grilled oyster with creamy sauce and tobiko egg followed. With Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise, sweet chilli and rice vinegar, this had the fresh mineral aroma of the sea, and a lovely creaminess. 

Equally good was the unakyu maki, served with a few splashes of rich, sweet teriyaki sauce. A lovely eel sushi, the rice was soft and yielding, and tasted fresh and expertly cooked. 

Better still were the nigiri sushi - the chef's omakase selection of five different types. On the evening of our visit, the chef had chosen a variety of fresh and blowtorched sushi. The tuna belly with sea urchin was exquisite - complex, minerally, with layers of texture and flavour.  The salmon belly with wasabi was also good, as was the prawn, but the seared butterfish was better still, with an aromatic, smoky finish and creaminess only highly fatty fish can give. Best of all for me though was the scallop. I have always loved the outlandishly huge and creamy scallops served in Tokyo, and the scallops at Tsukiji Sushi with black tobiko eggs were not too far off!

The last dish before dessert was a fine piece of black cod with saikyo miso sauce and a slice of grilled red pepper. There was a time in my life when I ate so much black cod that I went off it, but this dish reminded me what I had been missing. It was rich, soft as caramel, and exquisitely buttery. 

In Japanese restaurants in the West, the almost inevitable dessert is green tea ice cream. However, at Tsukiji Sushi, this was served with a lovely crisp of white chocolate embossed with a Japanese traditional floral design, plus chocolate ripple, raspberry compote, dried raspberry crumb and Cantonese cocoa nibs. 

What We Drank: We opted for a bottle of Sancerre Rose 2015, from Pascal Jolivet. Made from 100% Pinot Noir, this had peach and ripe red berry fruit, with a distinctive mineral character, with a fresh acidity and elegance. It was clean and refreshing, and made an excellent partner for the sashimi and sushi. 

Likes: I enjoyed every single dish on Tsukiji Sushi’s Tasting Menu, but some of the highlights included the omakaze sushi platter, the tataki of fatty tuna, and the octopus carpaccio as well as the grilled oyster!

Dislikes: I would have loved a little rice dish and a bowl of soup to finish the savoury part of the meal, this is knows as the shime, and is customary, specially with tasting menus like this. I must admit being still a tad hungry as I left the restaurant but this could have been avoided.

Verdict: Tsukiji Sushi is an intimate restaurant serving great quality and well-made sushi, sashimi and cooked Japanese dishes. Just by manic Oxford Circus, this is a little haven of tranquility and a real find. Recommended.

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