Located at the swish Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel, Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar is an elegant and contemporary Japanese eatery headed by sushi chef Sadayuki Okamoto. Trained in Tokyo, Okamoto-san has had an impressive career over the last thirty years cooking the food of his homeland at some of London's top restaurants including The Four Seasons, The Ivy and The Savoy.
Okamoto-san has now decided to share some of his experiences with other Japanese food enthusiasts by hosting a series of Sushi and Sashimi Master Classes on the first Saturday of each month. Priced from a very reasonable £30 per person, the classes will run from midday to 2pm and will have a maximum of 10 participants.
I was fortunate to be invited to Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar recently to meet Okamoto-san, attend one of his classes and try some new dishes from his menu. The event was also hosted by the delightful Tom Harrow, the Wine Chap, who presented us with an in-depth tasting of different Japanese sakes matched to each individual dish.
We started by rolling 3 sushi rolls - Kappamaki, a kind of Hosomaki (thin cylindrical sushi) filled with cucumber. This is a simple but rather important sushi on any Japanese meal as it is traditionally consumed to clear the palate between eating raw fish and other kinds of food.
The Kappamaki was followed by Temakizushi - hand rolled sushi (conical sushi). One of the most popular types of sushi, and great to be served at intimate sushi parties with friends as each person can choose and rolls their own temaki. We rolled ours with raw salmon, avocado and spring onions.
We also rolled Dragon Sushi - an inside-out sushi topped with a layer of thin slices of salmon (avocado can also be used), pressed down over the roll to resemble the skin of a snake or dragon and filled with asparagus. This is a beautiful sushi made it extra special by Okamoto-san's blowtorching of the top layer of salmon.
As a welcoming drink and to accompany our sushi, we had a glass of sparkling Junmai Nigori "Sawa Sawa". A deliciously lively, sparkling cloudy sake which undergoes a secondary fermentation in the bottle just like Champagne.
We were then seated for dinner and served a platter from the Chef's Specials - Seared Tuna Jalapeno @ £7 - this was a refreshing and beautifully presented dish of seared slices of fatty tuna over a zingy jalapeno chilli dressing served with mizuna (crunchy Japanese green salad leaves) with a yuzu and mango vinaigrette.
A platter of sashimi followed - thick slices of salmon, tuna and yellow tail. The fish were very tender and fresh and beautifully presented. All fish served at Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar are purchased from Atariya, the most reputable (and also most expensive) Japanese fishmongers in London.
The nigiri sushi were next - 5 pieces containing ikura (salmon roe), salmon, tuna yellow tail and prawn. The rice was perfectly cooked and seasoned and tasted delicious. Okamoto-san uses the highly prized Koshihikari rice from Japan, the rolls royce of all Japanese rice grown primarily for the home market. In my opinion the taste and quality of the rice makes his sushi outstandingly good.
The California sushi platter (or inside out sushi) containing 6 pieces of spicy tuna or crab were also delicious. A similar "Ichi Combination" can be purchased from the a la carte menu at £40 and contains 6 pieces of sashimi, 5 pieces of nigiri and 6 pieces of California roll.
We also got to try a couple of rolls from the Chef's Special Menu - Soft Shell Crab (5 pieces) @ £10 and Prawn Tempura (6 pieces) @ £9, and a piece of grilled Black Cod which were all magnificent.
Ichi Sashimi & Sushi Bar also has a respectable list of sakes some of which we got to try on a tutored tasting by Tom Harrow, the Wine Chap. Some of my favourites were the Uragasanryu Koka Honjozo (125ml @ £12.50), a very elegant honjozo with pear on the nose and ripe, fruity pear on the palate and the Choryo Futaho, Tokubetsu Junmai (125ml @ £12.50), an aged sake with a full bodied flavour and notes of sour cherry and wood on the palate and hints of caramel and honey on the nose.
All Sushi Masterclasses at £30 will include a welcoming glass of Choryo Sawasawa sparkling sake, a 1/2 bottle of water and an additional glass of sake with the meal. An additional flight of sakes can also be purchased to accompany all dishes in the masterclass for an extra £20.
Chef Okamoto-san will demonstrate a selection of sushi dishes and guests will create Avocado & cucumber roll, Blow-touched salmon dragon roll and Tuna belly roll. Participants will then sit down to eat the rolls they have made and share a platter of sashimi salmon, tuna and yellow tail. The meal will end with a light dessert taken from the Ichi Menu. At £30, I believe this to be very good value.
Readers of The London Foodie have been offered a 10% discount on the first two classes in April 7th and May 5th. To book, please visit: www.ichisushi.co.uk or call 0207 620 7373 or email Jose Zhang direct : firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you do get to attend, please let me know how you get on.