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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Moshi Moshi - Twenty Years On & Still Going Strong

Where: Liverpool Street, Unit 24, Liverpool Street Station, London, EC2M 7QH (above platform 1, behind M&S), http://www.moshimoshi.co.uk/index.htm

Cost: Sushi from the conveyor belt is priced according to the colour of the plate - from £1.90 to £5. Sushi sets made to order vary from £10 to £15, while the mixed Omakaze (chef’s choice) sashimi and sushi platters cost from £25 to £45 or £30 to £50 respectively. A ‘meaty platter’ of gyoza, pork tonkatsu and chicken yakitori is £12.50, and a tempura platter is £14. There is a selection of hot seasonal dishes ranging from £10 to £14. There is a seasonal platter available for £27. This comprises seven dishes including appetisers, a main dish, soup and dessert. Desserts are all £8.50.

About: Moshi Moshi was opened in August 1994 by Caroline Bennett, at a time when Japanese restaurants in London were rare and frighteningly expensive eateries in and around Piccadilly. It is situated in the heart of Liverpool Street Station over one of the train lines.

The design is eye-catching, with tables resembling pods because of the curved wooden surrounds, giving an intimate feel to the dining area. The counter facing the conveyor belt is also perfect for the single diner.

Moshi Moshi is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2014. It was the UK's first conveyor-belt sushi restaurant.  One of the trademarks of this City institution is its ethos of using sustainable produce of known provenance.

The restaurant serves fish and seafood entirely from sustainable sources, including diver-caught scallops from Isle of Mull. The eggs and meat are free range, the latter coming from a family farm in Essex. Caroline is prominent in campaigns to protect fish stocks, and has been given an RSPCA Award for Animal Welfare. She sits on the board of Slow Food UK.  The restaurant was one of the first in the UK to achieve Marine Stewardship Council accreditation.

Twenty years on, during the busy Friday evening we visited, Caroline was there to greet and wait on us and all her other customers, with a hands-on attitude which I can’t help but feel is part of Moshi Moshi’s success.

What We Ate: We were served two black lacquered boxes, containing a selection of three different zensai (appetisers) each (£7.50 per box), including vegetable tempura, mackerel and cucumber salad, tofu with shredded daikon radish and ponzu, prawn head crispies, as well as ankimo (monkfish liver), and bacon and asparagus. I particularly enjoyed the ankimo, which I serve often at my Japanese supperclub, but had never eaten it outside of Japan. The prawn heads were also a welcome surprise, and deliciously crunchy.

We then shared a couple of hot seasonal dishes – the first of these was a 21-day hung Suffolk grass-fed rib eye steak in teriyaki sauce with matchsticks of crispy carrot and potatoes (£14). This well made with tender and flavoursome meat.

Our second dish was my favourite of the two – a lovely vegetarian option of aubergine, broccoli and deep fried mochi (rice cake) in tempura batter served in a rich vegetarian dashi broth (£10). The aubergine had been coated in potato flour, then deep fried, it was soft and full of earthy flavour and went well with the mochi.

Omakase is the traditional way to order in Japanese food, leaving it for the chef to present the best options of the day.  So we trusted him to conjure up his recommended sushi platter (£30) which included spider crab, inside out rolls of shiso leaf, cucumber and umeboshi (sour cherry) paste, Loch Duart Salmon, Isle of Mull scallop, and tempura prawn. These were expertly done – perfectly cooked sushi rice topped with ultra-fresh fish and seafood that melted in the mouth.

For dessert, we shared a couple of scoops of refreshing green tea and yuzu ice creams.

Any Train Spotters Out There? Moshi Moshi Has The Table For You!

What We Drank: There is a selection of beers, sake, and wines starting from £20.50 (white) and £21.50 (red), with Laurent Perrier Champagne available for a reasonable £49.

We started with a couple of glasses of Prosecco Brut, Terra di Sant'Alberto (£6.80).  With our meal, we had a glass of Le Chaz, Beniot Chazallon (vermentino, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc) for £5.70, and a Croix des Champs Sauvignon de Touraine 2011, for £5.90. Both had green fruit character well matching the weight of the sushi.

Likes: Delicious sushi and sashimi, a good selection of set menus, reasonably priced food options, wines and Champagnes. The setting is quirky, overlooking the train tracks, is intimate yet allows a variety of options for people dining alone, in couples or in larger groups.

Dislikes: None.

Verdict: Moshi Moshi is a London dining institution, as well as being the pioneer of kaisen (conveyor belt) sushi eating in the Capital. It offers some of the best quality and value sushi and sashimi in London, from sustainably sourced fish. Highly recommended.

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