UPDATED 9 JUNE 2011
A bit about Yashin Sushi? This is a high-end project by ex-Ubon-by-Nobu head chef Yasuhiro Mineno and the master behind the sushi counter is Shinya Ikeda, the sushi demi-god whom I met and became a fan of at Sushi Hiro before the place was bought by Atariya. With its location in High Street Kensington, Yashin is strictly high-end. While the restaurant is small and not particularly glamorous, you may end up paying as much as a meal at Zuma or Nobu. The Yashin twist is that you don’t need soy sauce to go with your sushi. Gimmick? No, gimmick? Whichever it is, the nigiri are rightly seasoned with either salt or soy sauce before serving and it does facilitate eating (esp. for many Kensington residents who never seem to man the chopsticks).
Here the full Omakase set – titled The Yashin – costs around £60 and includes 15 distinct pieces of inventive sushi nigiri.
Are they any cheaper options?
There are… a few. But, I’d say, after a few visits to Yashin, they are not worth it. I once thought I could order a small Omakase and ask for extra rolls. Bad move. The rolls – Spicy Tuna, Coriander Cream Cheese, Tempura, whatever they do – are substandard for the price tag. You’d better off getting orgasmic rolls at Zuma at more or less the same price.
Recapping my experience…
The “starters” were hit and miss. Homemade tofu with ponzu jelly and jalapeno salsa was ace. The warm silky curd had its subtle flavours enhanced by pearls of acidic jelly and chilli hints. The mixed sashimi platter was also very nice. All creatively devised with little inventive garnish for all kinds of fish on the plate. Justifiable by its £20 or so price tag. In fact, the best way to sample Yashin at an affordable price is to just order the sashimi and get a bowl of rice. That means, if you order both the sushi and the sashimi you’ll get two dishes that are not particularly different. I also came across Seafood Fruit Salad, a tragic attempt at fruity ceviche. Raw sea bass submerged in a bowl of mixed fruit – strawberry, kiwi fruit, grapes, pineapple, all available from M&S High Street Ken – with fragrant fried shallots and sweet kinda ceviche. Just bad.
About half of the Omakase was blow-torched. Theatrical and it gave the sushi new texture and flavours. That “flavour” however was not the different from that of half-cooked fish. Not bad. It depends on how the combo works. While I indulged in the sushi theatrics, I was served a (tea) cup of miso soup and side salad (sweet miso, vinegar dressing). For lunch only. You’ll have to pay for them at dinner. Flavoursome miso soup, setting a sort of expectation for me.
The first platter was this assortment of fresh and seared sushi. All glossy thanks to the soy sauce brushing. There was no ordering as to which I should eat first, which in the sushi world can be an abomination. A strong flavour from one kind of fish can kill the rest of the dish. The waiters, so far, only seemed to know what fish was on the plate but clueless about the toppings. You’d be instructed by Shinya if seated at the counter. If not, the toppings would remain the mysteries. The stars of the top row were the Fatty Tuna with Wasabi Salsa and the Seabream with Rice Cracker Dust and for the bottom row, my favourite was the blow-torched scallop with some sort of kelp, creamy and bold. The whatever-fish-that-came-with-jalapeno-slice was always overpowered by the strong chilli. The quality of the fish was one of the highest with some imported from Japan.
A long wait before the second platter arrived. It took time to create this, I understand, but after half a year into its opening, would you not think you should speed it up??
While some pieces on the first platter can be forgettable, the second was always the stunner. Many jelly, jam and gleeful toppings did help make the dish appear a plateful of jewellery.
What’s on the platter? More fatty tuna and wagyu, plus this out-of-this-world Salmon Belly with Ponzu Jelly, the Seared Spotted Prawn with Foie Gras and Truffle, the tripled Sweet Shrimp, and the ultra crunchy Razor Clam. I was very happy with this lot. And, last but never least, there was this slice of spongy, cake-like Tamago (Egg), which I almost teared up eating. Reasons? Well, it was so bloody damned good, and damn it, there was only a piece on the platter! The marinated cherry tomatoes to cleanse the palate were a very thoughtful touch.
There were only ice creams and sorbets on the desserts menu. Their Shiso ice cream was spot on herbal. Served with a fruit salad with agar.
The sushi at Yashin is a revelation and their invention looks forward to experiments but with its firm footing in the faultless sushi tradition. While I can easily say Yashin does one of the best sushi in London, I personally don’t feel Yashin surpass my love for Sushi of Shiori. Everything at Shiori hits, makes impact, makes me want some more (without having to look twice into my wallet). Yashin, of course, is more pompous and with a lot more style well matched with the substance. However, Yashin Sushi can strike many as a been-there-done-that sort of restaurant. The Omakase – stunning as it is – is not the kind of food you’d like to reprise more than three times. There is an attempt to change the fish and the toppings according to their availability, but this does not make much impact to the overall experience. Also, there is this thing about satisfaction. I feel forced dining at Yashin as I cannot go beyond what is set up on the tasting menu. Can’t reprise the superb pieces that I have had and feel coerced to eat some that I don’t particularly like. This creates a distance between me and my food. Sad…
My head rating says, “8 out of 10″.
My heart rating says, “7 out of 10″.
1a Argyll Road
High Street Kensington
Tel.020 7938 1536