Tuesday, 19 January 2010


9 Hanover Street,
London W1S 1YF
020 7629 2961
Its lunch time 1.30pm and there is a queue of people waiting to be seated. The entrance on the street is narrow and so is the entrance lobby where people are waiting; then it widens out at the back. There are rather fetid old colour faded carpet tiles and a large picture of sumo wrestlers. On the right a lady is seated at a desk with paperwork, rubber stamps. She stamps our bill on the way out with PAID and the date. To me it is more like something out of soviet era Russia than Japan. She stands up and calls the diners to their tables as they become available. The place is buzzing and it is full of Japanese. On the left is a sushi bar with mainly solitary, mainly Japanese diners. Just before it on the wall are a whole series of food safety and cleanliness certificates. Its as though the state of the floor tiles prompts the establishment to give you reassurance: the place may be a tip but the food is clean!
After a wait of about ten minutes we are shown to a table; it is black, spartan but large. There are signs on white cardboard with large black type saying things like TOILETS and SEA URCHINS and the price. There is a large TV screen high up.There is something rather splendidly unreconstructed about the whole experience and we haven't eaten anything yet.

We both have the raw fish set which at £14 throws in rice, a small plate of pickled vegetables, a miso soup and a simple dessert of slice of orange and melon. It is only £2.50 more than the assorted sashimi. We also have the prawn tempura.

This is all classic simple stuff (which seems to be what they specialise in rather than complicated rolls etc). The sashimi is fresh meltingly tender, very good. The tempura is as good as I have had it anywhere: the batter light, crispy and the prawns underneath tasty, fresh. They do many noodle soups, as well as hot dishes. Its right by where I work and I will go back to sample more.

Its interesting: I have seldom looked at other reviews before writing one to avoid prejudicing my own opinion but I did in this case. It gets fantastically mixed reviews. Many talk about the rudeness of the manager and to a lesser extent the staff and the poor service. They were brusque but everything was efficient, there were no long delays, nobody was rude as far as I was concerned. Some rave about the food. Others (many fewer) say it was very poor. Its funny. This from rather limited sampling of the menu is as good as anywhere I've been in London, Nobu at much higher prices included. Not as good as Kanoyama in New York though which is the best japanese food I've ever had; and I haven't been to Japan. The decor and ambience though is more of an acquired taste but there is a message here: anywhere this busy and this full of japanese locals that can afford to be this unreconstructed must be good.

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