Sosharu – Jason Atherton’s Japanese in EC1

Creative cuisine in Clerkenwell

An izakaya (Japanese gastropub), Sosharu serves innovative Japanese-inspired dishes, in a minka (traditional, wooden house) themed interior that is informal, intimate and calm.

We start our evening in the basement cocktail bar, 7 tales, where it’s 2-for-1 on cocktails and we are the only customers. We order Way of the Warriors and One Eye Dragons. I’m smitten with the Japanese toilets with all the gadgets and warm seats – great on a cold, winter evening. I’m already transported back to Japan and happy holidays…

Our table for two (reserved well in advance) is ready so we return upstairs. The lighting is very low and although the tables are a bit small and crammed together, there’s a feeling of privacy and spaciousness due to all the decorative wooden wall dividers.

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Tuna temaki (top left), sea bream sashimi (top right), assorted sashimi, crab salad (bottom)

We’re pretty excited as we’re celebrating our anniversary. Our waiter is equally excited and talks us through every item on the menu, twice over, before eventually leaving us to read it.

The menu is split into different sections – sashimi, chilled, temaco, tempura, bento boxes, hibachi grill, classics, and noodles, with chef’s seasonal favourites (cf) helpfully marked as such in each section. For ease, you can order a tasting menu of seven plates @ £45.00 per person.

With help from our waiter we order a cold saké (36 PeopleJunmai @ £48.00) and choose our own tiny cups from a lovely saké cup selection box. Saké might be strong, and it might seem expensive but the small cups really help slow you down! It seemed like a never-ending bottle, and being cold, crisp and clean went really well with the food, cutting through the oily fish flavours nicely.

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Sake, bream sashimi and grilled miso cod

We order something from most sections of the menu:

Assorted sashimi: 6 pieces of tuna, salmon and yellowtail @ £24.00

Chilled:
– bream sashimi salad with crispy potato (cf) @ £13.00
– cornish crab salad with fried blood orange and miso dressing @ £12.00

Temaco: 2 x open tuna temaki with scallion tobiko, sushi rice, avocado + fresh wasabi @ £9 each (cf)

Tempura – karaage: fried chicken with lemon + salt @ £8 (cf)

Hibachi grill: wagyu rib-eye beef with ginger + garlic crisps @ £30

Inspired by classics: miso grilled Cornish cod, sweet soy, cod gyoza, monks beard @ £19

The sea bream sashimi salad was so carefully composed, it was almost a shame to eat. And quite difficult to share. The assorted sashimi was a stand-out dish for me. As was the Cornish crab salad which had real novelty factor with its beautiful fried, crispy blood orange arrangement.

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Wagyu beef

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Fried chicken

The design of the tuna temaki was something else – art on a plate, while the wagyu beef wasn’t particularly special, nor was the fried chicken.

We’re pretty full but we’re celebrating and can squeeze in a dessert. And so we do: a coconut rice with mango for K and an apple kakigori (inspired by tarte tatin) made of fresh apple, caramelised compote, salty caramel ice-cream, shaved ice and Calvados foam for me (both @ £9).  K’s rice pudding was served in two dishes which looked spectacular but didn’t really go together and was well, just a bit odd.

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Coconut rice dessert

The serving of the apple kakigori was also theatrical with the Calvados foam being sprayed on last, at the table. It didn’t look very appealing but once the ice shavings started melting and all the flavours started blending together, it was absolutely divine.

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Apple kakigori

The verdict: The food is innovative, fancy and pricey (our meal for two came to £249.75). That’s all part of the experience. We felt very well looked after and really enjoyed the low-lit (dark), wooden interior style. I can’t imagine rushing back here any time soon when there are numerous other Japanese restaurants in London I’ve yet to try, but this was a thoroughly good, enjoyable dining experience.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 64 Turnmill St, London EC1M 5RR
– Nearest station: Farringdon
– Website + menus: Sosharu website
– Photos on flickr: images of Sosharu food
– Location: Sosharu map

Sosharu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Chisou Mayfair – Japanese

Classy Japanese food without any pomp

The grand finale of our day out ‘west’ (taking in the Summer Exhibition 2017 and a few cocktails) was a meal at Chisou. The main reason for choosing this Mayfair restaurant was seeing the grilled unagi (eel) dish on their menu which I’ve only had once as a main course (rather than as a sushi/nigiri topping) in Japan a few months ago. I love eel done in the Japanese smoked style with a sticky sauce – it’s up there as one of my all-time favourite foods.

So I’ve really been looking forward to eating here – would it (could it) live up to my hopes?

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Small, appealing Japanese-style interior – main restaurant

Entering the main restaurant, it’s a small Japanese-style space with counter-seating and a few tables with Japanese wooden benches (the ones with lids so you can store your bags and coats inside, and keep the floor area tidy). But we were taken through to an even smaller backroom with closely arranged tables and no windows.

Befitting a hot, summer’s day we picked a chilled saké that goes really well with seafood, a Fisherman saké (more info here) @ £51.00 for a 720ml bottle. This went incredibly well with the food we ordered (mostly fish). Sipping from the small saké glasses, it seemed to last forever too.

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Wagyu steak skewers

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Crispy, fried gyoza

We ordered a few dishes to share, starting with edamame – young soy beans served with sea salt @ £4.50, wagyu kushi yaki – two wagyu steak skewers with teriyaki sauce @ £13.20 and gyoza – five crispy, fried chicken dumplings @ £7.90.

Next to arrive was the sashimi omakase selection – five kinds of chef’s choice ‘gohin sashimi’ @ £28.90. Totally divine and worth sharing two photos from different angles:

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Gohin sashimi – tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon and wasabi

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Gohin sashimi –  tuna, mackerel, yellow tail, prawns, salmon

And then the much-anticipated grilled plates: saikyo yaki a ‘creamy’ black cod marinated in white miso paste @ £21.40 and unagi kabayaki – sea eel fillet in a sweet kaba yaki sauce @ £28.30.

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Grilled creamy black cod marinated in white miso paste

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Unagi kabayaki – smoked fillet of eel in a sticky sauce

Our waiter was charming – when I’d initially asked about the recommended amount of food for two to share (particularly sashimi portions) his advice was along the lines of ordering too much food is a shame but wanting more, we can easily fix. I liked that.

As an afterthought we ordered a portion of rice @ £3.40, to go with the grilled dishes. It arrived within moments.

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Nice bathroom

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Saké glasses and holders

For the sake of a thorough review (ahem) we ordered a bowl of ice-cream to share – the black sesame was particularly nice:

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Ice-cream – Madagascar vanilla, black sesame and green tea

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Partition between tables – fortunately, a cute little girl/toddler who “loved beans” (edamame soy beans) sat next to me; one even got flicked into my rice bowl which was amusing. But if you don’t like chatting to strangers over your dinner, this place may not be for you…

The verdict: Really high quality, excellent food and great menu options. The kind of ‘fine dining’ that doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. I’ll be back for the unagi (eel) and black cod again. Hopefully soon. And I’ll request a table in the main restaurant.

Restaurant info:
– Lardbutty rating: 4.5 / 5
– Type: Japanese
– Address: 4 Princes Street, London
– Postcode: W1B 2LE
– Nearest station: Oxford Circus
– Website + menus: Chisou Mayfair website
– Photos on flickr: images of Chisou Mayfair
– Location: Chisou Mayfair map

Chisou Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato