Japan blessed the world with sushi, now let’s give something back.
If you have been living under a rock the last month or two, here’s the big news of 2011: Japan had a major earthquake and they need YOUR help! Rebuild Japan Pixel By Pixel’s aim is to raise at least £15,000 towards the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund through this site. Buying a pixel for £2 (or whatever you can afford) through this site means that every penny will go straight to those who need it most, distributing funds to those providing relief and emergency services to victims of the earthquake and tsunami including the International Medical Corps, Save the Children, and other organisations on the ground.
Alternatively, to go straight to the JustGiving page to donate then please click here: http://www.justgiving.com/rebuildjapan
Now on to the restaurant review!
Someone has done a great job at coming up with this concept. I can’t decide what about this restaurant allures me so much; the name, Yo! Sushi, which promises me heaps of fishy rice things, the funky colour usage or the fact that food is permanently floating past me from where I’m sitting. Very clever indeed.
Upon entering it struck me that this central-based establishment is not very big. The minimalist designed restaurant right down to the toilets (!) have been created to give the customer a “true” Japanese experience. Strange Japanese children/female voices played randomly over the sound system spewing excited, saccharine gibberish which after a while became quite annoying. Since I’ve never been to Japan, I can’t tell you how authentic it really is.
However, the name itself is a tad deceiving, which immediately puts off non-piscivorous customers. It is a shame because if the latter looked past the name and actually at the menu they would have realised there are plenty of alternatives e.g. soups, hot rice and noodle dishes, salads, katsu and tempura.
At the time there was a two-for-one cocktail special which was good value. A quick search on the online website yielded no results for cocktail menus but if I recall correctly prices hovered around the £7 mark. Don’t forget to order the Yo! Sakura (Cherry blossom liqueur, honey umeshu, lychee juice, ginger and soda) and Fuji Fizz (Prosecco cocktail with vanilla, passion fruit and yuzu).
These days I feel there are very few restaurants that actually strive for their customers to eat healthily. How often do you see an unadulterated fruit salad on a menu? What about plain edamame (£1.70) boiled in salted water? It is a reminder that food in its natural form can be satisfying enough on its own without being laced with sugar, butter or cream.
Unfortunately, most exotic fruit don’t arrive in the best condition in this country, i.e. they don’t ripen properly. The only fruit salad (£2.90) on the kaiten-zushi (conveyer belt) was old and the strawberry and pineapple blemished. If the staff had an eye for detail and a taste test first this bowl would have never left the kitchen.
Admittedly, I’m not part of the dim sum-crazed parade in London and the Chicken Gyoza (Chicken dumplings with a soy and vinegar sauce, £3.40) with its highly aromatic spring onion filling and slippery, bordering almost slimy exterior failed to convert me.
Both sushi rolls, Yo! Roll (Salmon, avocado, masago and mayonnaise, £3.40) and Lobster & Mango ISO Roll (Cooked lobster, avocado, mayonnaise and yuzu tobiko wrapped with fresh mango and keta, £6.00) were superb but somewhat pricy and could have been prepared with more finesse. The Assorted Sashimi (Two slices each of premium salmon, tuna and pepper seared hamachi/yellowtail, £5.00) was pretty standard.
Of course, eating so much low-fat food had to evened out with a trip to the deep fryer and the Prawn Tempura (Black tiger prawns fried in a crispy and light batter with tempura sauce, £3.90) didn’t disappoint and Scallop Katsu (Crispy Japanese breaded scallops with wasabi mayonnaise, £6.00) was one of the highlights of the meal.
I particularly liked the contrast between the Chicken Katsu (Crispy fried chicken in Japanese bread crumbs with a fruity sauce, £3.40) served with rustic, raw but sweet cabbage leaves.
One of the biggest surprises of the meal was the Chicken Firecracker Rice (Spicy sushi rice with Asian vegetables and chicken, £2.90). This is a welcome variation of Chinese Egg Fried Rice and sushi rice instead of jasmine is used which leaves the grains with a firm, springy and very appealing texture. Such a simple dish and something I’d definitely would like to try making at home, thanks to owning the Yo! Sushi Cookbook.
Have you noticed each plate has a certain colour? That’s because each colour comes with a different price tag ranging from £1.70 to £6.00. When you finish a plate you stack it in the upright dish rack and afterwards the waiter would simply tally up all the plates and give you a bill. The downside to this system is that you end up with a stack of dirty plates next to you that don’t pile very neatly since there might be some leftovers on them. I looked, but couldn’t find a dustbin anywhere.
As the nibbles floated past me I noticed little stickers on the lids. They looked like expiry dates to me. No information was found in the material provided to us about how long food stands on the kaiten-zushi which was worrying. Surely, food would go off very quickly at room temperature? After a chat with the manager it became clear that the codes were in fact time stamps, not dates. It was comforting to hear that after two hours food gets chucked out and new bowls take their place. Most bowls have lids on them except hot food. A mighty load of germs can jump on the latter in the span of a few minutes. My advice? At the very least order your hot food fresh!
P.S. A special thanks to Yo! Sushi for inviting me as a guest for lunch.
7/10: Enjoyable food but has its niggles.
6/10: Prices might look cheap but the portions are small and the total of the bill can soon stack up. On the upside at a set price you can have unlimited miso soup and (soda) water.
6/10: I remain unconvinced about the button system to call a waiter. We sometimes waited ages for one to come to our table.
8/10: Try the special imported Japanese toilets. Your bum will never be the same again!
6/10: Cramped feeling and didn’t like the odd voices over the sound system at random times.
7/10: Yo! Sushi is a great starting point for people who would like to dip a toe into Japanese cuisine. After getting used to its idiosyncratic dishes it will be worth exploring full-blown Japanese restaurants. Also makes a good lunch and light snack venue if you’re on the run.
Basement & Ground Floor
(East) Portland House
4 Great Portland Street