Sunday, 14 October 2012

Ukai Sushi

Ukai Sushi in Soho is a restaurant/bar hybrid that really works; the sleek, dark, stylish interior with dimmed lighting has a row of standard tables along one wall as you go in, then a section opposite the copper-fronted bar with lower tables and more casual seating that is great for groups or couples and would work for sushi and/or cocktails equally well.
The cocktail menu includes a range of sake-based martinis and some interesting flavour combinations such as blackberry with fresh rosemary; my Ukai raspberry martini was delicious. My companion had a non-alcoholic 'tea cocktail' from the standard drinks menu, a refreshing iced jasmine tea muddled with kiwi, mint and lime. We also asked for some tap water; top marks for serving this with as much care as the other drinks, glasses loaded with ice and fresh lemon, rather than just dumping a plain glass resentfully on the table as can so often be the case.

The cornerstone of all great food has to be the freshness and quality of the basic ingredients and nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than with sushi. Minimal preparation and seasoning means that the meal rests on the quality of the fish and Ukai have clearly embraced this. We ordered a Salmon Mixed Platter - four sashimi, two nigiri and five hosomaki - along with some tuna sashimi and an Ukai salad, a salad leaf/soybean/seeds mix. The salad didn't really work for me but the sashimi was excellent; thick slices of vibrantly-coloured, meltingly fresh salmon and tuna served on a bed of crisp shredded daikon with wasabi and ginger. The sushi too was really good, generous slices of salmon curved over well-flavoured rice (neither too vinegary nor too dry) in the nigiri, and plumply filling the nori-coated hosomaki rolls.

Then on to some of the hot dishes: duck rolls, soft shell crab tempura and stir-fried udon with chicken. The duck rolls had a good meaty flavour and were nice and  crisp. The crab too was very tasty, the coating not as feather-light as somewhere like Koya but perfectly fine, as were the noodles. Don't misunderstand me; it's not that there is anything at all wrong with Ukai's hot food - in fact it is better than many local options - it's just that the sushi is Cinderella stand-out good, and tends to leave the rest of the menu languishing Ugly Sister-like at the ball.

So, I do recommend a visit. I've only been at lunchtime but am quite tempted by the DJ deck in the corner and the siren call of the cocktail list to go back one evening. They have a loyalty scheme, which makes ordering a couple of platters of sushi and sashimi not only healthy but financially wise. Your parents would be proud. Now go and blow the savings on cocktails.

Yours, healthy, wealthy and wise,

Girl About Town xx

Ukai Sushi on Urbanspoon

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