It's perfect for sushi and cocktails, but does the King's Road's new Japanese-Brazilian deliver a raw deal on meals?

Sushinho, 312-314 King's Road, London SW3, tel: 020 7349 7496

There is food you eat soberly, in broad daylight. And then there is food you eat late at night, in the dark, to a background of loud music. This food is different, not to mention difficult to see. Whatever you call it – drunk food, date food, gay food – it is usually sushi.

Sushi isn't really a meal – not even the Japanese would make an entire dinner of it – but something you can inhale without thinking about; without even having to lock yourself in a cubicle. This is fine for the tribes of people who frequent London's club/bar hybrids such as Buddha Bar at Embankment, Loungelover in Shoreditch, and Clerkenwell's Fluid, but now the trend is invading our restaurants.

Take Sushinho. It bills itself as a restaurant, and yes, it has tables, chairs and menus, but in all other respects, it looks, feels and acts like a clubby bar, with its attractive, black-clad, high-heeled greeters at the door, sleek lines, dark woods, sexy lighting, and glamorously lit cocktail bar as its heart.

So far, so King's Road, Chelsea, where regulars of establishments such as Mamilanji and Crazy Larry's, including Princes William and Harry, would probably be surprised to hear that food is even served in the vicinity.

Sushinho's claim to fame is to be a cocktail-friendly fusion of Brazilian and Japanese, inspired by the fact that Brazil's sizeable ethnic Japanese population is the largest outside Japan. Of course, Nobu Matsuhisa has been incorporating South American influences in his restaurants since working in Peru in the 1970s. Here, though, the Brazilian effect appears limited to the odd sighting of cassava chips or crumbed plantain, and a small list of specials.

The crowd – a smart/casual post-gym mix of mostly couples, many American – don't seem to mind. They order caipirinhas instead of wine, and sushi instead of those big plates of food you used to get... What were they called? Ah yes, main courses.

And they might have a point, because everything other than sushi seems to be squishy and soft. A starter of sweet-potato gyoza with truffle (£9) is simply four pale saggy dumplings filled with sweet-potato purée, sitting on even more sweet-potato purée. Such excessive use of purée must be to justify the price, as the amount of truffle involved is not going to do it on its own. Next, a tempura sushi roll with spicy tuna sauce (£10) and a couple of small, delicate fingers of salmon nigiri (£6) indicate a sushi chef with a light touch.

But I just don't fit in here. I drink wine instead of cachaça, and I order old-man food like main courses. Cue more gloopiness, in the form of a strangely translucent cassava mash with a grilled tuna steak (£15), a so-so dish that needs more pep than it gets from the runnels of pesto-like chimichurri sauce. Another long, oblong dish carries "crispy pork belly" (£12.50). It is also soft, but has good flavour, with (bless!) a little crunch coming from scattered crumbs of crackling. Yet dabs of squishy black bean and mango salsa do not combine with any great success.

The French-based desserts are a surprise, suggesting a talented pastry chef lurking out the back somewhere. The ubiquitous molten chocolate fondant (£7) oozes on cue, mixing with smooth coconut ice-cream and fresh mango. Just as good is a zingy "passion crumble" (£6.50), a sweet, textural exercise in crunch and cream, that is layered in a glass like an exotic cocktail trifle.

As a clubby bar that does food, Sushinho fulfils its side of the bargain with style, though it could do with some mad Brazilians on the floor to pep things up a bit. As a dinner destination, it is less appealing. So come for the cocktails, the buzz and the party atmosphere – and you may as well have a little sushi while you're at it. n

12/20

Sushinho, 312-314 King's Road, London SW3, tel: 020 7349 7496. Lunch, Mon-Sat; dinner daily. Around £95 for two, including wine and service

Scores: 1-9 stay home and cook, 10-11 needs help, 12 ok, 13 pleasant enough, 14 good, 15 very good, 16 capable of greatness, 17 special, can't wait to go back, 18 highly honourable, 19 unique and memorable, 20 as good as it gets

The crunch bunch: Sensational sushi

Sushi-Hiro

1 Station Parade, Uxbridge Road, London W5, tel: 020 8896 3175

Sushi-Hiro doesn't take credit cards, serves no wine and does nothing but sushi and sashimi – which would be a problem if it wasn't so good

Bonsai

46 West Richmond Street, Edinburgh, tel: 0131 668 3847

This cosy, cheerful Japanese bar/bistro serves up small plates of everything from teppanyaki to teriyaki, with a good range of fairly priced sushi and sashimi

New Samsi

36-38 Whitworth Street, Manchester, tel: 0161 279 0022

New Samsi has brought the dishes of Japan to Manchester for more than 15 years, including a wide variety of sashimi, sushi and maki rolls

Read Terry Durack's food blog at independent.co.uk/terrydurack

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SFL Group: Video Project Manager

    £24,000 pa, plus benefits: SFL Group: Looking for a hard-working and self-moti...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Reservations Assistant - French Speaking

    £16000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding travel c...

    Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager - World-Famous London Museum

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have a strong record of ...

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Assistant

    £24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will have demonstrable unde...

    Day In a Page

    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing
    The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

    The saffron censorship that governs India

    Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

    Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
    Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

    How did fandom get so dark?

    Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
    The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

    Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
    The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

    Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

    Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
    Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

    Disney's mega money-making formula

    'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
    Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

    Lobster has gone mainstream

    Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
    Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

    14 best Easter decorations

    Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
    Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

    Paul Scholes column

    Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower