Yashin Ocean House, restaurant review: Take the bait of Japanese 'head-to-tail' fish

117-119 Old Brompton Road, London SW7, tel: 020 7373 3990

It's the critic's version of performance anxiety: inviting someone to dinner at a restaurant you haven't tried yourself first. If it's rubbish, it can be a long, embarrassing evening (not least because your conversation needs to be pretty damned dazzling to distract from the food).

So it was with some trepidation that I booked Yashin Ocean House for dinner with Andrea, an extremely powerful, clever, well-travelled and discerning woman I'd met just once before. I do know Andrea loves food, likes Japanese food – the way-cool Kurobuta is her favourite London joint – and is intrigued by the reviewing lark. I also know Yashin has a sushi bar in Kensington which (although steep in price) is excellent, so its newer sister, which bills itself as "head-to-tail fish", should be worth a look.

Ocean House sits on a quiet stretch of the Old Brompton Road looking cool and inviting on a hot summer's evening. Inside, it's all Edwardian tiling and wood and bentwood chairs – rather stately – but for a central hub where sushi chefs flash their blades. That's all once you're past the extraordinary cabinet facing the door in which fish hang on hooks to dry-age, eyeing the customer balefully. There are also some fishy skeletons contorted into odd shapes, which will appear later.

The founder/chef Yasuhiro Mineno and his team have Nobu, Yumi and The Fat Duck as their collective pedigree, so everything from knife skills to inventive presentation is expected and the menu on a large sheet of tracing paper over a fish's anatomical drawing ramps up the anticipation. It's only at this late juncture that I realise that jousting over sharing plates with chopsticks might not be entirely appropriate for a first encounter, but Andrea is excellently game.

With a carafe of crisp Hirsch Grüner Veltliner (from Austria, £22), we begin – although it takes a couple of attempts to understand how much to order: the idea of my guest being turned off by heaps of food or going home hungry is not ideal.

A small dish of mackerel bone and fish skin (£5) comes first, a lip-smacking snack, the full spine crisp and complex in flavour, not just salt, and puffs of skin that almost float off their wooden podium. The dish is rounded out with sea vegetables and sweet-potato crisps.

Next, tuna with truffle-infused ponzu jelly (£11). Any reserve my new friend and I might have had is now abandoned as we eat the first slice, which has an infinitesimally thin sear. It is fondant-soft and its fishiness delightfully countered by the rich, deeply savoury jelly and a herb (lovage?) oil. Thank goodness there are an even number of slices. Could've been awkward… The next two dishes are, we think, less successful. Cod cheek with chilli amazu (£7.80) is pearly fresh but swamped by its sweet'n'sour sauce. And "instant-smoked dry-aged sea bass with baby spinach" (£8.30) is a lesson in anticipointment: a glass dome brought to our table (rather modest for sharing plates) is filled with smoke, and lifted to reveal *puff*, a harmonious-looking fan of young leaves with bass arranged on it and more salad leaves above. The dry-ageing is not the problem – it gives a chew to the flesh – but the instant smoking makes it acrid, and the leaves taste like something pulled out of the garden bonfire. Nope.

By now, the room, more or less empty when we arrived, is bustling. Some folk have taken up the terrace tables out front, but smoke from a car's exhaust on my food is even less appealing than that stuff under the dome.

Then, the show-stopper: yellow-tail kama and daikon stewed with truffle-infused soy (£11.80). It's a rather lumpen arrangement that arrives at the table in one of those daft deep bowls with huge rims. But beneath the big chunks of yielding radish are soft clods (ugly word, sorry, but accurate) of tuna collar, a prized bit of the fish. It may be more of a winter dish but, oh my, it's delightful – sweet and juicy.

There are many other dishes, many more adventurous (seared live eel) and some more oblique (foie gras and sea bass with miso). But I think our first "date" went well: we agree to come back, as there's also dry-aged octopus, rice in bone soup, and an entire grilled dry-aged sea bream to try. This last is billed as Head to Tai-l – a groanworthy pun, but maybe that was what inspired the whole plaice – sorry, place. OK, now I'm fin-ished.


Yashin Ocean House, 117-119 Old Brompton Road, London SW7, tel: 020 7373 3990, £90 for two, with wine

Four more foodie notes from the week


A swift beer before tattoo parlour (not me!): this bar/restaurant was ace, so returned for tip-top Caesar salad and fried chicken.

Imperial War Museum

Don't need another reason to visit the revamped treasure trove, but Oliver Peyton's taken over the café, so now firmly at top of list.


This tiny NW London Japanese never fails to be stunning. Early family supper with sashimi, udon and tempura a big hit.

No shows

Interestingly different opinions from restaurateurs on whether to name and shame those who don't turn up. Where do you stand?

general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before