Looking for the right sushi set in a shop at lunchtime is something of a quest for a work of art – only one that will be eaten.
Every box on a shelf contains sleek pieces of bright pink or reddish fish, laid perfectly over a nub of squeezed white rice; or little rolls filled with the most colourful vegetables, with sides of beans and sesame. It’s mouthwatering just to look at.
A staple in North America, where the California roll was born, for decades, sushi is now popular in much of Europe, too.
Vibrant, healthy and bite-sized, sushi is so much a part of food culture in the UK you can buy it in Boots.
But that’s diluting it slightly as making sushi is a craft that dates back to 8th-century Japan, when fermented rice was used to store fish. Only centuries later did rice as we know it join the package.
If you’re looking to step away from the chain experience of Itsu and Yo Sushi! here are some options..
Moshimo doesn’t just stop at its Japanese menu. Its whole design and interior take inspiration from tradition. Sliding “shoji” screens create a traditional Japanese room, setting the restaurant up for the summer. Aesthetics aside, Moshimo is an ethical company, supporting campaigns to bring the mainstream fishing industry into line: it does not serve fish that is listed as “fish to avoid” by the Marine Conservation Society.
Chefs here use the sustainable “omakase” principle which is all about using what’s available, reducing waste and staying focused on fresh. Plates are colour-coded on a conveyor belt according to price. Unsure? Go for the sharing platter which is chosen by the chefs; or opt for the Moshimo tasting menu which makes use of different cooking techniques, from grilled, fried and steamed dishes. Top it all with a glass of plum wine or sake. moshimo.co.uk
Despite the name’s suggestion that the 38th floor of the Heron Tower is dedicated solely to sushi, it’s actually a fusion of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian food. Your waiter will explain this promptly – probably after much confusion – and explain the at first complicated menu. It is fine fusion dining with a view of the metropolis below, where details are not forgotten and perfect pairing of ingredients is key.
The signature dish is a simple Japanese classic: black miso cod, a firm favourite of both staff and customers. Chunky pieces of fish marinated in a gorgeous sticky miso sauce are turned on “antichuchos” – Peruvian mini-skewers – on a Japanese charcoal grill; and served on a bed of sweet and chunky Peruvian corn.
Pick about five plates for two across the eight sections, or four if you opt for large plates, but be warned that some of the large “wagyu” dishes come with a very hefty price tag.
For a taste of the Japanese beef without the cost, go for the delicious and tender wagyu beef gyoza from the small plates. The yellowtail sashimi is delicate and perfect, while the chunky samba rolls are the restaurant’s take on California rolls, using a very bright hue of green-coloured soy paper. Sushisamba.com
Set inside a simple and unassuming restaurant in the Bruntsfield district of Edinburgh, Harajuku prides itself on using family recipes passed down for three generations. These adhere Japan’s tradition of culinary excellence – something its coveted AA rosette is testament to. The menu is vast with 12 sections but for those new to Japanese food, staff here are good at preventing you from committing the cardinal sin of over-ordering.
The salmon naban, one of the newest dishes from the small plates section is unusual in that it’s served chilled. Warning duly issued, the plump meat chunks are dipped into soy and vinegar glaze, making it a must-try, refreshing creation.
For a touch of something local, go for the pork gyoza dumplings that use Scottish outdoors-reared pork. It’s beautifully soft with a touch of crisp on the bottom. There’s also a wealth of other sushi classics including rolls, noodles, tempura and sashimi.
Set main courses range from £10 to £25 – including rice and miso soup. These make a good introduction for people still learning about the world of sushi. Desserts include a choice of pancakes to green tea ice-cream or flavoured rice balls. But if you can’t make it to the restaurant – or are too late as the place fills up – you can also find Harajuku’s street-food stall at Stockbridge market on Sundays. harajukukitchen.co.uk
London: Sushi Shop
This French chain has branches in the capital’s West End and South Kensington and it’s fusion again: Gallic and Japanese. Michelin-starred chef Kei Kobayashi brings even more innovation to sushi with his signature dish, the crunchy vegetable salad and his take on the California roll: the Gyu special roll. This is topped by finely cut beef lacquered with teriyaki sauce.
It packs avocado, carrots, red pepper, fried onions, chilli, chives and coriander. Kei also took inspiration from his famous gravlax recipe to create the salmon gravlax roll, which mixes crunchy turnips and carrots with a spicy tapenade-style sauce. Salad-wise, the red miso cucumber has a sweet and sour sauce made with maple syrup and lime, with crunchy peanuts. mysushishop.co.uk
Beverley, Yorkshire: Ikuko’s Kitchen
If you’re Japanese food mad, Ikuko’s kitchen has practically every class under the sun to master it. From gyoza dumplings, katsu curry and sushi rolls, she also offers classes in savour pancakes, called okonomiyaku, vegetarian and teriyaki chicken. In the sushi roll class you’ll learn how to cook the rice and master three types of rolls: hoso maki, ura maki and te maki. Each class includes a recipe card, so you can make what your learnt again at home, and you can also buy the ingredients and seasonings. Classes are limited to six people and start from £55 or £107 for two. ikukoskitchen.co.uk
New Abbott, Devon: Ashburton Cookery School
With class sizes no more than eight people, you get a dedicated in-depth experience of making sushi, from nigrizushi (hand formed), to makizishi (rolled), temakizushi and sashimi. The half-day course can be either in the morning or afternoon, and you’ll learn about presenting your sushi and the specific rolls to make each type of roll. And of course, you can eat what you make. ashburtoncookeryschool.co.uk
Holloway Road: London Cookery School
Learning to be a sushi master is possible within a few hours even if you’re a complete beginner – well, almost. London Cookery School’s class teaches the basics of rolling and how to handle rice (lightly). Learn how to make ngiri, hosomaki, temaki, ura-makis nad temari sushi over about two hours; ingredients and a trusty rolling mat are provided. Then it’s time to eat the fruits of all that labour. BYO tipple is welcome if elegant Japanese tea is not enough. Take-home notes and recipes provided. londoncookeryschool.co.uk
Simple sushi making kit from Sous Chef, £13.95
Instead of spending money on a post-work takeaway sushi, get creative check out this simple sushi-making kit from Sous Chef. It comes with seven different starter products that are an easy base for personalised nigiri. Included in the kit is sushi rice, nori sheets, wasabi paste, pickled ginger, sushi vinegar and one rolling mat. The only thing missing is the fish or for those who don’t do fish, the appropriate vegetable. Recipe card included – this kit is painless for any beginner “itamae”. souschef.co.uk
Japanese white sushi set for two, Gifts of the Orient, £20.99
If you’re already a culinary master at making sushi, next you need the Japanese white crockery to serve it in. This set of dishes for two comes with pairs of plates, bowls, sauce dishes, chopsticks, spoons and rests. giftsoftheorient.co.uk
Sushi roller kit, LightIntheBox.com, £7
When you’re hungry and short on time, it can be exhausting to donate valuable time to one night’s dinner. For the extra busy sushi lovers, this DIY sushi roller kit allows you to create multiple perfect rolls all at once. By placing your rice and filling ingredients inside the tube, the kit works like a bazooka to shoot out an effortlessly compressed long roll. Once completed, just place the roll on a sheet of nori and cut it up to make several pieces of sushi in minutes. lightinthebox.com
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