Having recently gone and found myself in the thralls of a sushi-induced love affair with Mayfair’s Ikeda, I thought it only fair that I skip back over to Yashin for a dose of memory refreshment and to throw a little additional warmth to one of my other London Japanese favourites.
Differing from Ikeda, Yashin offers ‘modern’ Japanese cuisine and serves up sushi and small plates with a creative flair that tends to stray from the traditional. They also maintain a ‘without soy sauce’ philosophy, meaning each individual piece of sushi or sashimi arrives pre-seasoned in a way that the chef feels will best showcase the ingredient. Whilst always interesting, this is done with varying levels of success, as the flavour pairings sometimes work against highlighting the individual flavour of the fresh fish and in fact lean towards overpowering its delicate nature. For example, ponzu jelly [yes]…sun-dried tomato and parmesan [no].
On the other hand, when it comes to the carpaccio section of the menu, the inventive flavour combinations shine. I previously tried the tuna with truffle-infused ponzu jelly, which was pretty as a picture and just as good to eat. And the grouper, which was [miraculously] not lost beneath all that summer truffle and tosa yuzu dressing. Just delicious.
Once again, I digress – back to my most recent visit to Yashin. I ran down one afternoon after remembering that they offer great value lunch sets. Yay! The sweetest of recollections. I settled on the tuna option, which came with five pieces of nigiri, a spicy tuna roll, salad and miso soup for just £15.
First came the soup. You can’t really go wrong with miso and this one was mellow, with a satisfyingly light saltiness and just a hint of sweetness. I am unsure what the purpose was for serving it in a teacup, but it was cute as hell so I didn’t mind. Once I had drained every last drop, I wanted to shove it into my handbag, saucer and all.
Last minute I threw Scottish salmon carpaccio with seaweed, ikura and yuzu jelly (£8) into my order. Not a favourite amongst the other carpaccio dishes I have tried at Yashin, but the salmon was fresh and came lightly seared, making it meltingly tender. The yuzu jelly was a nice accompaniment, but the additional toppings didn’t really add much. My favourite element of the dish was by far the salmon roe, which were some of the freshest I have had anywhere. The perfectly tight little saline rounds positively burst with Omega 3 goodness when pressed from tongue to palate. Next time I am back I will be sure to order their appetiser of salmon roe with cubed vegetables and truffle soy just to get my fix!
Next came the salad as part of the lunch set. On previous visits I had been given the option of tomato or onion dressing, but that was not offered on this occasion. All in all, it was a bit blah and the only lasting impression I had was the taste of onion that lingered in my mouth for the rest of the afternoon.
Last to grace the table was the sushi set, which included a spicy tuna roll and five expertly crafted pieces of tuna nigiri – thankfully, no cheese in sight. The little pillows of perfectly seasoned rice carried a soft warmth and were light and airy to the bite. I wasn’t told what the individual nigiri toppings were, but from memory I believe I was treated to black truffle, fresh wasabi, ponzu jelly and salted kombu. I enjoyed the flavour combinations and, yes, no soy sauce was deemed necessary. My only gripe fell on the seared pieces, as by the time I got around to eating them they were cold and the texture was a little off. However, I did appreciate the workmanship that went into scoring the surface of the tuna. Sahhh purrdy.
As far as interior design goes, I actually prefer that of Ocean House, their alternative location on Old Brompton Road. It is brighter and does not feel as closed in as the Argyll Road establishment. It is especially nice at lunch time, when light streams through the above sky light (for those nerds like myself who enjoy a good picture or two). Regardless of locality, always ask to be seated at the counter for a first row seat to the sushi show. It is always a pleasure watching the chefs at work.
Overall, this lunch visit reminded me of why I fell for Yashin in the first place. It won’t be for everyone – sushi purists will die a little on the inside when faced with what is plated up in front of them. However, it is without a doubt one of the best places for a sushi fix in London. The standard fare at Yashin is quite pricey, but from a quality standpoint, you definitely get what you pay for. If nothing else, you should drop by for one of their great value lunch sets, which won’t lighten the load of your wallet too much.
Ikeda is still my big love, as nothing beats fresh sushi served up with minimal fuss in my eyes. But Yashin makes a worthy mistress when I feel like living on the edge a little.
P.s. a little peek into other chef’s selection offerings available at Yashin:
1A Argyll Road, London, W8 7DB
020 7938 1536