Being on a healthy food kick (for 85 per cent of the time at least) can be hard when you’re trying to choose somewhere to dine. You never know what is secretly added to the salad dressing or if the chicken has been bathed in butter or if the portion size just looks smaller because of the giant plate they’ve used. Luckily, I live a stone’s throw away from one of Itsu’s two restaurants so thought we’d give it a whirl.
I don’t really like sushi. I know, it’s a bit of a faux pas to admit that strange fact but I don’t really like fish and nori makes me feel a bit dirty. But like most chains in the UK, Itsu is pretty anglicised and has a wide selection of dishes where any fussy eater will land on something they like.
The Itsu restaurants run in much the same way Yo! Sushi does. Little plates of food go around the restaurant and you just pick up and eat what you want. You also have the option of ordering hot dishes such as Chicken Teriyaki, Tiger Prawn Tempura etc or boxes of sushi. As I was trying to keep an eye on the calories I chose to stick to the conveyor belt so that the number of plates stacked up beside me would at least make me feel guilty.
The Notting Hill restaurant is quite large. There are two islands with chefs preparing the food with booths and chairs slotted in around them. It’s nice to be able to see the food being prepared though this did take away the illusion of freshly made sushi. It was fairly packed too. I could hear the conversation in the booth behind us clearly and there were so many staff members that I felt like I was being watched. But for lunch on a Saturday afternoon it’s not really something to complain about, especially when you’re distracted trying to work out if Twiggy is sitting a few tables ahead of you… and yes, yes she was.
Onto the food. So I’ve already mentioned that the sushi wasn’t entirely freshly made. We saw Teriyaki Eel Sushi being pulled out of the fridge, plated up and shoved on the belt and pre cut salmon, tuna, beef, rice etc being stacked on plates but it doesn’t really matter. It tasted pretty fresh and they were busy so you can’t expect them to make everything from scratch right in front of you. But saying that, when I’ve been to Yo! Sushi in the past I’ve at least seen a rolling mat being used on the bench and the dishes are time stamped.
As their website doesn’t have a calorie counter I decided to play it a bit safe and I went for:
Tenderstem Broccoli and Green Beans, Sesame Sauce
Hoi Sin Duck Crystal Rolls
Everything bar the Miso was shared with Moo (plus he had a few of his own fishy dishes) and it was enough food – until I was hungry again about two hours later.
The vegetables were fresh, crispy and sweet. The sesame sauce was pretty average if not a bit bland. The Edamame beans were lovely and crisp and I could have eaten a whole plate of these myself and there were a lot on the plate. The Hoi Sin Duck rolls were different with a lot of vegetables that added to the freshness but didn’t detract from the flavour of the duck, the lining was so thin it dissolved immediately which was lovely and the hoi sin sauce was what you expect from hoi sin sauce. The Miso Soup was lovely and salty with a lot of spring onions that made it fresher and brightened it up a bit. There was a hell of a lot of seaweed and massive chunks of tofu that spoiled it a little but the flavour was definitely good.
Moo had the:
Crab California rolls
Tataki Beef Salad
Seared Tuna Sashimi
So I tried some of the seared tuna and it was just very disappointing. It tasted as though it had been in the fridge for too long and retained too much moisture and it was a little hard to swallow.
The beef on the Tataki Beef Salad had a nice piece of lean meat on the top covering three pieces that had a heavy string of fat running through. I’m very picky with my meat, particularly with how lean it is so I couldn’t bring myself to try it.
When I asked him about the Crab rolls he said that they were really nice as they had chives and a bit more spice than usual California rolls. He actually pepped up when I asked him so I think this was a winning dish.
The Prawn Nigiri was pretty standard but who can be surprised?
Overall it was more good than bad. There was a wide selection of dishes, there were desserts to choose from and the flavour was what you expected for the most part. I wouldn’t say no to a few changes on the menu: maybe some aubergines or Tamago or some more cooked tofu options but as a whole it was what I was planning on having. It’s not a ground breaking restaurant and it’s not something you’re going to rave about but for £15 a head and sheer convenience, I think I’ll be popping in sooner than my conscious self realises.