By Sally Beerworth
When I first came to Fitzrovia six years ago, there was only one place you could buy sushi. It was easier to buy crack, than seaweed, apparently. Now you can get it on every corner. (Sushi, that is.)
At first, I assumed it was because the British are instinctively scared of anything that isn’t served with chips. However the reason for the absence of raw fish is far simpler: they just didn’t trust something that reminded them of a beach. All the fake tan in the world can’t hide their fear of a place where you have to show your legs.
Now Fitzrovia seems to have turned into some kind of culinary underwater nature reserve. Or maybe years of eating Gig’s has finally seen people try and eat karmically. Any local worker will have to eat their body weight in raw eel to make up for the years of dining at our beloved Gigs… it will almost be worth it too.
The real reason that the local workers are starting to eat the stuff is not for health reasons, or because it tastes good (obviously) but because it is one of the few foods that you can knock back whilst walking back to the office. There is less chance that you will ever dribble it (a prawn on your lower lip is obvious to even the most hung-over workers). This is good for growing the UK’s population: I know few people who can claim to have picked up someone whist wearing a meal.
My favourite place for sushi is Samurai on the corner of Goodge Street and Tottenham Court Road. It combines Japan with London: health wrapped in plastic that you have to queue for. It doesn’t taste quite as fresh as the stuff they serve up at Roka, but it also doesn’t cost as much… neither do most second hand cars. Samurai haven’t put me up to writing this… the bastards still charge me an extra 5p for soya sauce. How could you be expected eat raw fish without a little help?
The people at Itsu saw a gap in the market for people wanting to pay more for less, as long as the less was wrapped in pretty packaging. Their clientele of mad men wannabes think that what they pay for lunch should be proportionate to their salaries. If only it tasted of something other than the kind of thing I used to get force fed as a kid. The pretty packaging seems to distract them from this fact. They say that fish is good for the brain, so at some point their customers will wise up and leave. Although given the portion sizes, the omega may not start working its magic for some years to come.
I won’t even mention the sushi that can be picked up at Pret or Eat. There is something unnatural about the same people who make my dairy led pleasures touching up fish.
Even if you don’t want to eat the stuff, enjoy watching the nine to fivers, who are trained like seals to come out and eat raw fish, and then scurry back from where they came from. It is at least good to see that they are walking a bit faster these days, with all the omega.
The two places that should have been mentioned are Mushu and SushiSo, both on Euston road (Fitzrovia side) and right next to each other. On grounds of authenticity, I would rank them higher than Samurai and Itsu. Don’t know if they can compare with the restaurants on Charlotte St as I haven’t been to those yet.
Although I’m much less fond of SushiSo now that I know that the waitresses (the only Japanese staff) are underpaid, the decor remains really nice. The management seems a bit sneaky and wishes to give an impression of expertise. Mushu is more straightforward and you’ll see all the restaurant action on the ground floor.
The best nearby sushi specialist I’ve been to would have to be Sushi of Shiori on Drummond St, which is expectedly more expensive.
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