4 Princes Street
London W1B 2LE
Tel: 020 7629 3931
Food type: Japanese
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: Oxford Street
After the (over)-indulgence of gastronomic decadence at Le Gavroche, and no doubt the calories associated with it, J and I decided it was a good idea to enjoy a healthier dinner the following day in the form of some Japanese food. As this was a last minute decision, I quickly scoured the Internet as well as my food guide books for affordable and authentic Japanese restaurants. Sorry sir, but Yo! Sushi does not count as Japanese food.
Chisou is located on Princes Street in and around the Mayfair area. The decor in the restaurant tries to capture the look and feel of a Japanese tavern with minimalist, yet modern design. The emphasis here is clearly not on the design but on the food itself. The restaurant is very popular amongst Japanese businessmen especially during lunch where they offer set lunch deals starting at £9. The dinner menu is slightly more expensive but offers up a variety of dishes ranging from your typical sushi and sashimi to the chef’s specialities which are contemporary takes on Japanese classics. The food is served in small portions delivered at a steady, continuous stream.
We started with one of the Chef’s specialities – Ankimo Ponzu. This consisted of pressed Monkfish liver flavoured with ponzu, spring onions and spicy mooli served in a sake cup. The liver was conceptually interesting, with a texture more akin to foie gras. However, even with the addition of the ponzu sauce and the spicy mooli, you were always aware that this was fish liver you were eating which may not please everyone. In addition, I felt that the ponzu sauce, despite its citrus component was not tart enough to cut through the strong flavours of the liver. (3/10)
Apparently much of Chisou’s reputation is built on its consistency in delivering the freshest sashimi and sushi available. We were certainly not disappointed with our Omakase Sashimi – a selection of the chef’s selection of the freshest sashimi on the day. Our platter consisted of generous portions of Salmon, Yellowtail, Tuna, Fatty Tuna (Chutoro), Sea Bream, Scallops and Sweet Prawns (Amaebi). The raw seafood was indeed capable with special mention of the tuna and scallops which were stellar. (6/10 overall)
Another chef speciality of Kodako Nanban Age featured baby octopus marinated in sake before being deep fried. This dish promised much but sadly did not deliver on all accounts. The deep fried baby octopus was drenched in oil – a sure sign that the oil was not hot enough before the octopus was fried. Even worse, the octopus was as tough as leather. One would expect the marinade to tenderise the octopus. Instead, the octopus was very bitter having taken up much of the sake marinade. (1/10)
Next up were some sushi in the form of Unagi Maki Special (Avocado and Crabmeat rolled inside out topped with braised eel), Negitoro Maki (chopped fatty tuna with spring Onion sushi roll) and California Roll. The sushi rice was well prepared with good amount of vinegar and served at a nice warm temperature. I particularly enjoyed the negitoro maki which had a good balance of sushi rice, chopped tuna and spring onion – the fatty tuna simply melted in the mouth. Of special mention too was the unagi maki special and California roll which were made using fresh crab meat instead of the disgusting crab sticks (which incidentally contains no traces of crab). The unagi was slightly disappointing – the braising process was not able to coax the maximum flavour out of the eel. (5/10 overall)
Ten Zaru Soba
I finished off with some Cold Soba served with Mixed tempura. The soba was topped with dried seaweed and accompanied by the light soy dipping sauce, scallions and wasabi. The soba was thick and slightly chewy for my liking. The tempura was well made with a crisp, fluffy batter although it was a tad thick. (4/10)
J had the Gomoku Soba – the Soba served in hot soup with 5 different toppings (radish, scallions, bean curd, mushrooms and fresh seaweed) and a prawn tempura.
We ended our meal with a bowl of Green Tea Ice Cream (not pictured) which was pleasant enough although a slightly too sweet for my liking. (4/10)
Overall our dinner at Chisou was pleasant with good attentive service and food coming out at a steady pace without ever rushing us. The level of cooking here is pretty hit and miss – with the best being the stellar sashimi and more than capable sushi. I was pretty disappointed with the chef’s special dishes – perhaps they were trying to be innovative for the sake of it. While the prices of the food here may seem on the high side, at least this is reflected on the ingredients which are top notch. For a sample of the Chisou experience, be sure to try Go! Chisou which is located next door for a sushi experience above your usual Pret sushi takeaways.