Saturday, 30 October 2010

Atari-ya Hendon - The ugly Twin Sister

As I was looking up the phone number to reserve a table at Swiss Cottage, I came across the Hendon Central branch menu. To my delight, while the menu looked 90% similar, sashimi was c.18-30% cheaper than Swiss Cottage. Why? Does this suggest Atari-ya is an honest restaurateur, who maintains a fixed profit margin across all locations? Or will we be compromising on quality?
The interior follows a similar theme to the Swiss Cottage branch, if not plainer, and a sushi bar to watch the itamae at work. This time we mostly stuck to fish.
O-Toro - fattiest tuna £9.80
Expectation can be a total killer. Remember the solid chunk of marbling tuna? No more. The fish was still glowing pink, but the fat was gone, and so was the melting effect. It was a greasy slice of tuna, and I wouldn’t complain in any other restaurants, but I had expectations with this brand. Grr….
Ikura Gunkan & Hotate Nigiri
To avoid citrus scallops, we ordered hotate nigiri this time. Much better. Still didn’t take my breath away; the sushi rice could do with more integrity; crispy seaweed on gunkan is always appreciated. This one was a bit flat and damp.
Agedashi Tofu
This chef is clearly better at deep-frying than the one in Swiss Cottage, as one can tell from the photo. Usually silky soft tofu loses the aroma of soya, because the high water content dilutes it. This was strong in flavour, compromising on texture, but only ever so slightly.
Grilled Salmon belly with chillyCooked dishes here are delightful. The Salmon skin was grilled to golden and it was one fat fish. Awesome.

Shima SabaThis was so good we ordered another portion. Perhaps the itamae was distracted, we were served double. No complaints.
I ordered black cod again. It was the exact same story as last time, so I won’t reiterate.
There was a little episode that evening regarding black cod. A lady, dining on her own, upon entering the restaurant caught sight of our black cod being served. There were 2 fillets. She asked the waitress for the same thing and was served 1 fillet, which was the tail section with more skin (and fattier) but larger. She was very upset and decided to complain about it half way through the dish. The chef and itamae wouldn’t accept it, even showed her how the portions were divided and wrapped individually. To add fuel to the flames, the couple next door was also served 2 fillets. She was hysterical, forcing her way into the kitchen and demanding a second fillet. The episode ended with the itamae confiscating the dish from her, cancelled her takeaway order (which was another black cod that she commanded for 2 fillets), but still charged her.
From where I was sitting, our portion did look slightly bigger. I admired the fortitude and insistence of Japanese chefs. Others would have given her an extra bit of fish to avoid the scene, which was quite disruptive.

The hot dishes were good, but I came for the sushi. I won't be making the trek again to this branch. Things are cheaper here for a reason.
Small note, I would avoid the sushi bar branch at St. James Street.
Atari-ya Hendon
31 Vivian Avenue, Hendon
London
NW4 3UX
Tel: 0208 202 2789

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