Thursday, 27 September 2012

Sushi Tetsu = Sushi Heaven

Kian said, “Win you have to go to Sushi Tetsu. If you don’t, I’ll kill myself.”

Well, I don’t usually give into death threats, especially when it doesn’t concern my life. But I like the sound of eating to save my friend’s life. And more importantly, Kian knows his stuff. Turns out getting a seat at the sushi counter is a challenge, as more bloggers dub this little 7-seater London’s best kept secret. When I called in August, the earliest for 2 people was end-Oct. So I decided to go solo and got myself in before the end of Sept.

Given the intimacy of the sushi bar, I didn’t feel like a lone diner. Harumi, chef’s wife, is very conversational; she shared Chef Toru was helping out at Shiori as Tetsu was being set up, and this husband-and-wife team is good friends with the other husband-and-wife team.

I thought about going omakase, but decided against it because I was pretty sure there's sea bream and akami somewhere in there. So I went wild with the a la carte. Sushi is served piece by piece here. Love it already.

Harumi explained chef gently brushes his special soy sauce on the fish, so we don’t have to flip and dip or drown the rice, hence the slightly brown appearance.
The temperature was oh-so-perfect. Rice was body temperature-warm, and the fish was just ever so slightly cooler. Chef’s pressure on the rice was impeccable; the grains held together in its perfect shape, but disintegrated, almost candy floss-like, on tongue; gentle rice wine vinegar brought out the sweetness of rice... just a full mouthful of perfection. Never have I had better sushi rice.
The piece of yellowtail was more white than pink before the soy sauce, which means I luckily got the fatty belly part of the fish. The scoring was so delicate, it tenderised the fish to melt onto the rice without losing the bounce of fresh raw fish. Absolutely master-class.
Razor Clam
Didn’t recognise the razor clam until chef said so. Lightly torched, followed by a sprinkle of sea salt and a squeeze of lime. It was razor clam like no other; the clam was vertically scored to ease off the chew and tone down the contrast with the soft sushi rice. Flavours were balanced, instead of gushing rush of seafood sweetness, it was balanced and delicate.

Harumi and I chatted a bit more as Chef attended the omakase diners. Unlike chef Toru, Takashi-san at Shiori trained as a Kaiseki chef, which explains his immaculate presentation of every course as edible art.  Kaiseki cuisine is often served as portrayed scenery, with various elements of Japanese cooking contributing to the overall piece. Takashi-san is now setting up his full-scale joint at Queensway to flex his muscles.
Again lightly seared, lightly brushed with soy sauce, lightly scored. Top notch stuff. It is somewhat less remarkably different to the usual hotate nigiri we get elsewhere, that said the searing helped to reduce the excess moisture, concentrating the flavours without compromising the creaminess.
Watching chef at work was mesmerising. The tip of the knife touched the fish, then he flattened the tendons with the blade near the base of the knife. Every tiny detail was taken care of. The otoro melted, oils mingled with the rice; the small bits of tendons left encouraged chewing to unleash more fragrant grease. Oh-so-rich.
Snow Crab
Chef skinned a thin sheet of cucumber, so skilfully as if he could do it with his eyes closed, to replace seaweed for this gunkan. The cucumber was less overpowering so the crisp, clean taste of shredded snow crab came forward better.
If I am forced to pick a weakness of the evening, this might be it. Probably because the flavours were less powerful, perhaps I was still lost in the word of tuna oil, or maybe chef wanted to cleanse my palate before the next course... whatever.
Seared Otoro
Ta-da! I wish you could smell the dining room when this was blow-torched. The quiet sizzle, light crisp on charred edges, melted fat infused with sweet sushi rice...  I thought I was going to pass out. Last food before I die? This might be it. On that thought, I indulged on a second round of the mighty seared o-toro. It was simply eyes-rollingly good, I knew I had that stupid grin on my face.
We all know I love Ikura. The pearls at Tetsu are less marinated, so there was a cleaner, fresher taste to it. Just blissful, so much so I went for another round.
The piece of fish was incredibly soft and incredibly fat. The special touch was the thin sheet of transparent konbu (wet seaweed) that accentuated the dissolving effect and made up the lighter touch on the marinade. Seconds please.
Botan Prawn / Jumbo prawn
I saw my neighbours having this with their omakase menu. It looked so much like a meringue I had to dig my teeth into one. It tasted as good as it looked, it carried the smoky aroma of grilled prawns, but held onto its playful springiness. The small curls added an interesting texture to the roof of the mouth too. And boy, it was a big prawn.
Harumi recommended this, she said it’s nothing like the usual Japanese omelette. I was dubious. Chef waited until I finished my second rounds of sushi before serving up the omelette.

And Harumi was right, it was nothing like the typical tamago. The cubes were feathery, Japanese cheesecake-kind of feathery, or angel cake, but moist, not soggy. The omelette somehow evaporated. It was truly unique. A perfect way to finish the meal. In fact my look of satisfaction was so pronounced, I managed to convince my new friends next door, lawyer at Blackrock and South African IM, to order a portion each.

The place was cosy but not cramped. It almost encourages conversations with the lucky people around you (lucky in the sense they got a seat, not because they sat next to me... though one could argue...) One of the fellow diners asked if Chef could seat people at the tables by the door. Chef explained those seats are for waiting, he doesn’t serve food outside this counter.

I think this is it. The Best Sushi of London. I can’t think why not. I am running through all the good sushi bars I have been to in this city... Yashin? Tetsu is in a different league in terms of authenticity and skills. Shiori? Not in the raw fish department though the overall dining experience is not too far behind.

And I get it now. I understand Kian’s odd death threat. Deep down I’m hoping you won’t believe how crazily stunning the food is here, yet it’s too good not to share - almost sinful. Oh, by the way, Harumi said Tetsu is booked up for dinner until Christmas. Lunch is looking more hopeful, but solo diners are more likely to get lucky.

I died and went to Sushi Heaven.

12 Jerusalem Passage
Tel: 0203 217 0090

Sushi Tetsu on Urbanspoon
You may also like: YoshinoAtari-yaSushi of Shiori


  1. Omg Wing, I've almost died and gone to sushi heaven just reading your post! If I book now, I'll be able to get a seat in the new year when I no longer have to diet! hahaha. Thanks for sharing, amazing!

    1. Sushi keeps you slim!! And Tetsu will make you an even happier bride:) Hope it's all going stressless!

  2. That’s a sushi heaven indeed! The sushi recipes look great and tastes delicious! I just hope I can also make a delicious sushi like this one!

  3. My mom always prepares sushi whenever we travel; it serves as our snack while on the road. I can suggest these new recipes to her for our next road trip!

  4. It's sushi invasion! One of my favorite Japanese dishes so far, I don't know, the combination of raw fish to a flavored rice is just simply mouth-watering and deadly delicious.

  5. I love eating sushi! A friend of mine who knows that sushi is my favorite told me that I should try eating pickled (sushi) ginger that has artificial sweetener in it.

  6. Hi, Wingz! My best friend and I love eating sushi every time we travel by our rv. Since you shared this with us, now we have an idea where to buy the best sushi to enjoy our travel! Thank you!

  7. Will never get tired of sushi, like ever. It's always been my all time favorite Japanese dish since then. Though my dentist told me that eating raw isn't that good for our teeth, that's why it's important to maintain the proper dental routine after eating raw meat or food to make sure you keep your teeth clean.

  8. Heavenly pieces, I must say. I guess being served in a seven-seater-only place adds to the appeal. I just hope it's got authentic sushi bar furniture there (then again, the owners seem full-blooded japanese, so that should work).

  9. I've got nothing with the portions (I guess it helps that they're small, otherwise I'd be overwhelmed by the taste). Besides, it helps that you can eat them in what looks like an authentic sushi bar, with all the trimmings and typical furnishings. Too bad it's of the corner-store variety.

  10. Authentic japanese food served in a restaurant with authentic japanese interiors? Now that's my idea of a weekend lunch out. Too bad it's not in the States, and it's got a tight reservation list to boot. Talk about respect points.

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