dines at Tsumami...

As much as I love my dear Michelin chefs, the place I eat the most in London is undoubtedly Tsunami.  There is something terribly comforting about finding a good local restaurant, who always greet you with warmth, and where you trust the chef implicitly.

I don't say the latter lightly - if you're going to eat raw scallops or sashimi, you need to be confident of the kitchen's sourcing.  I'm often frustrated by diners who complain about the prices at their local Japanese restaurants - sushi grade fish and shellfish does not come at a knockdown price.

We eat in Tsunami so often that the staff know exactly what we're going to order, which water each of us have, and which wine we're likely to prefer.  As a result, it's very easy to become complacent about what's being put in front of you.  This week as I was taking the 10yo too, I thought I ought to pay attention and attempt to write it up!

So, to begin with, it being a Japanese restaurant, there's always edamami (the soya bean in it's pod).  This were crisp, hot, and had a good sprinkling of salt.

We moved immediately to our yellowtail sashimi with chilli's and coriander, in a ponzu dressing.  Several different fish are commonly called yellowtail, though in sashimi terms it usually refers to Japanese Amberjack.  There are also two stages of yellowtail development, the young yellowtail is called Hamichi, but the older version is called Buri.  Buri with a darker strip along the belly (which is the fattier bit of the fish) is called Buri Toro and is favoured by the Japanese.  I've had all three served as this dish, and they work equally well.

We followed that with three different kinds of tempura : salt and chilli pepper squid; shrimp tempura; and king crab tempura with yuzu butter and creamy garlic sauce.  The squid is savoury, salted and topped with shards of chilli, and by contrast the shrimp is delicate, almost sweet.  The king crab could honestly be anything, as it's almost like little scampi, but with sauce is so addictive I could spread it on bread!  The sauce is so difficult to describe, but it's tangy hot and spicy, creamy, citrussy... I know - how can it be all of those things? But anyone who's eaten at Nobu will know the sauce well.

Next we had truffle rib-eye with exotic mushrooms and truffle sauce.  The rib-eye is ordered to your taste, and comes on a bed of creamy moreish leeks.  The mushrooms are cooked in a heady reduction spiked with truffle oil...  The whole dish is then topped with a pile of what looks like saffron, but is actually shredded chilli's.  This isn't perhaps what you'd expect in a Japanese restaurant, but actually with all your umami bells ringing already, it fits right in, the rich earthy depth packing a punch after the delicate fish.

Our final absolute essential is the roast duck and foie gras nigiri.  You can have this as eel (unagi) too, but the duck is like eating a Chinese duck pancake.  The roast duck strips are placed on top of a piece of handshaped rice and tied with a strip of spring onion, the foie gras is then pan fried and placed on top of each piece of nigiri.

As a precaution against the 10yo rejecting the sashimi (sometimes she likes it, sometimes she doesn't) we had ordered a couple of other safer dishes for her.  There was snowcrab shumai - steamed dumplings filled with snowcrab and prawns - and sizzling chicken teriyaki.  All of these were good - the teriyaki unctuous and the dumplings soft and dense.

I love Tsunami, I must do, I eat in there all the time.  Okay, it's not Nobu, but it's not trying to be... Therein lies the problem.  Some diners feel it should be Nobu at these prices, but it's the food you're paying for, not the location!  Ultra fresh fish and ingredients cost the same, no matter your post code.  It's a bit like my review of the Hand & Flowers - would I recommend you cross town to come here? Perhaps not (though the sister restaurant in Charlotte Street may be closer to you).  If you're local, and want to eat consistently good Japanese, absolutely.  It's not the sea urchin wielding kind of Japanese some like, but it's lip smacking good, I really look forward to eating it, and I know exactly what I'm having next time!

Other dishes which are equally good:
Chicken gyoza - deep fried chicken parcels
Gin dara - blackened cod in miso sauce
Shrimp tempura roll
All of the sashimi (!)
Grilled scallops with masago & creamy spicy sauce, which is flambéed and brought to the table - very pretty with high blue flames!  (Masago is capelin roe, similar to tomago (flying fish roe), but slightly larger in size).

Tsunami Restaurant
5-7 Voltaire Road

T. 020 7978 1610
Tsunami on Urbanspoon