A mighty close call, this one.
Some would argue the One Good Reason to eat at Akari, midway up Islington’s Essex Road, is that you can get 3 really pretty good hand rolls for £8.50. That’s hand rolls, you at the back. (The tempura prawn, salmon and avocado ‘Akari’ ones.)
Others would say it’s the fact that, as well as being a decent quality, fairly priced neighbourhood sushi restaurant, the hot food’s good too (particularly the marinated grilled meats and various things out the fryer). So those fools who think rice and raw fish isn’t a meal can be sated too.
A strong case might be made for that “neighbourhood” descriptor: Akari basically looks and feels like the kind of warm and welcoming gastropub we all wish we had within staggering distance from the front door. At first, this mix of Western Japan and North London boozer seems a little idiosyncratic. Actually, the pub quiz starts in 5 minutes vibe is a definite draw.
But I think the One Good Reason to pull up a chair at Akari is their bara chirashi: a bowl of just warm sushi rice, with a fairly generous topping of sashimi offcuts – usually salmon, scallops, sea bass, tuna, yellow tail and a little bit of squid. Properly tasty, healthy, kinda cleansing yet still filling.
Now chirashi is always a reasonable option if you’re looking for an unrefined raw fish and rice fix. Akari’s is a notch up from others that I’ve had though, and given that their sushi rolls are perfectly good, it’s a genuine complement that the chirashi is something worth having instead. It’s well balanced: salmon roe, a chiffonade of shiso (no idea what the Japanese for ‘finely cut herbs’ is) and bits and pieces of nori season the dish, make it more than rice with raw fish. And that picture above is deceptive; this chirashi is a bowl of goodness that keeps on giving.
Yours for £9.50. The thinking man’s way to ensure his girlfriend’s obsession with the local sushi restaurant doesn’t bankrupt him.*
Akari, 196 Essex Road, N18LZ
One Good Reason
The bara chirashi. £9.50.
* Not really working.