I have previously said that skiing and sushi are beyond economic rationale.
That was obviously a flippant comment. It wouldn’t take long for a pedant to put together a sound analysis of costs and market forces to show that both of these activities make sense from a business perspective.
What I really meant was that, when it comes to spending money, there are some things that you shouldn’t agonise over, however jaw droppingly expensive or excessive they appear. For me, both heading down a snow covered slope at speed and eating raw fish fall firmly within that category. They are luxuries that, even when I can only just afford them, I prefer to forget cost and enjoy, rather than worry about ‘value’ and what else you could do with the cash.
Which brings me to a £90 lunch I had the other day at Sushi Tetsu in Clerkenwell: two and a half hours of eating bliss that I wouldn’t exchange for ten meals at the average sushi restaurant in London, let alone the two or three that you could have for the same price.
Much has been written about Tetsu already. This, and the fact that (a) there are only seven seats and (b) it’s blooming ace, explains why the restaurant is fully booked for the next two months (and why April will sell out as soon as reservations are released).
There are a number of reasons why I thought lunch at Tetsu was bliss:
- It’s nice, isn’t it, when you patronise the businesses of skilful, passionate, hard working and good people. Harumi Takahashi runs front of house, welcoming customers with grace and humour, whilst, very subtly, being totally precise and attentive with place settings, drinks service and so on. The craft and knife skills of her husband, Toru Takahashi, are immediately obvious. But the way that he orchestrates and paces the meals for each of his seven customers show intelligence and talent as well. Serving diners from behind the counter that they sit requires a performance, and chef Toru delivers. There’s charm and dry humour, but admirable perfectionism and drive too.
- Aside from the a cracking ponzu based dipping sauce for sashimi, and the occasional singe from a blowtorch, chef Toru doesn’t really do bells and whistles. You’ll need to go to Dinings, Yashin or Nobu if you want flash. I personally appreciated the opportunity to enjoy the flavour, texture and quality of the fish without distraction.
- And boy was the fish stunning.
What, you want more detail?
It was one of those meals of which a chronological narrative would be dull and would fail to do justice to the experience. There were multiple highlights and each round seemed to replace the previous one as the favourite course.
As I look back, a special sashimi platter of turbot, sea bream and monkfish liver set a high standard from the start. Though it was eclipsed by the larger, second set of sashimi; diagonally cut chunks of yellow tail, thick slices of superlative medium-fatty tuna and Skandinavian marin marinated and blow torched mackerel stood out.
Maybe the rice for the sushi was a little below the perfect temperature towards the end of our meal, but the fish, scored where necessary so as to fit the shape of the nigiri, dabbed underneath with a touch of wasabi (freshly ground on a rough board through the course of the meal), then stroked with a soy sauce, was always awesome. Pale grey fatty tuna, more marble than protein, soy glazed then flamed, was outstanding. The yellowtail (pictured above), was also superb: slightly smoky, slightly sweet, and with the texture of firm butter. A hand roll made from a mix of mashed fatty tuna, chopped lean tuna and strips of pickled daikon has pretty much ruined all other tuna hand rolls for me from now on.
Fish of the highest quality; precision, craft and a touch of theatre; an intimate but never awkward eating experience. If you really must stop to think about it, you will realise that Sushi Tetsu is absolutely worth it.
Sushi Tetsu in 3 words
London’s best sushi.
We had a chef’s ‘omakase’ meal for £70 (before drinks and service). There are £50 and £90 options too.
There are also sushi and sashimi sets in the £20-40 range and a la carte is also possible. Prices are in line (pro rata) with the omakase.
sushitetsu.co.uk – 12 Jerusalem Passage, EC1V 4JP – 020 7278 0421