Posted on Thursday, 16th December 2010
I am a big fan of Atari-ya on James Street. The sushi is super fresh which is to be expected of a business that imports premium grade sashimi fish and supplies high end restaurants such as Nobu and Zuma. Prices at the James Street branch were very reasonable when I last went, especially given the quality. And its proximity to Oxford Street means that it’s an easy diversion when one is out on a shopping expedition.
Atari-ya seems to be branching out. Earlier this year they took over Sushi-Hiro in Ealing Common. There’s now a branch in Swiss Cottage as well which is where I recently visited.
Ohitashi (boiled spinach – £3.50) was topped with bonito flakes and finished with a lovely sauce of dashi and soya sauce.
The sushi was beautifully tasty and very fresh (£23 for nine pieces and a tuna roll, or £17 for seven pieces and a tuna roll). It was silky smooth as was expected from premium grade sashimi fish. The sushi had been handled daintily and with finesse as the presentation was very pretty. But for some reason the rice didn’t hold together very well as a couple of pieces of nigiri crumbled quite easily when I went to pick them up (and I’ve used chopsticks all my life). Sushi shouldn’t fall apart this readily, but for fish this lovely, I was prepared to overlook this minor drawback.
The prawns in a dish of prawn tempura (£9 for five pieces) were firm and sweet, although the batter wasn’t quite crispy enough and needed slightly more seasoning. I also tried the onion tempura from the vegetable tempura selection (£7.50). The onion was cut quite thick, so it ended up being slightly underdone. The batter is what makes tempura special. Here it was tasty, but I thought it could have been better prepared.
Lightly seared wagyu beef tataki (£15) was fatty and rich with flavour. The accompanying ponzu dressing was a delight. It was light, sweet and tangy, and its acidity cut the fattiness of the beef nicely. The beef was accompanied by a huge amount of raw onion salad which served as a plate-filler (hidden under the beef). Some shiso had been mixed into the salad, and the aromatic flavour of this beautiful herb was lovely. However, as there was a lot of onion which was raw, the salad was quite overpowering to eat. It was best left.
Nasu dengaku (£6) was wonderful and unctuous. The miso dressing was well balanced – not too salty, not too sweet and not too heavy. This was craftily done and its flavour merged beautifully with the soft, sweet aubergine.
Agedashi tofu (£4.80) was very good. The skin of the tofu was nice and crispy. The tentsuyu broth made of dashi, mirim and soya sauce was tasty and light. The spring onion garnish gave the tofu kick.
Kaki fry (fried oysters – £8.80) is a favourite of mine. The ones at Atari-ya were quite yummy, but not as explosively tasty as the ones at Kiraku. At Kiraku, the crumb coating is firmer and crunchier, and I suspect this is why when you bite into theirs the oysters just explode in your mouth with lots of moist loveliness.
Overall, Atari-ya was very good and enjoyable, and on balance I thought that this meal was resoundingly successful. There’s finesse to the sushi that I really enjoyed, even if the rice did crumble a little. This was one of the better Japanese meals that I have had in London.
The restaurant is relaxed and comfortable and you could easily think that you were in any old sushi restaurant in Japan. The service is attentive as well. I would definitely go again.
PS: Thanks to Waitrose for sending me one of Heston Blumenthal’s Hidden Orange Christmas pudding which sold out in days! It was yummy.
For Londoneater’s review on Atari-ya, click here.