Posted on Monday, 9th November 2009
Atariya is a little hole-in-the-way Japanese sushi place nestled amongst a string of restaurants along James Street, just north of the shopping pulse of Oxford Street. Actually, it’s part of a chain, although I’ve only been to the one on James Street. The great draw card of Atariya is that the sushi is resoundingly fresh. Just ask Jason Atherton, chef of one star Michelin restaurant Maze and his adjoining Maze Grill. I did, when I bumped into him at Atariya last year and got chatting to him. Apparently he’s a bit of a regular for the simple reason that the sushi is so fresh. And Atariya, being a stone’s throw away from his restaurants on Grosvenor Square, means it is all quite accessible when he’s taking a break.
I too have visited Atariya many times. It’s where I go when I’m in need of a sushi fix, and I’ve never been disappointed with its freshness, although the most stringent and rigorous of sushi connoisseurs might challenge the slight inconsistencies in the sizing of the sashimi pieces which occasionally seem to change from time to time. But this is a minor detail. It’s the freshness of the seafood that counts the most, and this is pretty assured. Furthermore, the vinegary sushi rice is authentic, with that required level of stickiness and sweetness.
Atariya offers a range of sashimi (for 3 pieces, from £1.50), sushi nigiri (from £1.20 each), sushi maki (sushi rolls, from £1.60 each). There are also chirashi sets from £6.50, and typically I will spend about £12-£15 during a visit. The fresh salmon sashimi at Atariya is always delectable (my personal fav), but the raw scallop nigiri is also a great joy, especially when you have it with a sliver of green shiso (also known as Japanese basil and resembling a cross between cilantro and parsley) on top which adds a beautifully aromatic and complex flavour to the scallop. I really recommend having the shiso, although sometimes you have to specifically request it. In the picture above, the scallop nigiri came with seaweed, although the staff changed it to shiso after I asked.
But there can occasionally be a trade off with having such reasonably priced fresh sushi, and that is the queues around lunchtimes can be quite long, especially as the sushi bar is small. The sushi is made to order which obviously takes time. Although there are some pre-packaged sushi sets that you can buy, this didn’t seem to prevent one fellow customer from complaining about having to wait 10 minutes to pay for a set of pre-packaged sushi during one lunchtime that I was there.
Atariya operates as a takeout sushi bar, although there are a small number of tables for eat-in customers. Occasionally you have to share these seats, but for fresh sushi it’s worth it.
Atariya Sushi Bar – Take away at:
20 James Street,
London W1U 1EH
Tel: +44 (0)20 7491 1178