With a trio of hugely popular outposts in New York, the critically-acclaimed Sushi on Jones has now arrived in London; located on Goods Way in King’s Cross, this omakase bar brings the best of the traditional Japanese experience to N1. Omakase translates literally as 'I leave it up to you'; basically, this is the ultimate Japanese tasting menu.
Sushi on Jones breaks down the barriers to most omakase experiences by making their offering both quick and affordable. Now officially in full swing post-lockdown, Sushi on Jones is intimate and playful, featuring counter seating where a handful of in-demand stools showcase the action.
Tucked away upstairs in a pretty, cosy little food court, Sushi on Jones does seem a world away from the rush and bustle of King's Cross.
The counter seats are fabulous, as you can see each course being made in front of you; sushi literally doesn't get any more freshly-made than this. Chef Mattia Aranini works with a quiet precision, his respect for the produce and the traditions evident; it is almost hypnotic and fascinating to watch.
The chef's fascination with sushi started when he was a teenager. Aranini's mother was a chef in a seafood restaurant and he was introduced to Asian fish and seafood cookery by one of herJapanese colleagues. Since moving to London he has focused on sushi, and omakase in particular, taking a traditional stance but with the odd Italian twist - lemon zest, home made salt; tiny individual touches that enhance the natural flavours of his ingredients.
Generally speaking an omakase progresses from light and delicate flavours to bolder ones, building in intensity. We started with botan ebi, prawns lightly basted with lemon juice, soy sauce and sea salt. These were so sweet and delicate, the natural flavours allowed to sing; restraint is important in all forms of cooking but perhaps particularly so with seafood and with sushi.
Hirame: halibut, lime zest and soy sauce. This had a firm, almost chewy texture and a lovely sweetness, perfectly offset by the light sprinkling of lime zest - one of chef Aranini's personal twists.
Hamachi; Yellowtail tuna, aged for 4 days and topped with summer truffle. I wasn't at all sure this would work, but it did - beautifully.
Aburi kurodai, seared Cornish black bream, aged for 2 days and topped with fiery minced ginger. We each also had a generous tangle of pickled ginger to refresh the palate between courses, made in-house by the chef.
Hotate: bay scallops topped with a charcoal sea salt; the salt is also made in-house, by roasting down heavily-salted vegetables until they charcoal, then blending. The attention to detail and thought that has gone into each course is seriously impressive; nothing is over-styled or showy, it is all flavour-focused.
Ikura or salmon roe, with an in-house marinade of yuzu juice, soy sauce and mirin, wrapped in nori. This was so clever; the yuzu provided a light citrussy kick and the salty earthiness of the nori essential for flavour, not just presentation.
Sake: wild salmon topped with smoked sea salt. This classic nigiri will be familiar from your take-away sushi pack, but be prepared for a surprise. The gentle, almost buttery, taste and the fabulously soft texture are not only down to respectful preparation by the chef but also the freshness and quality of the produce.
Shime saba: mackerel, pickled in-house and simply allowed to shine. Mackerel is one of my favourites when done well, and this was absolutely delicious.
Hon-maguro: lean bluefin tuna with its characteristic deep red colour, firm and full of flavour, and fatty tuna topped with a square of pickled daikon which just melted in the mouth.
For the penultimate course, strips of beautifully marbled high grade wagyu beef were blowtorched and topped with a simple smear of freshly-grated wasabi. Most 'wasabi' in European sushi restaurants is actually just horseradish dyed green but my first indication that this was going to be a quality experience was the sight of Chef Aranini preparing fresh wasabi as the guests gathered.
Unagi: freshwater eel, not in the usual teriyaki sauce but a sweet soy sauce reduction - almost caramelised and a fabulous savoury-sweet finish to the omakase. This was an exceptional dish amongst very stiff competition; like all of the preceding dishes the quality and texture was outstanding, the flavour intense yet so carefully balanced by the sweetness of the sauce.
Delivered in under an hour and priced at a ridiculously reasonable £48 per person, this 12-course tasting menu delivers a real omakase experience without the price tag. I recommend it without hesitation; this has to be one of London's best bargains right now. One word of warning though; you will never be able to look at take-away sushi the same way again.
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Deputy Editor, Chatting Food London: Amanda David
Freelance food writer, copywriter and blogger Amanda David is dedicated to sharing news about London’s restaurants, bars, events and general wonderfulness. It’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it.
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