I would eat sushi off a shit stained floor. I would. And, I wager, so would lots of sushi lovers. Or at least I hope they would.
What often does it for me is the juxtaposition of elegant, delicately handcrafted sushi served in sinister surroundings. A basement with a dodgy lightbulb. The smell of rice vinegar, wasabi and…oooh…urine (?) That’s what I’m about.
I wanna sit down at a sushi bar, look up and see an old codger like Jiro giving me a death stare. Dribbling from concentration. I wanna look left and see takeaway boxes piled high, a filthy post it note on a till saying 10p Soy Sauce. I wanna jump out my (salmon) skin at the sight of a wood mouse scurrying across the floor to link his brother through a hole in the cornice. Those mice eat like kings you know.
Sushi should be sold in dark basements on narrow alleyways, just like porn vids. The less pomp and circumstance the better.
“Is that a sushi bar?” I like to ask, my face up against a blacked out window covered in japanese tipex. The unlikely sushi joint is a treat. In Canada, I was taken to a sushi restaurant that looked JUST like a used car showroom in desperate need of a facelift. I nearly beat my chest tarzan-style when I stepped inside to find hoards of people lapping up ‘as much as you like’ sushi, in stoic silence. I’ve been to Zuma. I’ve been to Sushi Samba. I’ve dropped my wallet outside Nobu. Those places didn’t give me half as much satisfaction as the butterz ones.
But then, I suppose there is the odd exception. Recently, I got quite a pleasant shock on a spontaneous visit to Wabi, a sushi restaurant with a corporate exterior on Kingsway.
I’ve always found Holborn a bit meh for food. It’s got a shite load of Costas and Cafe Neros, both great for a ham and cheese panini, a couple of Wasabis i.e. the discerning sushi lover’s NIGHTMARE, and absolute last resort at times. (Always feel free to tweet me if you wanna have a bitch about Wasabi. So much space. So expensive. So ..weird.)
But Wabi, even with its smart suits, slightly more expensive sushi and distinct lack of dinge, has put Holborn on the map for me. Why? Because the food is out of this world.
It’s not as posh as Sushi Samba – which is fun but being mega flush does help. Nor Zuma – where Cheryl goes for her Sushi and what my eyes DO at the prices(!)
It’s Wabi – a sleekly lit dining room, with a slightly wtf? departure lounge vibe serving beautiful contemporary affordable creations by ex Nobu chef Scott Hallsworth. The pork dumpling sandwich-y things in the top pic KILLED me. Dishes like foie gras martini with umeshu jelly, nashi and black vinegar, and tea-smoked duck tataki with burnt ginger amazu sauce. They will kill you. Check out these rubbish pics of some of the delights I tried, and do let me know what you think if you visit Wabi after reading this. So, yeah, I like my sushi a bit scary. But for the more faint hearted who like cleaner, more sensible surroundings and say stuff like..”is it ALL raw??” Wabi is your guy.
36-38 Kingsway, WC2B 6EY
020 7400 5400
Lunch served noon-3pm daily. Dinner served 6-11pm Mon-Sat; 6-10pm Sun