There are lots of sushi bars in London but you will find surprisingly few reviewed here. Well, to be honest I have visited quite a few but the majority have been disappointing. Poor quality ingredients or, even worse, good quality ingredients ruined. Meagre portions carelessly presented have been the rule rather than the exception.
I have been rather dragging my feet regarding Ichi Sushi and Sashimi Bar. I hate having to give the PR company, and indeed the chef, bad news. But, thank goodness, my worries were for once unfounded. Nothing disappoints at Ichi (pronounced eechi).
The location is remarkable and the view is a stunner. Take the Underground to Westminster and walk across the bridge. You will have the London Eye and County Hall in front, as well as your destination, The Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel. Ichi Sushi and Sashimi Bar is on the 1st floor next to a vibrant and popular cocktail bar.
This is a small restaurant with seating at the sushi bar for those who want a glimpse of Head Chef Okamoto Sadayuki working his slicing magic. Tables accommodate those who want a less lofty perch, and a lucky few might be able to grab the best table in the restaurant. This small vantage point offers views on what would have been behind you on your walk across Westminster Bridge. The tower of Big Ben (yes, dear tourist, it’s the bell that’s called Big Ben) and the Houses of Parliament. Their gothic facades are, in my opinion, at their best at night when they are bathed in golden light.
All sushi bars have Sake but Ichi makes an effort. They offer a changing menu of sakes that can be enjoyed at room temperature or warmed. There are usually a couple of grain spirits as well, that are interesting but best served with a mixer for a unique Japanese cocktail.
They have sakes here for those who love that particular and characteristic flavour, but I would suggest trying Shockikubai Migori for those who want a gentle introduction to this iconic beverage. It’s soft with a suspicion of fruit. The percentage shown next to the name of the sake on the menu isn’t an indication of its alcoholic content. Sake rice is polished before it is used in brewing; the percentage figure tells the buyer how much remains of the rice after the polishing process.
Scallops Jalapeño was our starter. Sliced scallops with Momiji (paprika) on top, with a delicate flavour of char from the grill – perfectly cooked, rather than being rubbery which is more often the result in less fastidious restaurants. These were garnished with mizuna (Japanese brassica, popular for stir-fries or garnish; it is also called Kyona or potherb mustard) served with lots of hot and spicy Jalapeño sauce. A beautiful presentation and a dish that makes the best of this shellfish.
Chef Okamoto offers all the usual suspects – California rolls, sushi rolls, hand rolls and miso soup – but I would set him apart for most other Japanese chefs: his attention to detail is admirable. Wasabi is traditional and ubiquitous in every Japanese restaurant. It can be purchased in powder form or in a paste made from the aforementioned powder; but this chef uses fresh wasabi. There are very few restaurants in London that go to the trouble of using the fresh root and it is rather different and well worth trying.
If you are unfamiliar with sushi and the like then order from the platter sections. We chose The Sushi Nigiri Platter and the Sashimi Platter and these both were showcases for the chef’s evident skill. The secret is simple – good knife skills partnered with an eye for aesthetics.
Desserts here are light and predictably attractive. My guest ordered the almond mousse. This had a topping of red beans that added texture and a hint of the East. A sweet and delicious end to a delightful meal.
Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar is one of the few Japanese restaurants in London to which I would be happy to return. Simple ingredients elevated to give the diner a memorable culinary experience …and don’t forget the view.
Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar
Park Plaza Westminster Bridge
Reservations: +44 (0)20 7620 7272
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018