I have been exploring London’s Chinatown over the past weeks and it’s been an unexpected pleasure. Although I have had meals there in the past they were few and far between, and they were more in the line of ‘any port in a storm’ than a planned epicurean outing.
Chinatown is growing into a creditable dining neighbourhood, with restaurants offering Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Korean dishes. One can now find regional Chinese specialities, and every style of cuisine from high-end fine dining to casual snacking opportunities.
Suki offers Thai dishes, Dim Sum and other Chinese dishes and I did find that rather alarming. How could a restaurant offer good quality food from such a diverse culinary spectrum? Yes, it’s all Asian but we wouldn’t consider Greek food to be the same as Swedish even though they are both European.
This restaurant looks traditionally Japanese with some of those low tables with cushions and a well under the table to hang your legs. I am a woman of a ‘certain age’ and I was relieved to be offered a regular table that allowed me to enjoy my meal with my dignity intact. Suki is all very cosy with muted colours and dark wood, and offers seating for couples as well as small groups.
We made our focus the eponymous suki, which is a Thai hotpot or steamboat, but we were offered sushi by way of a starter. I wasn’t expecting anything outstanding. A good typical platter would have been just fine, but I can honestly say that Suki has some of the best sushi I have tasted in months. I love Japanese sushi and it’s always been fresh, delicious and beautiful in those smart Japanese restaurants; delicate and artistically arranged and almost too attractive to eat.
The Suki version is all of the above but it has the edge. The rolls here are substantial and reminded one of why sushi was so popular in the first place. None of those asparagus-thin rounds – think more like mouth-watering logs. If you are a sushi aficionado then you will want to try these.
But we were at Suki for, well, suki. Each table has a hotplate on which a sizable metal bowl is placed. We had two different stocks and the pan was divided, allowing each diner to dip into either a spicy and chilli-laden broth or a light and flavourful meat stock.
It’s a convivial style of dining and rather like an Asian fondue in principle. Dunking food and cooking it is casual dining at its best. It’s just well-seasoned soup, after all, so there is no worry about being in close contact with a cauldron of boiling oil. It’s healthy as there is hardly any fat in the simmering pot or in the light and fresh ingredients that will soon be poaching. Your choice will arrive on a large platter like a tasty tapestry.
You will pick your favourite ingredients to cook, and it only takes moments. There are vegetarian stocks and one could just have vegetables and/or seafood. In fact this is the ideal dining option for a mixed group of vegetarians and meat eaters. Vegetables and fish are traditionally cooked in the lighter stock but I do enjoy the spicy broth here so I tend to cook all my chosen ingredients in that. If you want a mild heat then the chef will oblige with a less strident chilli broth.
The restaurant offers, amongst other ingredients, lean beef, a selection of shellfish (the large prawns cooked in moments will likely be the best you have ever eaten) and tender white sea-bass fillets, along with Asian mushrooms and greens. This isn’t a meal to be hurried: it’s more an event than a feeding opportunity. You’ll be provided with an array of condiments and soy sauce to make up your own dipping sauce: spicy chilli paste, barbecue sauce, peanut paste and dried fried garlic, which could become addictive. Dip some meat in the piquant stock and leave for just a second or two. Remove when done to your liking and dip in your personally designed sauce.
You might not have tried a suki hotpot before, but don’t be put off – the staff here are engaging and enthusiastic, and ready to help you choose your stocks and ingredients, and will even assist you making up a vibrant dip.
Suki was fun and flexible. I can recommend it for the quality and variety of dishes. There is indeed something for everybody. Plenty if you love heat, lots if you want exotic but healthy, and that sushi is memorable.
39 Gerrard St
London W1D 5QD
Phone: 020 7287 7695
Asian restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018