Friday, June 24, 2011

Umu of London: Upper-Crust Sushi

At Yashin, a diner sitting next to me at the sushi bar had told me about an exquisite Japanese restaurant called Umu, admonishing of its high price of about £100 for a tasting menu, but extolling the very tastes of such a menu. Intrigued, I decided to make it one of my next sushi stops.

Umu is one of those exclusive, tucked-away sushi gems lost in the labyrinth of the big city. Its dimly lit, understated entrance can be found at the end of a small alleyway, which hardly seems congruous to the elegantly dressed, suit-and-tie crowd found inside; its interior reminds me of the plushy lounge of a mansion, its members belonging to an overprivileged secret sushi society.

Thankfully, for those unwilling to fork over a fortune for a feast, the restaurant serves their nigiri a la carte, and the styles are divided into two categories: Modern and Classic Sushi.

Ranging from £4.50 to £12 per piece, Umu's unusual "modern" nigiri was delicate yet daring—there was the one with "brown crab, courgette, pine nuts, garlic, red ichimi pepper"; the one featuring "prawn, mango, egg sauce in harumaki cup"; the smoked eel sushi with Oscietra caviar (this was the priciest one because of the roe).

It was fancy, enchanting nigiri that was simultaneously scrumptious. And so I ordered more, more! The second plate showcased eel with garlic and parsley twist, Homard ebi with shiso sauce and plum sauce, seared tuna with Maitake mushroom and kinome (tiny leaves of the ash tree which have a subtle mint flavor), langoustine with kanimiso and little purple leaves known as shiso cress.

These were followed by another harumaki cup-based delight, this one with foie gras, cauliflower puree and winter mushrooms; razor clam sushi with salted butter and endive; and red mullet nigiri with pesto and dried grey mullet eggs.

I chose my final pieces of nigiri from the Classic Sushi category, just to sample some basic fresh fish free of wild flavor fusions. The Salmon Aburi with with grated Daikon radish and Hiramasa (described as flat amberjack) with lime zest and ume were simple yet still satisfying in savoriness.

14-16 Bruton Place
London W1J 6LX, United Kingdom
020 7499 8881

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