Monthly Archives: July 2013

Sushi Tetsu, London (2nd visit – June)

P1140269Chef: Toru Takahashi   Website:  Cuisine: Sushi

Following a memorable meal on my first visit to Sushi Tetsu a couple of months ago, I was desperate to go there one last time before my imminent departure to Melbourne. My track record in getting a reservation here had been very poor but that was about to change. I jumped at the news of a last minute cancellation for a Friday lunch and here I was, yet again, immersing myself with more amazing sushi. On this occasion I decided I wanted a bit more freedom to choose from the menu so I opted for the “moon” sushi set (£28) and added four additional sushi’s. Some of the sushi that day was even better than that on my first visit, proving my point that the quality of fish can drastically affect the final product.

P1140435I was the last person to arrive for the lunch service and things were already in full swing. As always the greeting was very warm and I felt very much at ease despite dining on my own. I spent most of my time chatting with Harumi-san getting some tips on great Japanese restaurants in the Barcelona and the Asia Pacific region.

P1140429First course for lunch was Sea bass (鱸). The sweetness of the fish was brought out with the touch of home made soy sauce concoction and the green shiso leaf tucked underneath dispelled the fishiness, only leaving the delicious flavour of the fish.

P1140432Next up was Razor clam (まて貝). The quality of the razor clam was superior to the one I tried on my first visit, evidenced by the additional sweetness oozing out from each bite. I also thought Takahashi-san had really nailed the amount of lemon juice and sea salt to complement the dish.

P1140434I was excited to see Amberjack (カンパチ) which I had not previously tried at Sushi tetsu. Takahashi-san had imported this luxurious fish fresh from Japan where it was currently in season (summer). Compared to its cousin of the yellow tail, it was much softer and less oily. It was served again with the right amount of wasab and soy sauce.

P1140436The Prawn (海老) was similar to my previous visit with a slight hint of smokiness from the blow torch and zestiness from the lemon juice.

P1140437The Salmon (鮪) was similarly equally as good as the previous visit, served again with slight incisions to plump up the texture of this oily fish. I still reckon it is one of the most understated fish in Japan within the world of sushi. If only more places served them to this quality!

P1140441I was very glad to see that Akami (赤身) was on the menu again. For those of you who read my previous entry on Sushi Tetsu, I had a tragic moment wolfing down this delicious morsel before realising that I had forgotten to take a photo. Not this time. I could never live this down if it happened again. The cold cut of the akami only had a thin coating of soy sauce, releasing bursts of flavours on each bite. Delicious, refreshing and simple. The tuna Takahashi-san sourced was consistently of high quality.

P1140442Another improved dish of the Mackerel (鯖) which contained sansho (Sichuan pepper) giving the fish an earthy flavour. Along with the natural juiciness of the fish with a tanginess from a hint of lemon, it was delicious. To finish off, su-konbu (seaweed marinated in vinegar) was wrapped around it to give it additional texture and remove the fishy aftertaste of this delicate fish. I was in heaven. I should have ordered another one…

P1140444It was at this point when I had the chance to deviate from the set menu and try something different. Following Takahashi-san’s recommendation I opted first for the Scallop (帆立貝). I was amazed to see the size of the scallop he had carefully laid out. They were hand dived scallops from Scotland which were meaty on their own but Takahashi-san had added some incisions at an angle to further enhance that plump texture. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a scallop sushi this good. It was very sweet and fragrant, just the way a scallop should be.

P1140447Next up was my childhood favourite of Salmon roe (イクラ). Takahashi-san had taken the salt away from the salmon roe which had been used to preserve it. He then marinated it in a sauce made from a carefully balanced mixture of mirin and soy sauce. He carefully spooned a few out to place on top of the rice and grated some lime zest. I savoured this moment and tasted each bursting bubble in my mouth as they oozed out the intense and delicious sticky fishy juice inside, perfectly balanced with the lime zest. It was so good my cheeks just swelled up and I couldn’t stop smiling.

P1140439 After savouring my salmon roe sushi which seemed to take an eternity (and I started getting some weird looks from other diners), I saw Takahashi-san preparing my hosomaki… but surely this couldn’t be the end? I still had one more sushi! Seeing how nervous I looked, he reassured me that he had not forgotten my last sushi but that this special hosomaki needed to be consumed before the last sushi due to the richness of the last dish.

P1140449 During the course of the meal, Takahashi-san found out that this was my last meal in London and offered me a special leaving gift of the Toro no Oshinko (とろ沢庵巻). Essentially it was the fattiest part of the tuna (o-toro) that had been minced with spring onion and then wrapped with sesame seed and shinko (pickled radish). It was crunchy and delicious, and I was very touched. I did however wish I had ordered the nigiri of o-toro as well but luckily the next course more than made up for my mistake.

P1140451I saw the group of four diners next to me order Eel (鰻) earlier on and there was no way I would be leaving the restaurant having caught my olfactory attention with its sweet and seductive smell. The eel was blow torched before the sticky sweet soy based kabayaki (蒲焼) sauce was generously pasted over it with a pinch of sansho. The art of preparing an eel kabayaki requires years of experience as it is technically quite difficult. It involves gutting, de-boning, butterflying and filleting the delicate eel, followed by skewering and dipping it into the kabayaki sauce before broiling it on a grill at a temperature which needs to be precise and controlled. I asked Takahashi-san how he had prepared the eel but he only smiled and told me it was a secret… d’oh!

P1140454Alas, all good things must come to an end (again) and in this case with a Japanese sweet omlette (厚焼き玉子). At first sight it looked like an ordinary puffed up omlette but this one contained prawns, sea bass paste and yam. It had an interesting flavour and texture not too dissimilar to that of datemaki (伊達巻き) which contains similar ingredients and is prepared typically for Japanese New Years as part of the Osechi cuisine.

My second visit to Sushi Tetsu proved my point that the quality of fish can dramatically affect the end product of the sushi itself. A couple of sushi’s I had on the second visit were noticeably better despite the same level of care and preparation by Takahashi-san. The only difference was the fish. Don’t get me wrong, the quality on both occasion were very good but on one particular day it was even better. I was slightly disappointed that he didn’t have any sea urchin that day but I guess that demonstrated that Takahashi-san only handled ingredients that were in season and superior in quality that day. He teased me that he was getting some the following day but that was just cruel. I was thinking of just turning up next day but then again I didn’t want to inconvenience Harumi-san. Nevertheless, I couldn’t have asked for a better send off from London. I swear I will be back again…

Hedone, London

P1140365Chef: Mikael Jonsson   Website:   Cuisine: Modern French

Mikael Jonsson is a man on a mission. A man with an obsession for sourcing top quality ingredients. After quitting his job as a lawyer, the influential food blogger behind Gastroville took a long journey around the United Kingdom and neighbouring countries to discover the best ingredients in europe before realising his dream in the restaurant, Hedone. How appropriate then to name his restaurant after his quest for maximising pleasure to the palate. His motto is simple – perfect dishes can only be created by using the best ingredients handled with minimal interference. P1140368It is an impressive feat that despite only openning the restaurant in July 2011 Jonsson has already achieved a prestigious Michelin star to his name and jumped straight on to the San Pellegrino 50 Best Restaurant List at a very respectable 70th position. Fortunately, unlike many of the eye-wateringly expensive restaurants on that list that end up being for “special occasion only”, Jonsson has concentrated on attracting a more stable clientele. Somewhere that diners could return frequently; offering a reasonably priced three course options that changes everyday. Jonsson was happy to tell me that there was even one guy who had dined more than 130 times to date! The chef had even awarded him a plaque on the highstool my friend was sitting on. Now that’s an impressive record for anyone!

P1140370This was my first meal here. Therefore, I opted for his ultimate carte blanche menu coming in at £85 for lunch (£95 for dinner). Sure, it’s not a cheap menu but when you consider the quality of ingredients incorporated in the dishes you soon realise that it’s a bloody good deal. The only down side in the whole affair was the location of the restaurant. Chiswick, on the complete oposite side of London from where I was staying, is situated on the district line which is notorious for being unreliable, particularly on weekends. My visit was no exception; planned engineering works all weekend. Thank you TFL. Taxi it was then.

P1140374My friend and I were the first ones to arrive at the restaurant so we decided to occupy the kitchen counter seats, a definite recommendation if you want to see all the action in the kitchen. It didn’t take long for our amuse bouches to arrive after taking our orders. Starting from the left was a Smoked haddock tartlet with lemon rind, followed by an intensley cheesy Parmesan sablé biscuit with a morello cherry jelly and finally a Foie gras marinated in quince & balsamic vinegar sandwiched between sourdough crisps with sweet spices. A lovely progression in strength of flavours across the three morsels. Simple but elegant, and most importantly tasty.

P1140377I had heard countless praises sung by many bloggers and food critics alike on the quality of the house made bread at Hedone. Jonsson had spent some time with Alex Croquet in France in the art of bread making. Sure enough, the sourdough bread with unpasteurised butter was faultless and possibly the best I’ve ever had. It had the perfect crust, alluring smell and airy texture. Good bread is the most satisfying of all foods, and when served with butter I would go as far as sayng it is a feast on its own. Only on my fourth slice did my friend have to intervene and point out the obvious, we haven’t even started the meal yet. Reluctantly I put the bread down… slowly.

P1140380First course on the menu were Poached Cornish rock oysters, granny smith, shallots. The one on the right which had been poached for 45 mins and smoked lightly in juniper berries was sublime. The meaty oyster had soaked up the beautiful smokiness and dissolved gradually in my mouth with little effort. This was one of my favourite oyster dish that was almost on par with Richard Ekkebus’ one at Amber. What a great start!

P1140383Up next was a new course that was being served for the first time – Dorset crab sandwich. A buckwheat crisp was garnished with Dorset white crab meat, confit marinda tomato, fresh dill and a transparent tomato essence jelly. It had a lovely crispy texture and the sweetness from the crab meat was complemented by the lovely fresh tomato flavour from the jelly. The last hit of flavour was the slightly bitter dill that provided a good contrast to the sweetness, finishing off with a refreshing note. Very good indeed.

P1140387Simplicity at its best was the Foie gras and cepes. The raw cepes of the season sandwiched the delicious foie gras and a dollop of apricot jam was served on the side. The mushroom was very meaty and the apricot jam added a sweet fragrance that cut through the rich foie gras. The seasoning, just of a pinch of salt, was spot on. This was without a shadow of a doubt one of the best dish that lunch.

P1140391Photos could not do any justice to the Umami flan which, although one dimensional in texture, was bursting with flavour. The flan, which I believe had been made with dashi or something similar, was topped with a nori (seaweed) coulis. For me it resembled closer to a “chawanmushi” rather than a flan but I was impressed with the depth of flavour and tongue coating savouriness that made me salivate the more I ate.

P1140393After wolfing down another morsel of that delicious bread (I blame the umami flan!), a succulent dish of the Loire Valley green asparagus, Dorset wild garlic, pistachio mayonnaise was presented. There was a sweet nuttiness in the eggwhite mayonnaise that went ever so well with the juicy asparagus and garlic stalk.

P1140396The Scottish langoustine tail, crustaceans jus, herbs and flowers was definitely fresh as I saw a little green insect crawling on my langoustine. I assume the little fella had come from the box containing the herbs and flowers. I didn’t mind him and flicked him aside. At least I knew the garnishes were fresh! The sweet langoustine was served at the right temperature, warm but not scorching hot, and perfectly accompanied by the shellfish bouillon which gave it that depth of the “flavour of the sea”.

P1140400First of the fish courses was the Dorset Wild turbot, red orach, spinach, fresh almonds.
The rainbow like sheen on the turbot fillet was due to the natural gelatin from the fish and reflected yet again on the quality of the fish. The white spinach sauce mixed well with the red orach jus reduction which has a more pleasant and less bitter taste than spinach. I did however find several small bits of bones in the fish which was slightly disappointing.

P1140401 I did find it rather odd to have another fish fillet course but I admit I was glad to have tried the Dorset line caught wild seabass, artichokes, piattoni beans, confit Marinda tomato as it was better than the turbot in my opinion. The smokiness from the tomato pulp purée was appetising to say the least. I know I sound like a broken record but the quality of this seabass was sensational and I never knew artichokes worked so well with it, both in a purée form and in its entirety.

P1140404I was surprised to find a pasta course (Liquid ravioli, roscott onion consommé, mild horseradish) given Jonsson’s cuisine otherwise was undeniably French. The salty smoked pancetta swam harmoniously in the sweet onion consommé and creamy parmesan cheese, with a slight kick from the horseradish emulsion.

P1140407It was at this point that I found Jonsson looking around to see what he was going to serve next. He approached us and explained that he had just received some top quality sweetbread which he occasionally got from his only trusted supplier in Paris. With a unanimous nod from both of us he quickly prepared the Veal sweetbread, baby carrot, basil, jerusalem artichoke. The earthy morrels were clean with no trace of sand unlike my last experience at Les Cols. Phew! It was a sweet dish with contrasting textures from the crunchy carrot, meaty morrels and the creamy sweetbreads. Unfortunately for me, the latter was too thick, with the wrong ratio of the caramelised surface to the creamy texture. I do like sweetbreads but I found it rather too much after a few mouthfuls.

P1140413I recently had a phenomenal pigeon dish at Azurmendi and the next course of the Roasted leg and breast squab pigeon, beetroot five ways came pretty close. The beetroot came smoked, pickeled, puréed, in a coulis and also incorporated in the offal sauce. The remarkable part about this dish was that the offal sauce was in complete harmony with the pigeon and by no means dominated the palate, no easy feat! Jonsson later explained that the pigeon had been strangled (I hoped humanely) to retain the blood to keep the meat juicy. It certainly was that and more. Delicious.

P1140417Alright, I admit it. You’re probably wondering how I managed to eat so much after helping myself to five slices of bread? The truth was that I was stuffed and therefore glad to see our palate cleanser of Granite, hibiscus, and campari jelly before the final two segments of our dessert. The palate cleanser was refreshing and the combination of mint, thyme, tarragon, parsley and cordiander made it very zingy yet retaining a right amount of sweetness. It was as if someone had smacked my jaws and brought me back to life. I was back in the game. Bring on the desserts!

P1140420The Braeburn apple Millefeuille, caramel ice cream was my favourite dish of the day, and this was quite a statement. Given the consistently high quality dishes that kept on coming out of the kitchen that lunch, I didn’t expect the dessert to be such a knock out course. The pastry was light and flakey, reflecting the masterful skills of the pastry chef. The amount of the crème patissiere was spot on, marrying really well with the acidity from the green apple. The trifecta to complete this dish was a milky caramel ice cream which was not too sweet. Take a bit of each element and imagine the flavours coming altogether in one go – bang! Delicious.

P1140410We were finally down to our last course and we could see them being prepared right in front of us.

P1140423And here it was. Warm chocolate, powdered raspberry, passion fruit jelly, madagascar vanilla ice cream. It consisted of a warm gooey chocolate mousse sealed with a crispy chocolate disc that had been sprinkled with powdered dried raspberry. The passion fruit jelly hidden inside was a clever and vital component to cut through the rich chocolate goodness. To finish off a quenelle of Madagascar vanilla ice cream was carefully laid on top.

P1140366From my one meal at Hedone it was obvious that Mikael Jonssons cooking style was to let the ingredients speak for themselves. What sets him apart from other chefs who make similar claims was his ability in maximising pleasure by drawing out and showcasing the key qualities of his superb ingredients. He is undoubtedly not just an ingredient nut but also a chef, and a very good one at that. His deceptively simple looking dishes were some of the best I’ve had in London and his bread perhaps in the world. Despite the slight hiccough with the turbot and the insect, there’s no doubt that this was one of my most memorable meals in London. If Hedone was located on my high street I would undoubtedly be there every week but for now I would just need to relive my experience through my memory and photographs.