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Sushi Tetsu, Clerkenwell

June 7, 2015

After eighty phone calls to Sushi Tetsu, I finally was able to score a reservation for dinner last Saturday. A few days in advance, we were asked to confirm our reservation and to choose what menu we wanted – a la carte or omakase. We requested the omakase course which included 12 nigiri, 1 hand roll, and tamago (sweet egg omelet) to finish (£80).

From the beginning, we could tell it was going to be a special experience. Sushi Tetsu is run by a husband-and-wife team, Harumi and Toru Takahashi, and it’s clear they’ve dedicated their hearts and souls to this tiny oasis in Clerkenwell. As soon as we got through the door, Harumi-san greeted us by name, which was such a welcoming way to start the meal. The theme of warmth and friendliness, like going to your family friend’s home, was a recurrent one throughout our time at Sushi Tetsu.

When you order omakase, you are leaving it up to the chef to choose the best selection. If we had ordered this selection a la carte, the price would have been roughly the same as the omakase course. If you do go, I highly recommend you choose the omakase. The procession of nigiri, the types of fish that accompany the nigiri – this is all carefully and deliberately decided by Toru-san. Roughly, more delicate flavours were served at the start of the meal, progressing to oilier and richer types of fish towards the end. I did not take any photographs during the meal – it’s an intimate space, with only seating for 7 at the counter, and I felt it would have been awkward to start snapping away in full view of everyone.

Toru-san has a way of bringing out the best flavour of the fish without overwhelming it with other additions. You are encouraged to eat it with your hands, and no seasonings are required. What is wonderful about Sushi Tetsu is that Toru-san always gets his seasoning spot-on. Each fish has its own entourage of seasoning, if you will; this included lime zest, citrus juice, various herbs, soy sauce, spice blends, and a few other sauces that peppered the sushi counter. Watching Toru-san make his creations was like watching a ballet dancer, dipping into pots and bowls and plates. The list that follows is the rough sequence of the nigiri, each formed one by one and placed carefully onto a beautiful ceramic plate in front of you.

Sea bass
Soy-marinated maguro
Torched scallop
Torched jumbo shrimp
Snow crab
Seared o-toro
Seared mackerel
Salmon roe gunkan maki
Minced fatty tuna with spring onions and pickled radish hand roll

I can remember the taste of all of the individual nigiri with incredible clarity, but there were a few ones that clearly stood out as my favourites. The torched scallop, jumbo shrimp, and o-toro (fatty tuna) were gorgeous in their simplicity, just beautiful big pieces of fish draped over rice, having been passed through a raging blue flame. I don’t know what magic Toru-san did to the fish, but each piece seemed to be a hyperbole of itself. I really enjoy seared fish because the aroma just fills the room and adds yet another layer of sensation. I was also a fan of the shari, the rice component of the nigiri. It was well seasoned with a good balance of vinegar and salt, and just warm enough – body temperature – from being gently moulded.

For drinks, we chose a beautiful sake, Gasanryu Gokugetsu, which was served in a lovely glass that looked more suited for champagne than sake. I am far from a sake expert, but this was the best sake I’ve ever tasted. Extremely fruity, all peaches and cream, and also quite floral, with hints of lychee. Very sweet. All I can say is, it tasted like it was made from shimmering gold, rainbows, and sparkles, and it has a price to match. But I will be seeking this out as soon as possible.

We ended with a stunning piece of tamago (Japanese sweet egg omelet). I’ve never had tamago that actually tasted like a sponge cake before, but my mind was blown. And it was a fantastic way to end the meal. This definitely won’t be my last time at Sushi Tetsu. Keep an eye out on their Twitter @SushiTetsuUK as they tweet about last-minute cancellations. This experience has made me all the more excited for our upcoming trip to Japan!

Sushi Tetsu

12 Jerusalem Passage
London EC1V 4JP

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