(If you don't believe that "I love your sushi" is a song lyric then listen to this and get ready to sing along: "Teriyaki makes me happy!")
Until three years ago I was a naïve, inexperienced sushi virgin and rightly so based on two principles I had longed maintained; I disliked fish and I had a phobia of rice (I was convinced it was a distant cousin of maggots). Then I met a physically fit young man who surprised me by asking me out on a date and thanks to trying to be sexily flippant about where we went (“totally don’t mind” hair swish, pout, bat of eye lashes) we ended up in a sushi restaurant. He looking divine with muscles on muscles, I looked less divine as I broke out into a cold sweat imagining the maggots crawling up my legs and the raw (RAW!) fish swimming around in my stomach. An hour later I realised sushi wasn’t that bad; it was certainly worth risking for this guy’s company.
Fast forward three years and I forget that guy’s full name, but I can say that I have developed a genuine love for sushi. Admittedly I rarely go outside of my tuna and salmon comfort zones but Kyoto in SoHo now knows NewMan and I by our first names and I have to fight the urge to have sushi every day for lunch or I will empty my bank balance faster than a sushi fisherman’s net.
Dinner at Sagano, a Japanese restaurant on Askew Road, has confirmed my love affair with sushi and Japanese food is set to continue. What’s more, it has come home to Shepherd’s Bush.
With only five tables in the restaurant this is an intimate dining experience and when NewMan and I got there around 9pm on a Friday night there were just three other diners. However the restaurant would appear to do a roaring trade in delivery (who knew teryiaki made Shepherd’s Bush so happy!?). Despite the coming and going of a busy delivery driver, the atmosphere was peaceful and calm. The staff are attentive but only when necessary. The service was prompt and the food beautifully presented. The quality of the food was of an exceptionally high standard. At least I was assured of this by NewMan who has eaten in Japan on many occasions not to mention at some of the best Japanese restaurants in London and other cities (yeah, he was one of those annoying sushi-whores of the early noughties).
To satisfy our ever-present sushi desires we ordered salmon nigri, crunchy spicy tuna & avocado roll (which is a sushi roll sprinkled with tempura flakes - a recommendation by a lovely twitter friend NelsMels) and the tekka don (my personally favourite sushi dish).
We also ordered the vegetable tempura deluxe (which was precisely that) and a dish I'd never heard of before, nasu dengaku, which is oven baked aubergine topped with miso paste. The paste is an unusual taste (but nothing like miso soup funnily enough) but it's not dissimilar in flavour to satay. The aubergine was momentously melt-in-my-mouth delicious and is certainly the closest thing to Japanese soul food I've ever tasted.
Yet it was the sushi that won our hearts that night. It was the perfect rice to fish ratio, tasted worryingly fresh and was served at the perfect temperature. This is important; too cold and you question how long it was frozen for, too warm and you question if it was ever frozen. I wish we'd ordered more.
I thoroughly recommend you head towards Askew Road or phone up for delivery* very soon, though I warn you, you may end up fighting over the last few scraps of (very yummy, moist and maggot free) rice like NewMan and I did. NewMan washed his meal down with a beer while I sipped some sparkling water (it was the weekend of the half marathon) bringing our bill to just over £35.00 with service included. I have paid more for food half as good.
On a side note and I can't really pinpoint why, but it was quite a strange experience going to a Japanese restaurant so soon after the devastating earthquake, tsunami and during the developing nuclear power plant dramas. However I'm actually glad we did as the staff were clearly very keen to welcome us and of course keep their business flourishing. Over the last few weeks I have read about some truly wonderful fund-raising for Japan events and wanted to take this opportunity to tell you about one in particular which you should certainly consider supporting if (like me) you love fashion or more specifically "free fashion". Fashion designer Simeon Farrar is sending out a limited edition "Kate Mouse" T-Shirts to everyone who donates £20.00 to Save the Children's Japan Emergency Appeal. Not that we should need much more motivation to donate, but it's a great way to raise awareness and funds. Find out more information here.
* Sagano deliver for free within a 2 mile radius on orders over £10.00.