It was a torrentially rainy evening (typical British ‘summer’) when my guest and I went to Tsuru Sushi. My guest arrived five minutes after me, in sopping wet motorbike gear. Just the sort of scene-making clientele restaurants dread I’ve no doubt. However, the charming waitress opened up a nearby cupboard and swept all off the sodden clothing into it before we could say katsu curry.
This waitress and I had been chatting before my guest arrived. She had offered me some sake, and asked whether I would prefer it hot or cold. Having always had sake hot, and having assumed that this was the correct way to drink it, I confidently opted for hot. It was instantly clear, however, that this was the wrong answer.
A mini sake master-class duly followed:
The reason sake is usually served hot is because most of the stuff that gets imported to England is the rubbish they don’t want in Japan. Tsuru – who serve only the best – stock excellent sake that should be drunk cold. When my guest arrived and also wanted his sake hot I smugly relayed my superior, if recently acquired knowledge. We both enjoyed our sake cold.
Tsuru’s menu is reassuringly concise. Just one page long, it offers everything you would expect to see on the menu of a Japanese restaurant without being overwhelming. We had been keen to try out Tsuru after having spoken to one of the owners, Emma Reynolds, about how Tsuru source their fish.
Of the fish dishes we tried, the tempura prawns were unbeatable. Well-cooked tempura always has an air of illusion about it, seeming to be free of grease when it has just come out of a vat of boiling oil. This was just how Tsuru’s tempura prawns came, and the prawns inside were perfect. The seared scallops were perfect too. The care Tsuru put into sourcing their fish really shows; their fish is full of high quality flavour.
We took a particular interest in the tuna hand rolls. Sushi restaurateurs are divided over tuna. Some still use the highly endangered blue fin tuna that is a traditional part of many sushi dishes. Some, like Tsuru, have taken a stand against the use of blue fin. Aware that I probably looked like an ill-mannered sushi ignoramus (as well as a sake ignoramus), I surreptitiously dissected my tuna hand roll to check out the goods inside. The tuna meat was rich in colour, was very firm, and was cut into quite sizable slices rather than the trimmings that end up in cheap, poor-quality sushi. My guest, lucky enough to have eaten at Nobu twice, and to be of the informed opinion that Nobu is “overrated”, thought that Trusu’s tuna was top notch.
If you are not a fish fan however, and if the very concept of raw fish has you running a mile, then fear not. Tsuru have plenty of dishes on their menu that carnivores and veggies will enjoy. Fabulous dumplings, crunchy chicken kara-age, and their delicious Katsu curry is made with “8-hour” sauce. It’s not often that eight hours of TLC go into a dish that can be purchased for as little as £6.10, but Tsuru are magical like that.
We finished our meal with mochi - ice-cream in a soft shell of glutinous rice. Glutinosity may not be a quality you often look for in food, but actually, the contrast between the jelly, and the cold ice-cream within was very pleasant. Almost like eating a little ice-cream truffle. Plus, the sesame ice-cream was a revelation and something I’d be keen to have again.
Tsuru make Japanese food very accessible, with reasonably priced food that is excellent quality. Look no further for excellent sushi in London and a really fun and friendly dining experience. Tsuru is located in the heart of the city near Liverpool Street, and there is another branch near London Bridge. (They also run classes in sushi rolling and origami!) For more information, visit the Tsuru website.
**Reviewed by:** Emily Boyd