Cabbage Thoran at Rasa


It’s getting a little embarrassing ordering two of the same dish. No more so than when it’s a cabbage side dish; especially one this unremarkable.

“In the best 100 dishes? I can’t see why”

Time Out’s write up of this dish emphasises how amazing it is that a cabbage dish could be superb. Given that Rachael and I both love cabbage (such a great vegetable – yes, you can overcook it, but it’s also so easy to cook deliciously), we both expected to enjoy it. But the fact is, this dish would only blow you away if you didn’t generally like cabbage and were expecting limp, over-boiled, wet leaves.

Yes, this was crunchy and flavourful. Yes, spices added depth to the already pleasant cabbage. And yes, it wasn’t a bad accompaniment. But in the best 100 dishes? I can’t see why.

Pretty much the only thing missing from the Time Out review was a line saying something like ‘Who knew vegetarian Indian food could be delicious?’. Er, everyone.

99/100 best London dishes

Heaven and Earth at Hix


Black pudding isn’t for everyone. I know many people are squeamish about it, but I’ve learnt to like the stuff, though I doubt it’ll ever be my first choice.

“…this could be the best  blood-based dish I’ve eaten”

Hix has reinvented this bloody sausage, making an aromatic, soft, almost gritty ball, in a filmy skin that collapsed into a somewhat off-putting cobweb. Rather than being dense and tough, you couldn’t slice and fry this sausage. Its grainy form crumbles into dollops of not-too-irony, meaty flavour.

The “earth” half of the pairing is potatoes, somewhere between crushed spuds and mash. The pudding sits on top of this, with a drizzling of sweet appley, oniony sauce.

I can’t honestly say I’ll rush back to have this again (c.f. black pudding never going to be my favourite thing), but this could be the best blood-based dish I’ve eaten!

30/100 best dishes in London

Nigiri Sushi at Yashin Sushi


I love sushi. I can understand the squeamishness about eating raw fish, but I can’t understand how anybody who tries good sushi can fail to be converted by the taste.

“Yashin’s Nigiri Sushi was firmly in this uber-league”

I’ll happily eat mediocre sushi around London, but I was surprised when in New York a few years back at just how genuinely nasty the cheapest offering you can get there is, when New Yorkers are generally quite exacting when it comes to food. On the other hand, a visit to Nobu-Next-Door during the same trip showed me some of the best Japanese food that the States has to offer. I had hoped that it would be good, but not so good that I’d be left wanting to go back. I’m happy (just about) to spend that much on a meal once, but I try to avoid getting a taste for it. Unfortunately, of course, it really was that good, and left me with an understanding of just how great sushi can be (though without ruining the less exquisite usual standard for me).

Yashin’s Nigiri Sushi was firmly in this uber-league. (You’ll want to order one of the ‘omakase’ – again, Time Out lets us down by failing to tell us exactly what we’re supposed to be ordering!) We got eight pieces of chef-selected fish-of-the-day, neatly laid on cuboids of rice, plus their ‘roll-of-the-day’. Each fish was matched with a different topping, from wasabi foam to ponzu jelly to strawberry and basil. If that sounds vague, I’m afraid it’s because, in spite of the waiter’s careful explanation of every last detail, I was left not-much-the-wiser after a barrage of quick-fire information.

“Yashin’s ‘tag-line’ is the enigmatic ‘Without Soy Sauce'”

I keep finding myself using this word in reviews, and not necessarily because I consider it the highest accolade, but the fish was meltingly soft, with flavours so subtle and lacking in ‘fishiness’ that it almost made sense pairing it with a sliver of strawberry. I say almost because, to be frank, I’m not convinced that the hint of strawberry (if it really was detectable) added a great deal.

That might sound like a major criticism, but the truth is that sushi and sashimi (rightly) should be all-about-the-fish, and this fish was so good I didn’t mind the lack of distraction. In fact, Yashin’s ‘tag-line’ is the enigmatic ‘Without Soy Sauce’. Enigmatic in that they didn’t make any attempt to explain this dictum, which I presume is the same belief that you wouldn’t cover your Michelin-starred French dinner in a snowstorm of salt, so why drown sushi in soy? If that was the reason, it went unsaid.

Breaking one of our golden rules – that portion size counts and therefore Rachael and I should have the full dish each – between the three of us we decided to share this, plus a sashimi platter, ‘miso cappucino’, and some prawn tempura roll. All of these were spectacular. “Why did you do it?”, I hear you cry. Well, at £30 for eight pieces of nigiri and four pieces of maki, it was easily pushing the bounds of good sense.

We ended up ordering another omakase (and a wagyu-beef roll, the one disappointing dish of the night), so we got a fairly good selection each. We had considered ordering the £60 omakase, but, slightly strangely, this would have bought us just fifteen pieces of nigiri, and no roll, a strange ‘buying-in-bulk’ non-discount. And here we get to the heart of the matter, this, and the soy-sauce ban, and the over-detailed explanations that left me bewildered rather than enlightened all reeked of a pretentiousness that food of this quality doesn’t need. Both Rachael and I came away feeling a little underwhelmed by what should have been a spectacular dish, which is a real shame. Defeat plucked from the fish-filled jaws of victory!

56/100 of London’s best dishes