I came upon this very affordable gem of a Japanese restaurant when I was out shopping with my daughter last Saturday. We had planned to go to an authentic little Japanese hidden behind a shopping arcade in Baker Street which our good friends Joe and Suzy (she’s Japanese) took us to last year but alas, they do not open on a Saturday lunch time!! We were crestfallen especially my daughter who adores sushi. Not just that, being a greedy but hungry growing teen, the shopping was too much for her, you know, holding shopping bags containing her own just bought clothes was too much hard work and she was beyond famished. When I suggested that we get back on the train to Piccadilly to find something else, the look she gave me, well it was like I had just stabbed her. So out came the phone and Google search looking for another Japanese nearby. I was disappointed too as I hate going somewhere on the spur of the moment and I had to rely on the reviews to make a judgement, not always reliable but since it was only five minutes away, we took the chance, we were not disappointed.
Not wanting to be laden with a heavy bag, I made the decision not to take my camera with me whilst shopping so I was going to rely on my mobile for photos at either of the Japanese we were going to be eating at and I have to say, I’m not really disappointed, I think they’re pretty good so I hope you get an idea of the food that we had. I won’t divulge anything about the Baker Street Japanese as I am hoping to go back with my daughter after I return from Paris so all will be revealed soon. With the help of Google maps, we were guided via Marylebone road to Marylebone High Street and then to Paddington Street which was positively buzzing with atmosphere, people shopping and the street was full of restaurants with outdoor seating and a really cool sounding market in the cobbled courtyard behind Marylebone Parish Church, Cabbages and Frocks which is open every Saturday from 11:00am to 5:00pm. It sells some really quirky knick knacks, trinkets, vintage designer goods, it’s well worth a visit, if I didn’t have a moody teenager on my hands, I would have popped in to have a quick look but I’ve decided to write a separate post about this fabulous looking and sounding market.
Also nearby, I was surprised to see a few Greek restaurants and being Greek myself, I was more observant of this so I took a little peek at the menu, definitely worth a visit next time. Also, the Hellenic Centre is nearby, another place I must check out another time. Literally a couple of minutes away is Ohisama, it’s very basic to look at, nothing special at all but inside sitting at a very small sushi bar were Japanese people enjoying all manner of Japanese food and that’s always a good sign. At the sushi bar, there are literally seats for about 6-7 people but there are more seats downstairs, we were lucky to be able to sit at the bar where behind are 3 sushi chefs hard at work preparing sushi, nigiri, sashimi and other raw Japanese delights, the main kitchen I assume is downstairs. Of course, Japanese isn’t just about raw fish and sushi, there is teriyaki, unagi (eel) donburi rice bowls, all manner of dumplings, noodles, miso and other soups and my favourite, tempura.
There were four dishes that we knew we wanted so with the help of the waitress, we ordered a mixed sushi platter, my daughter wanted extra, being a bit nuts about sushi, I happily obliged so she picked spicy tuna roll, we also had a selection of sashimi and of course mixed tempura, not knowing if I had ordered enough, the waitress recommended deep fried squid which I thought was quite unusual as it’s mainly a Mediterranean dish. I wasn’t brave enough to order a small carafe of sake to have warm so stuck to green tea and water. My daughter was so happy to be sitting down, eagerly anticipating her Japanese lunch, I’m sure she only comes shopping for the food, you’d think it would be for the clothes! Wagamama her usual favourite has been firmly demoted, she now has her sights set on much finer Japanese dining but that could be my fault for introducing her to the distinguished restaurants Sake no Hana and Aqua Kyoto. Nonetheless, though not fine dining, Ohisama serve from what I can see good, authentic traditional Japanese food and that will more than suffice today.
Japanese Fried Calamari with unusual dips.
The first dish to arrive was the fried calamari which was seasoned in an unusual slightly spicy coating with a similarly odd tasting mayonnaise type dip which was surprisingly quite tasty and of course the customary soy sauce. I’m used to having calamari the Greek and Italian way with a plain and simple salt/pepper seasoned coating with lots of lemon on the side an aioli dip but the Japanese way was so yummy. Next we have the tempura, I absolutely adore tempura so my eyes lit up when I saw a big dish full of this crispy Japanese delight. It’s called Assorted Tempura Set so there were two king prawns, and the rest was an assortment of tempura vegetables, an offering of red pepper, courgette, broccoli, shitake mushrooms and a leaf! It’s proper name is Perilla Frutescens but is also referred to as Sisho leaf or Perila leaf. It grows in the Korean Peninsula, Japan, China and India. It’s an edible leaf hence the tempura and it’s benefits are vast and used in Chinese medicine mainly to help lower cholesterol, it’s rich in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, sounds good to me, there was only one on the plate and I ate it, definitely very nice, like eating a crispy salad leaf.
The crispy light assorted Tempura with leaf sitting on top!
Next to arrive is my daughter’s favourite, the biggest platter of Sushi.
What we ordered is the Nami Standard Shushi at £19 which encompassed a selection of nigiri, salmon and tuna rolls, we swapped the salmon as Zoë has an allergy to salmon in favour of tuna rolls.
Spicy Tuna Rolls
We had a total of 12 tuna rolls since we ordered 6 of the spicy kind but that’s ok, the spicy tuna were an enticing and interesting alternative. The nigiri were akami which is a specific part of the tuna, yellowfin tuna, Tai which is a type of Japanese Sea Bream, sushi ebi which is basically prawn nigiri, an octopus nigiri called tako nigiri, which Zoë absolutely loved and finally a large seaweed covered roll full of Ikura which are bright orange spheres of salmon roe. That really takes some getting used to because essentially it’s like biting into cod liver oil capsules, remember those? It’s not a very pleasant taste, a memory of childhood I don’t want to remember but in a weird sadistic way, I quite liked it as much as I loathed the taste of cod liver oil as a child, I have visions of my mum pinching my nose as she poured this putrid poison down my throat, now I am a grown up, I like to believe rather vainly that I can put up with nasty liquids and foods in the pathetic hope that it might delay aging and suchlike.
The Ikura roll full of orange spheres of salmon roe. (cod liver oil capsules as I now like to call them)
We were munching through our Japanese very happily adding far too much wasabi and feeling that not only were our noses on fire, our heads were about to explode, why do we always make this mistake? Nevertheless, we were feeling so happy and quite smug that we’d found this place just as our last course was arriving, this was a plate of another favourite of mine, sashimi (raw fish). I had chosen tuna and sea bass but wished I had picked octopus, yellow tail or turbot as I felt we had far too much tuna already, yellowtail is a type of tuna but it’s far more superior. Still, there was no complaining, it was just sublime, how can raw fish just melt in your mouth but it does, that’s how delicate and super fresh this fish was.
Tuna and Sea Bass Sashimi and the Sisho Leaf which is edible.
Sadly our lunch was coming to an end, it was surprisingly very appetising and absolutely divine, I can’t fault anything we ate, it was all delicious. Although the restaurant is very basic to look at, please don’t let that put you off, when you see people native to the cuisine happily munching away, you know you’ve chosen wisely. It really is a quick lunch stop, a fantastic little discovery nestled in-between Marylebone and Paddington’s’ fancy eateries, it’s all about good, honest authentic Japanese in humble surroundings.
Our lunch cost £67 including service. You can read more on the market Cabbages & Frocks by clicking here.
39 Paddington Street
020 7487 5840