I lived in Japan for almost 2 years and living there has developed my love of Japanese food. I like variety when it comes to food and the Japanese cuisine really caters to that. The portions are reasonable — not too small, not too large and the selection is wide and varied. The concept is very similar to Spanish tapas or Chinese dimsum.
When I first arrived in London, I craved for Japanese food. I tried several restaurants and was left disappointed that the food was not close to the authentic Japanese food I was craving for. I did not realise that most of the popular Asian food outlets serve more of an Asian fusion or Westernised Asian cuisine.
I find that Japanese food outside Japan tend to be expensive so over the years, I have always been on the lookout for good Japanese restaurants that are affordable. I am quite pleased to have discovered these places that I am about to share with you.
Unit E, 43/A, Commercial Street, London E1 6BD
This place was recommended to me by my Japanese hairdresser. It is the kind of place you would not really know about unless someone’s told you about it or you live in the area. The menu is not extensive but they serve the usual Japanese fare most people would be familiar with — sushi, maki (rolls), yakisoba, and katsu curry. I especially like their mackerel and unagi (eel) nigiri. An order of nigiri comes in 2 pieces and per order could range from £3 to £4.50. I also normally order the prawn tempura urumaki as I am partial to prawn tempura in general. An urumaki is a type of roll where the filling is in the center, encased by the nori (seaweed), and the outer layer is rice.
We’ve tried the chicken and salmon katsu curry and both are decent but I prefer the chicken katsu curry over the salmon version. The chicken katsu curry is priced at £9.25.
The restaurant itself is quite small — estimated capacity is around 30 people but we’ve been there a few times and we always managed to get seats without having to wait.
The nearest tube is Aldgate East alternatively you can walk from Liverpool Street station through Spitalfields Market to get to Commercial Street.
159 Whitecross Street, London EC1Y 8JL
I came across Pham Sushi while buying lunch at Whitecross Market. I decided to try it out on one occasion and was not disappointed.
I tried the sushi set (7 pcs. of nigiri, 3 pcs. of spicy tuna roll and 5pcs. of spicy salmon roll) at £13. It was more than enough for lunch. Their menu is more varied compared to Sakana Sushi. They offer bento boxes and soba noodle soup. Depending on what you order, the bill can add up quite easily. The portions are quite decent and from my experience, you don’t need to order a lot of food. Along with the sushi set, we also ordered a salmon bento and prawn tempura roll. Including drinks, we ended up paying around £40 for 2 people.
The restaurant on Whitecross Street is small with an estimated capacity of around 30-35 people. And because it is on Whitecross Street, which is a busy area, you probably need to make a reservation if you plan to visit.
They recently opened a new place at The Heron. I have not been to this branch but it is more centrally located than Whitecross branch. The nearest tube to the Whitecross outlet is Barbican but if you want to try the one at The Heron, Moorgate would be the closest station.
16 Old Compton Street, London W1D 4TL
I’ve been to Eat Tokyo Soho and the first thing that struck me was the queue outside the restaurant. If you decide to go there without a reservation during peak hours (12nn – 1pm/ 6pm – 9pm), be prepared to queue for at least 15 to 30 minutes.
Their menu is more extensive than either Sakana or Pham Sushi and the restaurant itself is bigger. They can easily fit around 50 people on a busy period.
I generally prefer the quality of food in the first two restaurants I’ve listed but Eat Tokyo is still very good to make it to my top 3. The sushi tend to be pricier as you order per piece and they offer sushi sets which start at £14 (the price is slightly cheaper if you go at lunch time). The portions are quite big. We tried the Katsu Jyu — which is essentially rice topped with slices of breaded pork with eggs and onion, seasoned with sweet soy sauce. We also ordered unagi roll and a couple of nigiri. For 3 people, we paid around £60 for food and drinks.
As it is centrally located — the nearest tube is Tottenham Court Road station, it is convenient to drop by after shopping or on your way to the theatre.
I hope you get the chance to try any of these places. Let me know if you have other recommendations by using the contact form.