I’m not a particularly spontaneous person, I must admit to a life mapped out using spreadsheets, calendars and iPhone apps.
You may call me one of life’s planners.
This is particularly the case when it comes to restaurants. I’ve got a list of places I want to go and will usually select one carefully in advance of the occasion and look forward to ticking it off my bucket list.
But on a Saturday night in September, Mr S and I *spontaneously* decided we’d have a night out. Living in SW1, we have a wealth of restaurants on our door step and I’d read some reviews of UNI
, a little Nikkei sushi place in Belgravia. Well, spontaneity apparently pays off because we absolutely loved the place and we were thrilled it was so close by.
So when I was invited back for a cocktail and sushi masterclass, followed by a tasting lunch, I knew I was in for a treat!
Good things come in small packages and UNI is a very bijou restaurant. The ground floor is a bar where you can sit on the counter and watch the sushi masters at work while you eat their delicious creations.
The other bloggers arrived, and as I was familiar with all their blogs it was great to meet them in person. Enjoying the day with me were:
Monica from the Travel Hack
, who has rather excitingly just announced her pregnancy and so was avoiding alcoholic cocktails and raw fish.
And the lovely Ashleigh from Quintessentially Me
, who I’ve met a few times now and is so much fun to have around.
We lined up at the bar to watch the cocktail demonstrations commence. First up…a chilli mojito made by Rafael, the charming bar manager.
Adding coconut, rum, lime and fresh mint into a cocktail shaker and muddling it up with ice and sugar as mixologist do….
The finished product was set in front of us. The cocktail was sweet, refreshing and sooooo drinkable… the longer you left it, the spicier it became as the chilli infused into the drink.
Next up was the Peruvian classic, a Pisco Sour.
The cocktail actually originated in Lima and the Pisco Sour contains Peruvian Pisco, lemon juice, syrup, ice and egg white. I love Pisco Sours and this one was delicious, a clean taste with the citrus and sugar creating a perfect balance.
Meanwhile a rather different frightening feat of balance was going on…
Before Rafael prepared the final drink, a UNI martini…
A word of warning…Peruvians like their drinks potent!!
Next up we were led downstairs for our sushi making session.
We donned aprons and caps and sat in a row with our pre-prepared ingredients laid out in front of us.
A plate of sushi rice, yellowtail tuna, salmon, a prawn, crab, avocado and cucumber.UNI’s sous chef, Oscar, was our teacher for the day.
We each selected a sheet of Nori seaweed which we placed on top of the rolling mat and flattered out the sushi rice on top. The rice was was very sticky and I had to keep dipping my hands in the water bowl, in fact my bowl ended up more full of rice than water…
After spreading caviar on top the rice we flipped the whole thing over and added the filling before using the matt to roll it into a sausage.
The chef than cut up our long sushi rolls and I was left with some rather presentable inside out rolls.
I was really pleased with the way mine turned out but the chef told me my rice was too thick. Well I love sushi rice, so I was ok with that!!
Photo courtesy of UNI
Next up Oscar demonstrated how to make nigiri. For this the sushi mat was no longer required as the rice base is formed in the palm of your hand.
Photo courtesy of UNI
And then topped with a piece of fish. I have to admit I was pretty rubbish at this…as with many things in life, I blame being left-handed…
Here’s my finished plate of sushi. That’s the good thing about sushi…it usually looks pretty good even if it isn’t made perfectly!
As well as sushi, there is a strong Peruvian influence on the menu at UNI. I’ve mentioned before my love of Nikkei cuisine, a fusion of Japanese and Peruvian flavours and techniques, and I’m so glad we now have a such a place just minutes from my flat. Nikkei cuisine was invented by Japanese immigrants in Peru around 100 years ago when the Japanese paired their appreciate for fresh seafood with the citrus flavours and local ingredients in Peru.
Oscar next showed how to make a ceviche.
Ceviche has been part of the Peruvian diet since the time of the Incas, the Spanish introduced the idea of using the acid of limes to ‘cook’ the raw fish and the Japanese introduced ingredients such as ginger to enhance the flavour.
Oscar demonstrated a Nikkei ceviche that was new to UNI menu. It contained sea bass, mango, coriander, and chilli.
The most important ingredient in the ceviche is Tiger’s Milk which is a citrus based marinade used to cure the fish. All the bloggers concurred the dish was excellent, the combination of the fresh fish and fruit with the acid of the lime was a total taste sensation.
Next it was time to sample some of the other fabulous dishes on the menu:
As I mentioned, UNI is pretty tiny and the downstairs only seats 34 people. One option is to sit in one of the rather cosy and intimate vaults which is lovely and private.
We began by nibbling on some edamame beans both salty and spicy.
First up was a platter of tacos, there were three different varieties including salmon tartare with a delicious creamy miso, crab, and scallop with an additional citrusy juice.
The Kaiso seaweed salad with goma dressing was absolutely incredible! Now I know it doesn’t look much but we all acknowledged, how can something so light and healthy taste so good? I think it’s partly in the dressing, made with sesame, garlic, soy and sugar…so simple but incredibly tasty.
We were given another portion of the delicious ceviche from earlier, as well as an octopus one to try.
Then a platter of some of the signature sushi and sashimi that UNI offers.
Rock shrimp tempura is always a hit and the creamy spicy sauce with ponzu dressing gave it that citrussy kick.
I’m often asked, ‘How can you like sushi so much, all that raw fish.’ Personally I love raw fish but I know it’s not for everyone, but there was plenty of food that would have satisfied people who prefer their food cooked! As Monica was pregnant she avoided everything completely raw but was still able to have a fantastic meal.
Fried tofu is also a great option for vegetarians on the UNI menu.
As was a delicious miso aubergine, always one of my favourite Japanese options.
From the grilled section of the menu was sea bass with a delicious crunchy topping.
And finally for the savouries, Wagyu beef with mushrooms and asparagus. Apologies for the cliche but the beef was absolutely melt in the mouth. I’m not a big meat eater but in Japanese cookery it’s just light as a feather, only slightly seared it was so juicy and just totally perfect.
By now we were very full and so for dessert we just had an assortment of mochi to nibble on. If you’ve never had mochi before it’s basically ice cream surrounded with a coating of pounded sticky rice. Sounds kind of weird but it’s very tasty!
I had a totally fantastic time at UNI; the bloggers I met were absolutely lovely and the food just delicious. I still can’t believe I’ve got such a fabulous restaurant just on my door step.
The next dates for the cocktail and sushi masterclasses are being finalised but contact the restaurant for details. The cost is £35.
18a Ebury Street
020 7730 9267