I’ve had plenty of amazing meals in London but rarely is my mind truly blown as it was by Yashin Ocean House at lunch last weekend. The Japanese restaurant is located in a rather easy to miss building with limited signage in the middle of Old Brompton Road. There’s a terrace outside which looks like a lovely spot for summer drinking…
And inside the presence of a horse lamp is quite random but it does make an interesting feature…
With exposed brickwork, concrete walls and brown-leather chairs, there’s a shabby chic vibe in this neighbourhood restaurant.
But to be honest, the decor isn’t really important here as the food takes centre stage with a turquoise sushi counter in the middle of the restaurant. With the two head chef patrons from Japan, the standards are high, knives are kept pristine and only the very best produce is used. Yasuhiro Mineno is an ex-head chef at Ubon by Nobu and Shinya Ikeda previously chef at Yumi restaurant in London.
Our waiter is originally from Poland, but working in Yashin Ocean House has given him huge enthusiasm for Japanese food and he explained each dish with knowledge and passion. Yashin Ocean House serves only fish (perfect for me!) and focuses on a ‘head to tail’ dining concept so that every single part of the fish is used including the roe, flesh and bones!
Our first dish was marinated grouper served in a Himalayan salt bowl. The fish is marinated in lime, garlic, chilli, oil and coriander, like a ceviche, and placed on top of a plastic sheet. The plastic is whisked away, and we were instructed to mix the ingredients, wait thirty seconds and then eat the concoction quickly to allow the exact right amount of salt to permeate the mixture. The acidity of the marinade paired with the salt and the mild taste of the grouper gave the perfect balance of flavour that was heaven for the palate.
Did you know that pairing tea with food can provide a new dimension to the flavour much like wine? The subtle flavours of green tea pair well with seafood which is why the waiter suggested we started with a cup rather than diving straight into wine. I don’t usually like green tea, but I was surprised that I enjoyed this one. It’s actually made with rice and the flavour is sweeter and nuttier than other green teas I’ve tried and this one has been imported straight from Japan.
The restaurant’s signature dish really exemplified the key concept of Yashin Ocean House, that no part of the fish should go to waste, and we were presented with mackerel bones served with crisp vegetables and fish skin. The mackerel skeleton is soaked in salt water and sake before being deep fried whole. Now I understand deep-fried fish bones may not be for everyone but personally, I loved the sweet, smokey flavour and the delicate crisp textures. Even if you’re squeamish, I’d urge you to give it a go.
Alongside we were served the restaurant’s other signature dish, tuna sashimi with truffle infused ponzu jelly. The heady scent of the truffle hit us as soon as the plate was set down, whetting our appetite for this delicate dish. Tuna is my favourite fish to eat sashimi style, and the fatty, buttery taste was an ideal match with the texture of the jelly. The ponzu provided the touch of necessary acidity and once again a perfect harmony of flavours was created.
The sommelier explained that white wine was the perfect match for sashimi and he presented two varieties from his native Japan for us to try. I recently tried Koshu wine for the first time during our food and wine pairing meal at Restaurant Nathan Outlaw, so I was already slightly familiar with it. Indeed, the very delicate and clean taste was the perfect match for the light flavour of the sashimi.
Restaurant founder, Shinya Ikeda noticed in his early days as a sushi chef that his guests were often drowning sashimi and sushi with soy sauce and incorrectly dipping the rice into the sauce instead of the fish. The result is an overpowering flavour of soy; now I must admit I love a good helping of soy so I’m rather guilty of this but at Yashin Ocean House the chef prevents this happening by brushing the fish with just the right amount of soy and topping it with a particular accompaniment.
But first a bit of theatre…
We really enjoyed the smoky spectacle from the dry ice on the sashimi island and I couldn’t wait to sample the tasty morsels.
That delicious tuna with ponzu jelly was on the platter along with salmon, sea bream, mackerel and prawns and each had a different topping, sauce or jelly designed to bring out the very best of the flavour. Of course, if you’re crazy for soy sauce, they won’t deprive you here but I really enjoyed tasting the sashimi how the chef intended it.
The sommelier selected a more hearty red wine from Sicily to go with our next course.
The tempura paradise prawn is served head-to-tail and the waiter suggested we first bite the head of the prawn to really enjoy the sweet flavours of the protein and as there is less flavour in the tail, the serving suggestion is to drizzle a little dashi broth on top to enhance it. At Yashin Ocean House they use New Caledonian prawns, known to be the very best of their kind as the water there is so clean and clear. The fish itself was so sweet and juicy and the batter was incredibly light.
Next up a selection of eel cooked on the charcoal grill and flavoured with a sweet soy sauce. There was a choice of two accompaniments and with our taste for spicy food, we preferred the wasabi paired with the eel.
Next we tried two different sakes paired with the sushi. Now sake is one of those things that I really try to like but I just find it too strong but it was definitely interesting to sample the 2004 brew which was very dry. Actually the restaurant has a huge selection of sake and if you pop downstairs you’ll see the bottle on bottle waiting to be drunk.
Finally the Omakase or chef’s selection of sushi.
Now regular reader will know I’m currently gearing up to visit Japan for the first time, in fact it’s four weeks until I go! And I’ve been reading up on food traditions, now forget your California rolls, this is more like how sushi is usually served in Japan:
Nigri zushi or fish on a very small amount of rice. We loved the tuna with wasabi but most interesting was the yellow tail topped with sun-dried tomato and parmesan. Sushi with Italian flair.
We also ate a delicious portion of maki rolls, all salmon and some with carrot, some with avocado. One thing I love about Japanese food is that you rarely leave a meal feeling so ridiculously full that you need to be rolled home. There’s that great light feeling of being satisfied but not stuffed…and of course with room for dessert and coffee.
A small selection of ice-creams and sorbets make for a sufficient dessert selection and we both chose a yogurt ice-cream with a tasty sour flavour complimented by the sweeter raspberry sorbet.
I barely need to sum up this post by saying how much I loved Yashin Ocean House, I was totally and utterly blown away by the quality and the attention to detail that went into the food. The dishes are inventive, whilst honouring tradition and every flavour, ingredient and preparation is considered. It’s not a place that’s incredibly well-known in London but it should be.
PIN FOR LATER:
Yashin Ocean House
117 – 119 Old Brompton Road
020 7373 3990
Our meal was complimentary but my thoughts are independent. Mr S is also independent and he loved it too!