I’m a great fan of Japanese food, as you may be able to tell from the number of times Japanese cuisine has appeared on The Picky Glutton, if only because I can stuff my fat face without feeling too guilty about it. London has a large array of Japanese restaurants ranging from those that are merely OK to the deliciously delightful. It therefore takes a lot for yet another Japanese eatery to stand out.
Tsunami has branches in Clapham and Fitzrovia and I wandered on down to the Fitzrovia branch for lunch one afternoon. Unlike the minimalist decor a lot of Japanese restaurants have, Tsunami is much more eye-catching thanks to its neon-pastel interior.
It looks great, but the management has decided to pack in as many tables as possible into the small, roughly L-shaped dining room. This means that some tables go right up to the door, so if you’re unlucky enough to be seated there on a cold winter’s day, be prepared for occasional gusts of bitterly cold air as people come and go.
The ambience also leave something to be desired. The close proximity of the tables means you often overhear neighbouring conversations. Combined with the iffy background music (a mix of Europop and sub-par house during my most recent visit), this gives Tsunami the vibe of a club rather than a fine dining establishment. The service could also do with a kick in the pants – at these prices I don’t expect to be kept waiting for a menu or to have to ask for a clean plate in between courses.
The food itself is a mix of traditional and much more contemporary dishes. I started off with the agedashi tofu, a dish I’ve had at many other places, and was surprised by the large portion. Unfortunately the tofu was far too soft lacking the firm yet silky texture agedashi tofu should have. Even worse, what should have been a slightly crispy exterior was a soggy mess thanks to the overly large puddle of dashi and soy sauce at the bottom of the bowl. Poor.
The easily impressed (such as The Bastard) would no doubt have been wowed by the superficially elaborate presentation of the grilled scallops served with masago (a type of fish roe) in a creamy, spicy sauce flambéed with whisky. The taste also left much to be desired. The scallops had lost of much their firmness and were starting to become a little mushy. The creamy sauce was lightly spiced and had a tomato-ish taste to it. It was almost bisque-like and was not at all bad in its own right, but it didn’t go well with the scallops – it would have been a better match with a meatier seafood, such as prawns or lobster.
Looks great, but the taste? Not so much.
Grilled eel nigiri was given a twist with a topping of foie gras. Despite my better judgement, I ordered it and awaited its arrival. The eel itself was delicious – succulent, a bit salty, slightly crispy on one side and laid on a roll of small grain rice with just the right level of firmness. The foie gras, duck not goose unfortunately, turned out to be an unnecessary gimmick as I expected. Rather than being smooth and rich with a layered flavour, it was almost gristly and had an almost salty finish to it.
Save yourself a bit of money and just get the plain grilled eel nigiri (unagi).
A close up of an unagi and foie gras nigiri.
Tsnuami was turning out to be a shattering disappointment, but my lunch was rescued by the startlingly fresh fish of the sashimi platter. The succulent, shivering sweet shrimp, the salty mackerel and the citrus/ponzu-brushed yellowtail and sea bass deserve particular praise.
If you stick to the sashimi or the sushi at Tsunami then you will have a fine meal, despite the less-than perfect service and the love-it 0r hate-it ambience. The more inventive dishes are a disappointment though, and the badly misjudged agedashi tofu is especially worrying. The litany of flaws might be forgivable at a lower price, but at just over £50 a head including service, but excluding drinks, I’d expect a much higher level of deftness both in the kitchen and in the front of the house.
Address: 93 Charlotte Street, London, W1T 4PY
Phone: 020 7637 0050
Opening Hours: Monday – Friday Lunch 12:00 – 15:00; Dinner 17:30 – 23:30
Closed Sundays and Bank Holidays; lunch not served on Saturday.
Total cost for one person including free tap water: £50 approx.