Just roll with it
For most people sushi either means nigiri or maki rolls, but there’s another type – temaki sushi. Here, a large sheet of nori seaweed is wrapped into a cone and then filled with fish, rice and other ingredients. Although the Lensman isn’t a fan of temaki sushi, I’ll happily gobble up raw fish in its many myriad forms. Temaki usually just shows up on Japanese restaurant menus alongside nigiri and maki, but the newly opened Yoobi eschews those other types of sushi and sells only temaki rolls (although it does also serve sashimi too).
Since Yoobi is located just around the corner from Ten Ten Tei, my favourite Japanese restaurant in London so far, I thought I’d compare the temaki rolls from both of them. The results were illuminating.
Despite the large glossy white serving counter, the interior of Yoobi feels oddly unfinished due to the seating area being made largely out of what looks like unfinished, unadorned wood. Order at the counter and the food is brought to your table.
There’s a distinct South American feel to many of the temaki at Yoobi, which isn’t as bizarre as it first sounds given the history of Japanese emigration to the Spanish-speaking New World. Sadly, the quality of the temaki I had was insultingly bad. The citrus salmon temaki is filled with salmon, orange-flavoured tobiko (flying fish roe), avocado, chives, rice and yuzu-flavoured mayo. The bitty pieces of salmon were heavily detextured though, while the creaminess of the avocado, mayo and salmon was blotted out by the overpowering citrus flavour of the orange tobiko.
The tuna tartare roll wasn’t much better. The tuna, like the salmon above, suffered from being heavily diced and sliced making it hard to appreciate the soft, meaty texture of the fish. It was also hard making out the alleged presence of the guacamole, chives, capers, lime and jalapeños due to the incredibly salty soy sauce dressing. Both rolls were quite small too.
For some reason that I can no longer recall, I decided to order the ‘seasonal’ miso soup rather than the more traditional plain variety. The seasonal miso varies with the season, but the version I had was more like a vegetable soup since it was flecked with carrots, broccoli, spinach and edamame. The cloudy soup itself was mildly spiced and had a distinct fishy taste to it. Not bad, but as far as I can tell it doesn’t have a huge amount in common with the miso soup we’re all familiar with.
The mildly fizzy guarana soft drink tasted like liquid bubble gum which definitely won’t appeal to everyone.
Ten Ten Tei
I’ve written at length about the nigiri sushi and katsu curries at Ten Ten Tei before, but this was the first time I had tried their temaki sushi. I ordered the temaki lunch bento, which cost approximately the same amount as my meal at Yoobi.
There are four temaki rolls in total and each one is noticeably larger than a Yoobi temaki. Although more traditional than the fusion attempts at Yoobi, they’re far tastier. The salmon temaki is creamy and buttery, while the relative heaviness of the prawn tempura temaki is balanced out by the addition of fresh, buttery salmon. The tuna used in the tuna temaki roll, while soft and fresh, isn’t the most flavoursome tuna I’ve had but it’s still far better than its counterpart at Yoobi. The only weak link is the predictable dullness of the fish stick roll.
Also included in the bento is a serving of agedashi tofu, although here Ten Ten Tei is slipping. The thin, slightly crispy crust that I had loved on previous visits was now far too soft and squidgy, almost melting into the tofu itself, and the soy sauce lacks the delicate balance of sweetness and saltiness it used to have. At least the tofu itself is still firm and silky.
No bento would be complete with miso soup and Ten Ten Tei’s version remains simple and effective – a little cloudy with a gentle, lip smacking tanginess.
There’s no contest – the temaki at Ten Ten Tei not only taste far better, but (when taken as part of the lunchtime bento) is also far more filling and better value too. The newbies at Yoobi should be ashamed of themselves for serving up such overpriced slop.
Address: 38 Lexington Street, London W1F 0LL
Phone: 020 7287 9442
Opening Hours: Monday-Saturday 09.00-21.00.
Reservations: not taken.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £12 approx.
Name: Ten Ten Tei
Address: 56 Brewer Street, London, W1F 9TJ
Phone: 020 7287 1738
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday. Lunch noon-15.00, dinner 18.00-22.00 (last orders 30 minutes before closing).
Total cost for one person (free green tea is served at lunchtimes): £12 approx.