Our little corner of suburbia, up in North Finchley, isn't as exciting a food destination as many London neighbourhoods but we have a few places that definitely deserve mention. Recently, we've made quite a few visits to Sushi Japan, a small unassuming restaurant towards the North end of our high street, opposite the local Sainsbury's.
Sushi Japan offer an a la carte menu, a £5.90 bento box lunch deal and a £13.80 "Eat as much as you like" deal, which is what we usually order.
We splash out on this for lunch when we fancy having a generous lunch and much lighter dinner. The proviso that you may spend only 1.5 hours maximum puts us off coming for dinner.
The restaurant also reserves the right to charge £5 per person for any food wastage. I think this is reasonable as some of the ingredients are expensive and wastage through over-ordering should be discouraged. We tend to order a few dishes to start and then a few more as and when we have eaten the previous ones.
Agedashi tofu is listed on the menu as fried tofu. I love this, as the tofu is silky soft inside with a light, crunchy exterior and the dashi broth is full of flavour, so much so that I like to save mine and mix it with some rice at the end.
The salmon sashimi set features 3 slices of sashimi, 3 pieces of nigiri and 3 sushi rolls. Simple and fresh, though not as neatly assembled as I've seen in some places.
The tamago (omelette) nigiri sushi features thin rectangular slices of cold omelette. I think I prefer the contrast, in texture and flavour, of seafood and rice to this egg and rice option. Also available are eel, surf clam, squid and octopus nigiri sushi, above right.
Pumpkin koroke are an incredible snack! Soft, smooth and sweet pumpkin filling with crunchy panko coating, deep fried and served piping hot. Very good indeed.
Chicken yakitori, skewers of small juicy chicken morsels, are tender and have the expected depth of flavour in the sauce.
The standard tempura set includes 3 prawns and 4 pieces of vegetables, usually aubergine, courgette, green pepper and carrot. Personally, I don't think pepper and carrot are great tempura ingredients. The batter is crisp. These aren't the best I've had but they're decent. I love the dipping sauce on this one too, and it also often gets mixed in with some rice later in the meal.
Gyoza come in chicken or vegetable versions. The chicken ones we choose have always been good, with well balanced flavours inside and a thin, crispy wrapper. Their shape isn't as neat as the ones expertly folded by Reiko at her Hashi Cooking school but it's certainly more elegant than my efforts!
The chicken teriyaki is soft and tender against the occasional crunch of carrot and red cabbage. The flavours are really punchy and we love this with a serving of soft, slightly sticky Japanese style fried rice.
The fried udon noodles are wonderful, with a sticky sauce that's gently sweet and sour and savoury. It may not sound exciting in the menu listing but it's a delicious dish!
Also on the menu are a range of nigiri that can be ordered individually; clam, octopus and prawn sashimi sets (along same lines as the salmon one above); a selection of sushi and uramaki inside-out rolls; edamame beans; miso soup; katsu, kara-age, curry and ramen soup.
All of which gives us an excuse to go back soon!