Sake in a jam jar
The bar upstairs
Handrolls and sashimi
Me Love Sushi started out as a takeaway joint but recently opened a sit down restaurant/bar in Swiss Cottage, next door to Hampstead Theatre. It is one of six London restaurants taking part in the Cherry Blossom Festival sponsored by sake brewers Akashi-Tai. (Another, Tsuru, I've written about here and here)
For £14.99 per person you are offered a sake-based cocktail and three dishes: a sashimi platter, a handroll and a set of Uramaki rolls. The cocktail looked impressive, crowned by cucumber, it included raspberries muddled with Grey Goose vodka, Akashi-Tai Sochu, pomegranate and guava juice. It was the sort of cocktail you would glug down on a hot summer’s day but less so in wind-swept Swiss Cottage. The charming maitre d’ said they were considering adding other choices of drink.
The sashimi platter consisted of very fresh fish: salmon, yellow-tail, sea bass, and tuna - sashimi-grade fish purchased daily from Billingsgate Market. For the handrolls you had a choice of salmon and avocado or vegetable. While it is positive that Me love Sushi is catering for vegetarians in two of the three dishes, perhaps they might replace the sashimi platter with a vegetarian option also?
Lastly we were given Uramaki rolls, which have the rice on the outside. The vegetarian version was filled with vegetable tempura (asparagus, peppers, sweet potato and shitake mushroom wrapped in rice and covered with crumbled seaweed). Fat Les, my foodie date, ate the duck Uramaki option which he said was ‘fusion’ not classic Japanese. He felt the duck was over-cooked and the vinegared rice under-cooked, but as he said,
‘it’s difficult to cook rice properly in London, where the water is so hard.’I preferred the à la carte dishes where the fusion melded more successfully. Vegetable tempura was not accompanied by the traditional mirin sauce but by a sweet chilli sauce and Japanese mayonnaise dip. I loved it and could have eaten a vat. The noodles were also tasty, sprinkled with deep pink pickled ginger.
Water as an ingredient is taken seriously in Japan, as we were reminded when we headed upstairs to the sake bar, a modern room with low leather seating and a window view of the Swiss Cottage tube sign glinting red, white and blue, giving the bar a metropolitan feel. The friendly barman explained that Azure sake (£50 a bottle) for instance uses water that emerges from a deep spring underneath the ocean.
This is a cocktail bar with a difference: I had no idea there were so many variations on sake drinks, saketinis, sparkling sake and flavoured sakes (the raspberry one was particularly delicious with a cream soda aftertaste). I ordered the hot sake which came in a stylish jam jar. All drinks are served with wasabi peas. Fat Les doesn't drink. We ordered the sake tasting basket of six different sakes. Les looked disapproving as I drank all six. Amazingly I didn't even have a hang-over! It must be all that pure water they use...
Me Love Sushi
100 Avenue Road
For Sushi to go call: 08448 55 22 55