Setting foot in the ornate Oriental/British fusion restaurant that is Itsu recalls the set of the infamous opera Madame Butterfly. With the walls heavily adorned in images depicting wings, butterflies and even film-slogans, Itsu is both fun and spectacularly decadent.
The first floor boasts a cocktail lounge: a large open plan area with a floor to ceiling window overlooking the hustle and bustle of Notting Hill Gate.
The atmospheric lighting is not too claustrophobic, and the waiting staff’s timing is impeccable – a feat seldom achieved by even the best of restaurants.
After experiencing a special preview of the up-and-coming summer cocktail selection in the lounge (the pomegranate martini is worth its weight in liquid gold!), the guests were taken downstairs to the Itsu dining area.
A familiar sushi conveyor belt and an intimate seating arrangement make up the focal points of the dining area. One can choose to sit on bar-stools at an oval conveyor, or alternatively sit at a table. Accompanied by blues/jazz music, the dining area meets all the requirements of a contemporary diner.
The vast choice of dishes circling the room are beautifully presented. Covering a range of prices, on average between £3 and £8, there is something for everyone – for the adventurous to the easily intimidated.
To begin with we tried the Miso soup, a firm favourite with fans of oriental food. Tasty and aesthetically interesting, the soup costs just £2.95 with free refills – a definite staple at Itsu.
Following the Miso soup on the conveyor belt came a whole host of fascinating dishes, each with their own unique flavour. The smoked salmon crystal rolls in particular were bursting with so much Eastern energy, likewise the chilli crab crystal rolls – two standout dishes.
From the Hot Food Menu diners can experience crispy chilli squid with sweet chilli dipping sauce, which is quite unlike any sauce you have ever experienced, and spicy vegetable gyoza – vegetable dumplings served with another deliciously different sauce.
Manager Rob suggested Itsu might expand and start selling its sauces at supermarkets.
He explained that it was a possibility Itsu (and Prêt a Manger) owner Julian Metcalfe is considering, especially since the success of a certain sauce called Maki, Itsu’s answer to salad cream.
Rob also spoke of Itsu’s desire to continue to promote their “dining experience”, to make the public aware that the restaurant offers more than the high street takeaway choices for which it is widely known.
The overall satisfaction that Itsu provides with its tantalising food is presented alongside the promotion of light, healthy eating. Rounding off the meal with a new healthy cocktail (first impressions: a ghastly green combination of apple, kiwi, celery, spinach, and cucumber) we left feeling suitably sushi-ed – healthy and happy.
Categorically worth trying, Itsuuuu gooood!
Until 30th April 2013 Itsu are featuring a £15 for 15th menu, created by Head Chef William Silva, with a range of dishes inspired by traditional Japanese cuisine to celebrate 15 years since the opening of the first itsu [dining] restaurant.