Sushi & Robata by Genji launch at Whole Foods Market, Kensington
Londoners are, by and large, an epicurean bunch. Given the opportunity they’ll eat anything from a greasy spoon breakfast to such gastronomic creations as oven-baked tarantula or breast milk ice cream. In short, Capital-dwellers like good food in all its many guises. Sitting comfortably towards the middle of this culinary scale comes Sushi & Robata by Genji. Although this first foray into London’s restaurant scene by the US-based sushi giant won’t be pushing the boundaries of experimental cuisine (and perhaps that’s a good thing as even Londoners might balk at tarantula sashimi), their recent launch event emphasised Genji’s mission to serve well-crafted sushi and robata (Japanese grilled dishes), inspired by contemporary Japanese cuisine.
Previously, Genji’s presence in the UK has been limited solely to take-out boxes at deli counters across London. This move to a full restaurant set-up represents an opportunity for Genji to flex their culinary muscle; demonstrating the principles and standards that have propelled them from a single restaurant in the Philadelphia suburbs to a national chain with nearly 160 restaurants across the States.
So how does this fusion cuisine outpost of Japanese culinary minimalism and western contemporary flavours stack up against the competition (and there is always competition) in central London? As it happens, not too badly at all. First and foremost, Sushi & Robata get the fundamentals right: quality produce for both their sushi and robata menus combined with simple but elegant presentation. Throughout the busy launch event, plates of carefully crafted sushi and robata dishes are circulated by knowledgeable wait staff: fresh salmon and lean seshimo tuna (from the top of the fish, rather than the fattier underbelly) nigiri, richly textured mushroom California rolls and succulent cuts of grilled chicken and beef all provide testament to the skill of head chef Tstevan Gerganov and his crew.
Perhaps safe in the knowledge that his team have the basics down pat, Gerganov seems fairly relaxed (for a head chef, at least) as more complex and western-influenced arrays of sushi and robata are whisked out of the kitchen. Bar a single misstep in pairing perfectly grilled duck breast with a watery coffee sauce, these more creative dishes provide a contemporary complement to the simplicity of nigiri, maki and hosomaki. Options like the Mango Tango, a combination of prawn tempura and mango, spiced with chilli salt and wrapped in nori, or Triple Heaven, alternate layers of rice, scallops and teriyaki glaze, provide lip-smackingly rich alternatives to the timeless classics on the menu.
All things considered, the launch of this latest-of-many sushi restaurants across central London goes well: guests are happy, drinks are flowing freely and, for a kitchen team that have only been working with the menu for a week, the culinary hiccups are few and far between. If this is anything to go by then Genji’s offer of classic Japanese and contemporary western-inspired dishes, wrapped in a slick mid-to-high-end high street package, is likely to be well received by the capital’s gastronomic masses.
To book a table at Sushi & Robata, Whole Foods Market High Street Kensington London W8 5SE, call 020 7368 4555 or enquire here.