Temaki in Brixton: “Bringing authentic Japanese joy straight into outstretched palms”
Restaurant lovers have understood the gradual lifting of lockdown measures through the evolution of their dining experiences. There were the meals spent braving Baltic temperatures that had everyone huddled in their coats, hats and gloves; the ventures inside but with only six friends and keeping socially distanced; and now, the post-“freedom day” return to “normal” (or as near to it as we can get for now).
I can’t really think of a better place to experience normal dining than Temaki, a sushi hand roll restaurant where the chefs literally pass food over the bar, breaking all the Covid conventions of the last 18 months and bringing authentic Japanese joy straight into outstretched palms.
Executive chef and Japanese rice specialist Shaulan Steenson came together with founder AM Dupee to create an affordable, authentic experience – that also happens to be the first of its kind in London. The pair were aware that great sushi comes at a price in this city and were keen to create the antidote to this problem.
The menu itself is the brainchild of Steenson, who has years of experience at Japan’s revered restaurants Hakkoku and Sushijin, as well as at several of London’s finest Japanese venues, including Michelin-starred Umu. It’s simple, it’s exciting and it’s certain to be a favourite for fans of sushi. The bar includes 18 seats, all within reach of the cooks.
To begin we’re given a sake, of course, a welcome tipple to accompany a perusal of the menu, which is stripped back and intriguing. Drinks include white and red wine, beer and bottled cocktails by Karol Bobinski of Fire Water Workshop, specifically crafted for Temaki with Japanese flavour twists on the classic serves. I opt for a Pineapple Rum Punch, the perfect quenching and refreshing option on this sweltering day in Brixton.
The hand rolls are comprised of the executive chef’s signature golden uruchimai rice, a closely guarded secret developed during his time in Tokyo restaurants. There’s the option to select specific individuals or to go for a set. I choose 5 – Hand Roll, which includes Akami Tuna, Salmon, Ortoro Tuna, Prawn Tempura and BBQ Eel.
Each is exquisitely tasty, delicate and fresh. The rice really is something special and almost melts in your mouth. There’s something simultaneously casual and intimate about watching your food be prepared before you and having it handed directly across the bar. It undoubtedly makes for a unique dining experience. The highlight, at this stage, is either the Prawn Tempura, fried juicy prawns covered in a spicy Japanese mayonnaise, or the BBQ Eel, almost salmon-like in its texture but with a surprising, tangy sauce that delights the senses.
There are a range of small plates to choose from that include sashimi, salmon skin and pickled seasonal vegetables. I elect for the Monkfish Kara Age – a twist on the classic fried chicken – and it is pure deep-fried goodness. The dish comes with a ponzu spicy mayo that cuts through the battered fish and tastes almost like an elevated Japanese scampi. Additionally, the special of Tempura Vegetables offers a crunchy contrast to the soft textures of the food; the courgette and courgette flowers are a standout here.
To finish, there are just two choices, Chocolate Chip Cookies or Mochi. Though this may seem limited, it’s the ideal sweet end to a well-balanced meal and anything more would be too much. The cookies are fine but a bit forgettable, however the mango-flavoured mochi is truly delicious and feels almost magical on this hot, sticky day.
It’s surprising to learn that this is the only bar in London of its kind, as the experience is great fun and feels like something foodies will welcome with open arms. Temaki is the perfect answer to affordable, high-quality sushi and is a must-try for fans of the Japanese speciality.
Photos: Matthew Pull
To book a table at Temaki, 12 Market Row London SW9 8LB, call or visit their website here.