Focusing on Japanese sushi and yakitori, Sticks’n’Sushi’s concept was conceived by half-Danish, half-Japanese brothers Jens and Kim Rahbeck, and Thor Andersen, in a Copenhagen cellar during 1994. Since then, 12 outposts have opened in Copenhagen, followed by seven in London, plus restaurants in Cambridge, Oxford and Berlin.
A brand new restaurant has opened in Soho, taking over a large corner site on Beak Street. Here, Sticks’n’Sushi’s Danish roots are showcased with minimalist Scandinavian chic design. Set across two levels, the upstairs space is striking with its monochromatic palette and sympathetic lighting. Tables are closely-packed which lends a relatively convivial atmosphere that’s aided by the charming service and the contemporary food.
In regards to the menu, the new restaurant continues to specialise in a vast selection of sushi, sashimi, salads and grilled yakitori skewers (‘sticks’). Here, the glossy menu is plastered with photographs, offering so much choice it’s easy to become overwhelmed and order far too much food. A number of set menus are also available for the indecisive, or for those hoping to (at least attempt to) stick to a specific budget.
Once we eventually order, the food begins to arrive quickly. We begin with a plate of ‘ebi bites’(£8) – the most pleasingly crisp tempura prawns I’ve had the joy of eating. Six fleshy prawns are butterflied and coated with greaseless batter, each embellished with a slice of red chilli, coriander shoots and a daub of miso-infused aioli. More miso aioli accompanies wedges of deep-fried Jerusalem artichoke (£4) with slightly crisp skins and a blizzard of salt. They’re ideal with one of the bar’s whisky highball cocktails, as are the delectable crab croquettes (6.80) featuring brown meat, served in a pool of lurid green sauce with a suggestion of wasabi.
Favouring Japanese sea bass, a dish of raw Suzuki carpaccio (£12) is finished with a crown of kataifi pastry synonymous with eastern Mediterranean desserts and lashed with a dressing of ponzu and truffle oil. An interesting dish, but less memorable than the hits from the sushi section of the menu. A real test of any sushi restaurant’s capabilities, the yellowtail tuna nigiri is near-perfect (£3.20 each). A domino of fish is served at body temperature over a puck of sweet, sticky rice: slightly warm and with a feint whack of vinegar. The tamago (Japanese omelette) is another highlight – sweet and spongy, delicious with its accompanying brick of rice (£2.40 each). Pearls of umami black cod snuggled by a wrap of nori are also enjoyable, albeit pricey at £9.80 for two. The standard sashimi platter of salmon, tuna and hiramasa (yellowtail kingfish) was fine yet less remarkable, featuring fridge-cold fish.
Sticks’n’Sushi’s yakitori selection features some interesting ingredients and combinations. Alas, duck hearts (£2.60 each) are slightly overcooked and lifeless, glazed with rich teriyaki sauce; small scallops are well-cooked yet wrapped with bacon that completely overshadowed their natural sweetness (£5.60); and Wagyu beef dice arrive on a hot stone, becoming marginally overcooked by the time they reach the table (£15).
It’s with the maki rolls, however, that Sticks’n’Sushi’s personality really prevails, each harbouring more of that exemplary sushi rice and served in comfort food portions. ‘Hell’s Kitchen’ (£8.60, eight pieces), for instance, features prawns cloaked with tempura batter, avocado and a slightly spicy sauce; ‘Spicy Tuna’ (£9.60, eight pieces) comprises a relatively classic combination of tuna, cucumber and chilli, unconventionally capped with more kataifi pastry. ‘Pink Alaska’ (£8.60, eight pieces) comes highly recommended, with an unorthodox concoction of salmon, avocado, cream cheese and lumpfish roe: deeply inauthentic but oddly likeable in all of its comforting splendour, the ingredients reading like a stereotypical millennial shopping list. Best of all is the ‘Ebi Panko’ (£12.50, eight pieces), with more of these crispy prawns, breaded with panko and wrapped with a thin sliver of avocado, finished with a pelting of sesame seeds and Togarashi.
One of London’s more attractive chain restaurants, Sticks’n’Sushi is also one of the more expensive. Although all of the sushi isn’t necessarily authentic, it’s generally very enjoyable and even the most off-the-wall flavour combinations are executed with sensibility. A genuinely fun option for a group dinner, but prepare to get over excited by the sushi and end up over-ordering (in any case, the maki rolls are a must-try).
Sticks’n’Sushi Soho can be found at 40 Beak Street, London, W1F 9RQ.