db Eats: Feng Sushi

Top sushi chefs may spend years training before they’re allowed anywhere near a piece of fish, but fortunately the humble diner can skip the hard graft and dive straight in. Nevertheless, for the uninitiated foreigner, sushi menus can be a slightly daunting experience – both in terms of navigating the unfamiliar Japanese terms and, in the UK at least, the prices it’s possible to charge for small slices of raw fish.

sushi_new.jpgOn both counts, Feng Sushi was a pleasant surprise. The menu, which covers a far more extensive range of Japanese cuisine than the restaurant’s name suggests, was extensive but clear and broken down into handy Wagamama-style sections. A small, separate page offered a British-inspired menu that, with dishes such as beef tataki with lotus root chips or Eton Mess made from yuzu-flavoured cream and green tea powder, looked more like a creative Japanese twist on UK classics than a concession to the unadventurous.

In the end though, on the recommendation of our well-briefed waiter, we broke our duck with a dish called Yellowtail Upside Down. This turned out to be six beautifully presented mouthfuls of cucumber topped with sashimi and a spicy salad of wakame, pickled Jalapeño, coriander, avocado and kimchee dressing. Yes it was £15.75, but each morsel was a tasty, aesthetic delight. If you equate waistband strain with value then a steakhouse or pizza chain may be more your bag. Most people in the UK only make the mistake of ordering cheap sushi once.

That said, Feng Sushi has plenty of cheaper but appealing dishes up its sleeve. Keen to dabble, we opted for one of several enticing bento box selections: a £12.25 treat containing a fishy feast of tuna and salmon nigiri, tuna sashimi, salmon fillets, some light and crispy vegetable tempura, two Nippon duck rolls that disappeared very quickly and a pile of the distinctly more-ish pickled ginger to nibble on while we greedily returned to the menu.

From the vegetable section we ordered miso dengaku, a flavourful bowl of aubergine with a ginger miso dressing; the moist chunks of eggplant freshened by a crunchy spring onion topping.

With this we chose a dish of handpicked Devon crab donburi with tamago and pickled cucumber. Large enough for a light lunch on its own, the bowlful balanced flavoursome crab, lifted by paper-thin slivers of cucumber and radish, all bulked out with rice underneath.

feng-sushi_food.jpgThe drinks list saves you the time-consuming variety of the food menu, presenting a small selection of either beer, wine, sake or soft drinks. From the two white, one rose, one red and one plum wine selection we plumped for a £4.95 glass of basic Vin de Pays d’Oc Vermentino/Sauvignon Blanc blend from La Croix, which hit the spot nicely without getting in the way of either the food or conversation.

Refreshed and reassured by the quality of the food, we moved on to a glass of sake, which was offered warm or cold, with our waiter recommending the former. Like getting a Sherry novice’s taste buds used to a rather full on Fino or learning to like oysters, we concluded that sake is one of those gastronomic niches that requires greater levels of application than we had time or stomach for that evening.

This brief respite from menu gazing also gave us a chance to spot the tv screens showing playful silent footage of seals and polar bears. Curious and context-light, it was at least harmlessly diverting, relatively unobtrusive and a pleasant change from football.

Reluctantly accepting that we had played long enough with the main menu, we ventured into the pudding selection with a level of trepidation usually reserved for Indian restaurants. Black sesame ice cream looked and tasted not entirely dissimilar to Oreo cookies finely ground into creamy vanilla. Then came two chocolate mochi, which looked and felt like brown marshmallows and turned out to have the texture of chewing gum or something you might find stuck to the sole of your shoe. As we chewed boldly on, the cocoa powder dusting eased its path and the overall impression became amusing rather than repellent, although perhaps not the sort of joke that needs repeating too often.

In short Feng Sushi is a small (6 branches), London-based chain that is treading a neat balance between mass appeal and charismatic good quality. Dishes are elegant but unfussy, the fish arrives waving impressively thorough sustainability credentials and if you try out their online ordering service then the seductive photography will doubtless have a loosening effect on your purse strings. If this is the standard of restaurant chains today, let’s welcome them with open arms.

www.fengsushi.com

Branches in Chalk Farm, Borough Market, Royal Festival Hall, Fulham, Kensington and Notting Hill. Online orders and delivery are also available, as well as a catering service.

Gabriel Savage, 28.06.2011

One Response to “db Eats: Feng Sushi”

  1. Leo says:

    Really pleased to see you enjoyed eating at our Feng Sushi restaurant. You may be interested to hear that we have recently introduced our new Autumn special menu – filled with mouthwatering sushi dishes! Hope to see you at one of our London sushi restaurants again soon!

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