No4 [Restaurant] In the market for chirashizushi

no4rIn the market for chirashizushi

Chirashizushi, or ‘scattered sushi’ sounds like what might happen if you ask a particularly temperamental sushi chef for some ketchup on your marbled tuna. It’s actually the name of a version of sushi popular for being fast, filling and good value, but just as artfully presented. A bowl of sushi rice is topped with sashimi, tamagoyaki (squares of ‘grilled’ egg omelette) and garnished, usually with cucumber. It’s a great option if you’re hungry, not sure what to order, but fancy a bit of everything. And a great place to try it is at Tajima-tei between Chancery Lane and Farringdon?. Often some of the best places to eat in London can be found in the most inconspicuous places, and Tajima-tei is a good example, situated on the ground floor of a non-descript office building, hidden behind the bustling stalls of Leather Lane market. The market, said to be one of London’s oldest, may not match Tsukiji in Tokyo for size and atmosphere. You’re more likely to find knock-off high street fashions and mobile phone accessories than the best of the catch of the day, but the noise and clamour make a suitable setting for this unpretentious sushi-ya. Easy to miss from the outside, inside you’ll enjoy a friendly welcome. The restaurant, run by a husband and wife team, is popular with locals as well as Japanese city workers and has an informal, relaxed feel. The menu may change depending on what’s freshly available, but on our visit the topping for chirashizushi included sea bass, sea bream, yellowtail, tuna, salmon, salmon roe, crab sticks and tamagoyaki all beautifully arranged on a bed of rice. Unlike nigiri or makizushi which are already conveniently divided into bite-sized parcels, chirashizushi can be a little messy to eat. It’s best to flavour the fish separately in a small dish of soy sauce mixed with wasabi, then take some rice from the bowl and eat together. Its simplicity allows you to appreciate the quality and freshness of the ingredients. It’s also hearty, with generous chunks of fish, leaving you satisfied but not uncomfortably bloated. The ground floor of Tajima-tei has table seating cosily divided by wooden screens, with plenty of natural light during the day, and seats at the sushi counter if you want to see the chefs at work. Downstairs are three private rooms, holding 10-16, 5-6, and 4-5 people. Note the golfing trophy on the way down the stairs. The owner and head chef Miyakawa-san is a keen player, with a reputed 9 handicap. Of course if sushi is not your thing, there are plenty of other options on the menu, including tempura, udon noodles, teriyaki and tonkatsu dishes. Enough to keep everyone happy.

Alexis Brown