This King’s Cross omakase bar lacks the one thing sushi demands: freshness
Between watching a snack splat on the pavement, Dominic Raab’s faux apologies and the realisation that no, drinking natural wine will not make up for a lack of personality, disappointment comes in all shapes and sizes. Naturally, some instances feel more cruel than others and as a child, if you were lucky, one of your first experiences with such a feeling would have been the pure, devastating horror of hearing the word ‘fruit’, when you, a greedy, beady-eyed little tyrant ask: ‘What’s for pudding?’
Armed with a sweet tooth, at that age a lack of choice feels like the greatest injustice. As adults, however, many privileged enough to afford to eat what they like, when they like feel plagued by it. Menus are too long, there are too many restaurants, there is too much choice on Deliveroo. Someone get Kim K’s team to CGI me a tear. Tiny violins aside, there’s something to be said about the sweet relief of surrender. Taking a breath, pressing pause on the buzz of everyday life and trusting someone else to do the thinking; even if that only manifests as devouring what’s placed in front of you.
No friend, lover or family member to hand? With the art of omakase, you’re free to relish being a recluse. The sophisticated Japanese way of saying, ‘You’ll get what you’re given’ (direct translation: ‘I’ll leave it up to you’), the intimate omakase experience is an appreciation of a sushi chef or master’s expertise. Individually handcrafted before diners at speed, each piece must be eaten in one big bite immediately. Popularised in the 1990s, all across the capital there are sushi masters doing it well, from Endo Kazutoshi with Endo at the Rotunda to Nobumasa Sakaguchi at Kaia and Takuya Watanabe of Taku.
Sushi on Jones, where I perch alone on a glib Thursday evening, is an American import, the original of which is a tiny six-seater hut on (jazz hands, please) Great Jones Street, New York. Following rave reviews in The New York Times, three more have sprung up, and this small, sleek operation is tucked away in the vastly different Courtyard food hall, a disorientating New Orleans-style film set perched on the edge of Coal Drops Yard. With eight seats, this outpost has the very same USP, promising diners 20 bites in only 45 minutes, or 12 in even fewer. Enter: the answer to every one of your social woes. Someone you can’t stand asking to grab dinner? You’re in and out faster than you can say, ‘I’d rather gouge my eyes out’. Looking for a non-committal date spot? Kiss goodbye to them and an awkward dessert course. Fancy dining solo but fear confronting your life choices? Congratulations, denial is yours.
Despite the fact it’s a weeknight, I’ve splashed out on 20 courses for £98 and while I wait, and wait, for someone, anyone, to arrive, behind the counter illuminated by a kitsch neon sign saying, ‘Less talk, more eat’, the sous chef grates a pile of fresh wasabi. As time ticks by, waiting for the four other bookings to take their seats, I begin to fear the worst: I may have to miss tonight’s Married at First Sight Australia. At 8.12pm, the chefs concede; apparently, it’s just me for dinner. And as we launch into proceedings, I long for their servings. Nigiri topped with Cornish halibut and lime, sea bass with yuzu and carefully blowtorched sea bream with ginger, served atop warm, well-formed rice, would have anyone resisting the one bite rule, hoping to savour each piece in two, three or even four mouthfuls. Though as we reach the more obscure fish, something seems amiss. Most of it lacks the one thing sushi demands: freshness. And I’m pretty sure the nigiri topped with a slimy, spotted prawn and definitively passed-it madai (Japanese bream), alongside slices of grainy, lightly seared bonito, have served more time here than Liz Truss did in the hot seat.
By the time we finish with a clumsy hand roll, bulging with a generous heap of tired, uncooked tuna, it’s 8.57pm. And while the chefs are somewhat responsible, I’m certain it’s the no-shows who’ve left a bitter taste in my mouth. After all, on the edge of a recession, when every bill counts, who can blame a business for stretching their ingredients? And as I watch the disheartened chefs repackage each piece of unused fruits de mer for tomorrow’s service, I curse you, you no-good no-shows, for you have ruined my supper.