Soseki: Japanese Kaiseki cuisine fit for an emperor
** Unfortunately, since writing this post, Soseki has since closed down in December 2011**
I received a rather sombre e-mail some weeks back from Saki, a very decent Japanese sushi bar-cum-restaurant near my workplace that I had been to a couple of times. They announced that were having a closing down sale at their Japanese deli and had taken the decision to shut-down completely following several months of sluggish business. The cause? – it seems following all the bad press around the the Fukushima nuclear fall-out, Londoners have been staying well clear of raw fish and Japanese food. What a shame… as if Japan doesn’t have enough bad news to deal with already. You would have thought a Japanese restaurant halfway around the world in the UK would be spared of the disaster. The irony of it all is that most restaurants in London actually source their sashimi locally from places such as Cornwall… that’s only about 10000 km away from where all the problems really are.
I decided it was time to pay my favourite Japanese restaurant Soseki, a visit. My mother and aunt were in town, and we needed a place to celebrate my mom’s belated birthday. Also, I wasn’t going to sit around and let it follow in Saki’s footsteps and go bust with all the scaremongering out there.
Soseki does Japanese haute cuisine (‘kaiseki-kappo’) like no other and the concept here is based on the ‘omakase’ principle, i.e. rather than having specific a la Carte items on the menu you can order, you will need to put your trust in the chefs to construct a series of courses from the day’s freshest ingredients. I’m not always a fan of places who don’t give diners a choice of what they are going to eat, but the great thing about Soseki is that there are 3 different kaiseke set menus you can opt for… the 4-course Tanka (£26), the 6-course Haiku (£37) and the 9-course Hanashi (£50) – all with different meat, fish and vegetable dishes of the day which the waiting staff will take you through to help you decide which you want to embark on.
Here is the showreel of the Haiku menu we opted for.
On the whole, the food at Soseki is easily some of the best Japanese food I’ve ever had – words which were echoed by my mom and aunt who were equally as impressed. The nigri and maki sushi rolls are made oh-so-intricately with tender loving care and the sashimi sourced from the South Coast of Cornwall is always incredibly fresh. But it’s the technical brilliance of their cooked dishes that I find most remarkable. Everything from the melt-in-the-mouth Miso Beef Fillet to the meaty, deep-fried Monkfish with Dashi broth was cooked to absolute perfection. Add to that their generous portions and flashes of creativity from dishes such as the Wasabe & Sake Citrus granita and Black sesame ice-cream and what you have is Japanese kaiseki cuisine that is fit for an emperor.
I really hope Soseki manages to weather the unfortunate crisis that many Japanese restaurants around the world seem to be working through. With food this good though and what continues to look like a strong square-mile following given its location smack beside the Gherkin, it does look like one that will stick around for many years to come.
20 Bury Street, 1F, London EC3A 5AX| www.soseki.co.uk | ingested 4th June 2011