Sunday, 1 August 2010

Sushi Ga Ga review (Lisle Street) - wasabi prawns and tuna tataki but not the sushi


Address: 16 Lisle Street, London WC2H 7BE
Tel: 020 7287 6606
Nearest Tube station: Leicester Square

Ratings (out of 5 *)
Price: below £40 pp (before discount)
Service charge: N.A.
Taste: ***
Service: ****
Ambience: **
Think Ga Ga and a certain lady comes into mind. Actually sushi is the last thing on your mind, much less those served by a place that wouldn't even put up a pretense that it's operated by Japanese. Like all invitations that I have received, I looked up the recent reviews put up by fellow Londoners, and those of Sushi Ga Ga weren't exactly accolades to say the least.

"Don't expect too much," I cautioned ZL, who flew into town for the week, as we made our way to the sushi restaurant at Chinatown's Lisle Street.

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We arrived an hour early. Sushi Ga Ga was full and there was a small queue building up outside. That sure didn't look like a place lambasted by the reviews that I have come across. As its press release pointed out, Sushi Ga Ga does boast some tatami seating - there are a couple of tables towards the entrance that come with sunken in seats - on a raised platform.

Jamie, whom I supposed to be the head staff, came up smiling and led us to our table next to the sushi counter. Sushi Ga Ga's setting is rather eclectic. Clean layout typical of no frills Japanese establishments, it comes with four small LCD screens set into a featured wall showing Japanese concerts in karaoke mode. Other than the tatami seats, Sushi Ga Ga has simple fixed tables that seat fours with some larger ones towards the back of the restaurant. There was soft Japanese pop songs playing in the background but that turned to English ones towards the end of our meal, something that ZL pointed out.

When asked for recommendation, Jamie initially answered that "everything's good on the menu". Sensing my hesitation, she helpfully pointed me to the Chef's specials and suggested black cod with teriyaki, tuna tataki with ponzu sauce, as well as wasabi prawns as starters. A flattering picture of the prawn tempura and grilled salmon bento caught our eyes and we asked for that to be added to the list as well.

"What about some sushi?" Jamie asked. I figured that it would be kind of odd not to have sushi at a sushi restuarant and asked for a 'Dream Team' (yes, I know) sushi set.

"Would you like some sake?"
"Er, some still water would do just fine," I replied.
"But some alcohol would go great with sushi. What about some plum wine? The one that we have is really good." We did eventually succumb and ask for some plum wine in the end, which to give Jamie some credit, turned out to be quite fine.

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I am a bit undecided about black cod these days. After cautioned by TT's disappointing experience at Tsunami, the one that Wife had at Aqua Kyoto wasn't exactly out of this world, I decided to ditch the miso variety and opted for the more mundane teriyaki black cod.

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Sushi Ga Ga's teriyaki black cod (£17), in my opinion, was grilled just right with the teriyaki sauce not overdone. I enjoyed the thin crispy slightly burnt skin while ZL thought otherwise. However, the soft interior was a tad mushy, a sign that the black cod could have been a bit fresher. A pity really, it could have been a real winner, this one.

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Tuna tataki with ponzu sauce (£11.50) came out beautifully presented. Slices of fresh tuna seared with peppercorn with a hint of citrus sauce were laid on top of triangularly cut thin soft bread accompanied by a small cup of ponzu sauce, which added to the tanginess of the dish. As if to pander to the locals fascination in wraps, a couple of ponzu doused tuna slices wrapped in soft bread was refreshingly satisfying. This is a must order at Sushi Ga Ga.

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ZL mentioned that wasabi prawns are served back home at the most unlikely eating places - the humble zi-char stalls at various coffeshops back in Singapore. But I doubt they come skewered in sticks inserted into holes drilled in thick wooden blocks. At £5.50, I can see why wasabi prawns are popular starters at Sushi Ga Ga. Six fresh horseradish battered jumbo prawns, light fried, served hot. The pungent taste was sufficiently potent. A great starter to have for two.

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The Dream Team (I honestly hope that they come up with a better name for this) consisted of 6 pieces of nigiri sushi with a whole host of sashimi (£15.50) came across as quite a good deal. ZL thought that the sashimi weren't sufficiently thawed and I concurred. There was also a sprinkle of black fish roe, which added a tinge of saltiness to the spread.
 

To put things in perspective, if you happen to be looking for sushi at London's Chinatown, Sushi Ga Ga would probably be your best bet even though its sushi isn't spectacular. And you should probably stop thinking about the ones that you had at Tokyo's Tsukiji Fish Market.

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Sushi Ga Ga is currently running a 50% discount for all bento sets and its prawn tempura and grilled salmon bento (originally priced at £12.50) is an absolute steal. Not only that, the set comes with salmon sashimi as well as a serving of salad with tomato sauce (with cut bits of tomatoes in it) and rice with pickles, and that is a full meal in itself. The discounted bento sets was probably the reason for the queue that was gradually building outside Sushi Ga Ga throughout the course of our meal. In fact, I struggle to think of a better deal in London's West End. Defintely worth considering for the budget pre-theatre dinner.

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Dessert came in the form of a mochi ice-cream set. Three mochi vanilla ice-cream dipped in three different sauce - red bean, strawberry and chocolate. I thought the strawberry bit with crushed nuts was especially good. Not only that, the ice-cream filled mochi was soft and supple - a fitting end to a rather satisfying meal. A point to note though, try not to bite directly through the mochi. That could lead to some serious brain freezing especially for those of us with sensitive gums.

Though I wouldn't go so far as to say that Sushi Ga Ga is going to be the next darling of London's Chinatown, it is already making some headway despite getting some brickbats earlier on. Provided it can go beyond offering bento sets at 50% off, Sushi Ga Ga, with its clean layout and light offerings might just carve out a niche for itself.

Sushi Ga Ga on Urbanspoon

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6 comments:

Ute@HungryinLondon said...

Hey, I'm glad your experience was not so bad. Great review and beautiful pictures.

C K said...

@Ute,
Thanks! If I were to return, I'll go straight for the wasabi prawns and tuna tataki.

Wild Boar said...

So after the damnation from Lizzie, it seems to have really cleaned up its act with Catty and your review.

Still not really tempting me to pay a visit though..

C K said...

@Wild Boar,
Hmm, it might be a matter of expectation. But honestly, it wasn't that bad when I was there. And I must add that the bento set is really good value for money at 50% off. Well, if you are in the area...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the information. Am sorry to hear that Okawari is gone but change is good! Could you please let me know when the 50% bento sets promotion ends?

C K said...

@Anon,
you're welcome! Hmm, unfortunately, I'm not sure when the 50% discount offer ends. Could you try calling the number at the start of the post to check with the restaurant? Cheers!