Yashin Ocean House makes miso happy | Yashin Ocean House, 117-119 Old Brompton Road, South Kensington, London SW7 3RN
OK, I’ll be up front from the start, Japanese food is not really our forte. The hot variety – yes. Sushi and sashimi – no. We like ramen, love a Katsu curry, I enjoyed Nobu despite leaving hungry and penniless. We attempted sushi and sashimi again recently at Sake No Hana, Ade succeeded but I just still can’t get on with it, not in the extreme way I am with cheese but it’s a struggle. Karl Pilkington got it right on an Idiot Abroad when after battling with some sushi in Japan he said ‘that’s not a meal, it’s more like a challenge. My taste buds have just been mugged.’
I decided the best way forward for a fair review of Yashin Ocean House was to bring a friend who loves sushi. I couldn’t have timed it better as after a heavy bank holiday weekend my companion was more than willing to treat her body to some healthy food. This South Ken restaurant just off Gloucester Road is from the team behind Yashin on High Street Kensington and has built itself up with some pretty impressive credentials. For a start, the chef patrons are Yasuhiro Mineno, ex-head chef at the now defunct Ubon by Nobu is renowned for his knife-skills, and Shinya Ikeda, ex-head chef at the prestigious (and also no longer) Yumi restaurant. Former chef de partie at (the still trading) The Fat Duck, Daniele Codini is senior sous chef.
The greeting at Yashin Ocean House was so warm and friendly, it was pretty quiet when my friend and I first arrived but it soon filled up. Our soundtrack for the night was some kind of weird electronic music that even Shazam couldn’t identify. The building is fantastic and unusual – a former library with an atrium roof, the decor a mix of sleek and rustic – brown leather banquettes, beaten up exposed brick walls with a turquoise green kitchen island taking centre stage. Oh and rather randomly, there’s a life-size black horse lamp in the room. Talking of animals, luckily for me, the meat ratio on the menu seems to have catapulted from how things were when they first opened as a head to tail fish restaurant.
There’s nothing more unsettling in a restaurant than not knowing what things are and how you’re meant to tackle them, sometimes it’s better the devil you know. But at here any fears of a Pretty Woman snail cracking moment were put to one side. Everything was explained in a warm and non-patronising manner, although we still went wrong by eating soup off a plate, but I’ll get on to that in a bit.
Thankfully the menu here is simple, but it comes clipped to an A3 slab of wood which is pretty annoying to fit on the table without breaking stuff. We started off with some gorgeous sweet and aromatic sparkling Mio sake £23 for 300ml, so refreshing and light. A little amuse bouche arrived of raw tuna and mango, I actually quite enjoyed it, perhaps I should give sashimi another go (I didn’t).
My sushi-loving friend was going to be the raw fish taster for the night whilst I was sticking mostly with the cooked stuff. Anna’s selection of Sashimi £16 arrived on a glass stand complete with a dramatic pouring of dry ice creating a magical lingering white swirling cloud. She loved the vinegary jelly pearls that bought out the flavour of the fish, the ginger and mackerel was especially good. Meanwhile I dug into a bowl of plump Cod cheeks with chilli amazu £7.80 – again vinegar made an appearance in the sweet sauce, I wasn’t too sure about the straw-like clumps though, they were impossible to chew, whatever they were, I don’t think they wanted to be eaten.
We also shared a starter of Yaki Yose Tofu £6.50 – homemade layered tofu with sweet wasabi sauce. Now this was nothing like we were expecting, it looked like a porridge/soufflé hybrid and came in a wooden bowl with wooden spoons, I felt like Goldilocks. Unfortunately it smelt like a pet shop and the taste wasn’t a huge improvement. Neither of us had ever eaten tofu in this way and we didn’t know quite what to make of this wet, soup like mixture. Perhaps if the wasabi content was stronger it would have helped the dish but it was just too milky.
Yep, we’re still on the starters I’m afraid. Wagyu beef loin with wasabi dressing £13.50 was another first. We were keen to try this and it didn’t disappoint and went really well with the aniseedy daikon sprouts and white leek. Moving on from the sparkling sake we were given a glass of Kawatsuru £10.50, in the traditional style which I’d never had before. The small glass is put inside a fragrant wooden box and the sake poured to the brim, you can either drink the liquid which has overflowed straight from the box or pour it back in the glass.
In the manner of tasting, we swapped our (hot) mains halfway through. Teriyaki Yellow Tail in beef net with yuzu miso £19.50 had a punchy purple carrot smear and strange little fluffy green florets. Saikyo Sugi with Nasu Miso £23 was the polar opposite, muted by hazelnut and aubergine alongside a sprinkling of samphire.
The good thing about this kind of food is that there is always room for dessert. Miroir chocolat £10 for me – a decadent and highly intricate plate complete with gold leaf and edible flowers, so stunning and full of texture and great quality chocolate. Anna went for the Yuzu and white chocolate, shochu £12.50, a dessert equally as opulent as mine but light and lemony with a wonderful watermelon sorbet.
As we sipped the remainders of our sake we realised we were almost alone in the restaurant at just 9.30pm. Yashin Ocean House has all the makings of being an absolute hit – the only thing that concerns me is that it could become another neighbourhood restaurant victim, a bit like our beloved Assiette Anglaise in Islington. You can guarantee if they picked it up and moved it to Mayfair it would have no worries at all, unfortunately not all restaurants can have prime positions. It was certainly a meal to remember for me and most importantly, gets a massive thumbs up from my Japanese food-loving dinner companion. Eating here doesn’t have to cost a bomb either, the express lunch menu is just £19.50, ideal for eating on the terrace, or the express dinner menu is £24.50. It absolutely turned my head and charmed me, I’d return in a heartbeat.
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday
Lunch 12pm – 3pm last order 2pm
Dinner 6pm – 11pm last order 10pm
Book a table here
Nearest station: South Kensington (5 mins walk) or Gloucester Road (7 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Yashin Ocean House, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.