New Year is all about healthy, clean foods, and we’re lucky Camden is blessed with excellent sushi options. The best is Asakusa on Eversholt Street, still as busy today as it was a decade ago when I lived round the corner. But there’s also Hi Sushi, Feng Sushi and several jostling for attention on Parkway, including bargainous Bento Cafe, Sushi-Waka and recent opening Shimogamo.
In K-Town there has long been just Satuma (the second ‘s’ is missing to avoid confusion with the similarly-named Soho restaurant). After walking past frequently when it’s either been shut, or we just haven’t quite fancied sushi, it was a relief, just before Xmas, to step through its doors finally.
The interior is suitably simple, dimly-lit and clean. There’s a drinks cabinet on your left, an open kitchen-cum-counter and big pictures of sushi hanging on the wall. Three or four chefs buzz around chopping and cutting. It did, in fact, remind me a tad of the kind of hole-in-the-wall place you get in Tokyo.
It was a Friday night, and after a couple of pints of Hell’s at the Brewery we were feeling lazy, so opted for a selection of tempura, nigiri, and gyoza. Edamame beans, which we nibbled to accompany our Sapporo lager, were fine. But the chicken gyoza, which arrived very soon after, were burnt on one side.The king prawn in the tempura was succulent and fleshy, and tasty dipped in the denshu sauce, but just three small pieces for £6.50 seemed steep. And – sin of sins – the salmon temaki hand roll was fridge cold, the avocado hard, surely undermining the point of sushi. Better, however, was the spicy salmon roe gunkan nigiri: finally something soft, packed with flavour, perfect temperature and seductively moreish. A dish to order again. Its spicy tuna equivalent wasn’t bad either.
There was only one other table in on a Friday night, Satuma’s main trade being weekday lunchtimes, Forum-goers and takeaway orders. And the atmosphere wasn’t entirely conducive to lingering: as we ate, the chef was crashing about cleaning his oven in the small open kitchen behind the counter. But generally the service was fine: neutral, friendly enough. And as is often the case with sushi, it didn’t seem particularly good value for money: without eating or drinking much, we left sixty quid lighter.
I want to support our local Japanese restaurant, and so am tempted to return to try more dishes, perhaps the intriguing Korean options like beef marinated with wine, pears and soy sauce. And it goes without saying that an independent place like Satuma is a great fixture on the high street. But aren’t the owners missing a trick? It’s the only Japanese food in the vicinity and, with tweaks to their offering, and better pricing, it could be a real contender.
Words & Pics: Stephen Emms