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If you plan on talking to your dining companion about anything more than food, choose somewhere other than Yashin for your meal.
Yashin opened quietly on a back street in Kensington towards the end of last year, but its modest size belies the theatrics of dining here. On our visit, everyone at the elegant sushi bar was stunned into an appreciative murmur, transfixed by the dextrous skill of the chefs as they constructed exquisite morsels.
Owners and chefs, Yasuhiro Mineno and Shinya Ikeda (from Ubon and Yumi) have combined the sushi tradition of individually seasoning bites with their own, very modern, flavourings. A neon sign above them proclaims ‘without soy sauce’. With the sparklingly fresh fish and attention lavished on each slice, it won’t be missed.
Occupying pride of place on the menu are three levels of set omakase or chef’s choice. Beginning at eight pieces of nigiri for £30 and rising to 15 for £60, a meal here is not cheap. However, it is spectacular. Each piece was edible artistry.
Squid, multifaceted with a myriad of cross-hatched slices, was brushed with yuzu sauce, then blow-torched in front of us. The intense heat defined each cut and caramelised the citrus tang. Botan ebi – a wild prawn, similarly torched, rendered slivers of duck liver into a lustrous slick with a mixed salt crunch. Other mouthfuls of seafood were adorned with gem-like vinegar or ponzu jellies, umeboshi paste, tiny dots of rice cracker and salsas. To our taste, some were gilding the lily: creamy translucent scallop was overwhelmed by tomato salsa, another piece was subsumed by fiery jalapeño.
The drinks include a selection of green teas, sakes and wines with a sommelier on hand. Sake tasters (two 50ml phials) allow for sampling. We tried sensuous French oysters, soft-shell crab and yellowtail carpaccio in a garlic ponzu.
Sushi can be a conscience-wrestling sort of meal – ingredients, fish especially, are flown all over the world, to be slivered into morsels and eaten by many, diffusing the sense of responsibility. The chef looked sadly at his beautiful slabs of bluefin and spoke bleakly about the future of a clearly prized ingredient.
Sombre thoughts were dispelled by another textural surprise – sorbets of yuzu were dense to the tongue – a result of freezing a jelly and all the more satisfying for the realisation.
Yashin is a treat, not least because of the spectacle. It also challenges diners to surrender control, and be led along a path of flavourful discovery.
1A Argyll Road, W8 7DB
Tel: 020 7938 1536
words: Zoe Kamen
Bill for two: £160 (including service) One Yashin Omakase, assorted sides, two sake samples and one dessert.
Dinner 6-11:00pm daily