Ukai, W11 1LU
- 020 7243 3222
- 223 Portobello Road, W11 1LU
- 11am-11pm Mon-Thu; 11am-11:30pm Fri-Sat; noon-10pm Sun
Austerely decorated sushi bar serving superior-quality modern Japanese cuisine, on Portobello Road. One of a chain of four.
Ukai does not have as extensive a menu as some sushi restaurants; there are only three fish varieties in the sashimi section of the menu, for instance (eight in the nigiri section) and the side/appetizer selection is not large (no gyoza, yakitori, katsu or spring rolls). That said, there is a good range of sushi variants (sashimi, nigiri, hosomaki, futomaki, uromaki, chirashi), the quality of which is uniformly high. The average price of the sushi dishes is around £5 (£7.50, in the case of the chirashi). They also offer particularly good salads; itsbruce particularly recommends the green mango and papaya salad (£5, a variation on a classic Thai dish), which is crisply flavoured and textured and comes in generous quantities. The spinach salad roll (£3.80, blanched spinach in orange ponzu sauce) is also delicious. The Daikon salad roll (£5, rocket, 6 servings of avocado, red pepper, chives, enoki mushroom, wrapped in pancake and served with daikon dressing) is a more delicate dish which used to come in tiny portions but is now more on a par with the other salads. For drinks, there is a range of freshly-made iced teas (honey and melon, strawberry and basil and more) and flower teas as well as fruit juices, beer, wine and sake.
Note for vegetarians: only the mango and papaya salad is of a size that could serve alone as a main dish. The other salads should be accompanied by some vegetarian sushi, unless you have quite a small appetite.
The speciality section of the menu, though again not large, is also well worth trying. On a February 2011 visit, itsbruce had Ukai pancake (£4), essentially a vegetarian variant on crispy fried duck pancackes, which were light and crisp and very tasty, and salmon tartare (£5), diced salmon in a spicy and creamy mayonnaise, dusted with roe and served in cups carved from cucumber, which was very fresh and absolutely delicious. The two dishes worked particularly well in combination photo. Together with spinach salad roll, a side plate of pickled vegetables and a mixed carrot and apple juice, the bill was £17.60 (service not included).
The venue is as cool and simply decorated as the food. It is a pleasant place to relax in (particularly in the summer), which is just as well as it can take a surprisingly long time between finishing and receiving the bill (and often another delay follows before your payment is taken); for some odd reason, the friendly and attentive service seems to stutter at that point.
Ukai also does takeaway; you can order online and they deliver to nearby postcodes. There can be a ten minute wait for takeaway if you order at the till so you may want to ring ahead or just get them to deliver.