Restaurant Review: The Omakase Menu at Hot Stone, Islington

Hot Stone’s decadent 14-course omakase menu is Last Supper stuff, and it was practically designed for socially distanced dinners…   

Lead image: @hotstonelondon

Dining out these days is a real treat. Especially now that we’ve entered Tier 2. Restricted to dining indoors with household members or your ‘bubble buddy’, there will be fewer of those wonderful, long-overdue catch-up dinners with friends. Sure, you can dine outside, but it’s late October in England…

So if you want to make dinner for two really special – especially if you’re stuck with each other literally 24/7 and the convo is running a little stale – then the omakase menu at Hot Stone in Islington is just what you need. Serving no more than four people at any one time, it was practically invented for this very scenario.

‘Omakase’ loosely translated means ‘chef’s choice’ (literally, ‘I will leave it to you’), removing all the faff of having to browse the menu. This is ideal if a) you like all of the things and can never decide what to eat or b) like to try lots of things.

What really makes the experience special, despite the fact that Hot Stone is a critically acclaimed steak and sushi bar, is the enthusiasm of Executive Chef Padam Raj Rai.

The former head sushi chef at Tsukiji in Mayfair, he has also worked at the likes of Nobu, Zuma, and Sake no Hana. Not only has he got some serious skills, he’s also clearly head over heels in love with his job.

As you and your significant other/housemate/bubble buddy/mum sit at the kitchen counter, he chats, explains and enthuses through the whole 90-minute experience with the genuine warmth of a man in his element.

‘The menu is a 14-course parade of exquisiteness’

The menu is a 14-course parade of exquisiteness, starting with little dishes of squid noodles (ika somen) and a clear seafood soup, before progressing to a plate of three kinds of tuna sashimi (the cheek being the most highly regarded, so we were advised to eat that last).

Next comes a hand-dived scallop with truffle ponzu sauce (heaven), seared butterfish topped with a delicate fold of hamachi sashimi, served with the innovative addition of a green jalapeno sauce (for someone who’s a bit of a purist when it comes to Japanese food – only SushiSamba can get away with Asian-fusion, in my eyes – I most definitely approved of this spicy addition), and a homemade tofu topped with ponzu miso caviar.

 

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Next up, for meat-lovers, comes the real good stuff – the one and only Kobe beef. On the counter proudly sits the restaurant’s official Kobe beef accreditation, a hefty trophy that indicates proof of membership of the Kobe Beef Marketing & Distribution Promotion Association (only eight restaurants in London have it). Here, a delicate mouthful is served atop a shisho leaf, finished with an edible flower and freshly grated wasabi, and it both looks and tastes like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. It’s last supper stuff.

A tiny, beautiful salad of watercress salad, finely diced melon, edible flowers and sesame seeds balanced atop a slice of radish and dressed in a ponzu-based dressing that I actually drank from the plate (much to the chef’s amusement), acts as a palate cleanser before the sushi starts to flow.

The chef gives you a choice – would you like the sushi served directly onto your hand, or on a plate? Now, during these bizarre Covid-times, I’d understand if you didn’t like the idea of the chef placing sushi right into the palm of your hand, but Padam washes his hands constantly, and since sushi can’t be made without the expert physical touch of a chef, well, in for a penny…

And thus, a sirloin wagyu nigiri is placed in the palm of my hand, and it tastes like all my Christmases have come at once. Room temperature. Rice on point. Beef almost carpaccio-thin and ever-so-lightly grilled.

Next is fatty tuna with a truffle slice and caviar, seared seabass with yuzu miso and crispy leak, gunkan (maki-style sushi with salmon ikura and the raw yolk of a quail egg cracked into it – divine), and a handroll of roasted seaweed with fatty tuna and salmon.

The food, every dish, is absolutely wonderful and if I had to choose my last meal on earth, this would be it. As my friend and the other couple dining at the other end of the counter patted their belies and let out heavy sighs, I reckoned I could have gone back and devoured my three favourites again. Trouble is, I couldn’t pin point my favourites. I loved the lot.

And so to dessert – a cube of green tea cheesecake served with tiny dices of melon and watermelon, topped with cranberries and served up with half a passionfruit.

If you’re looking for a treat to take the edge of London in lockdown, this is most certainly it.

The omakase menu is served to just four guests at a time on Mondays only at 5pm, 6.45pm and 8.30pm, priced £99pp with Wagyu or £150 with Kobe beef. An 11-course lunchtime omakase menu is available at 12pm and 1.45pm for £59pp.

9 Chapel Market, Angel N1 9EZ; hotstonelondon.com



 

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