A lot of great things have come out of Denmark. LEGO. Hans Christian Andersen (the bloke that wrote ‘The Little Mermaid”). Insulin (yes, seriously, Insulin was invented in Denmark). Hygge (I still have no idea what this is but I always hear people throwing the term around and it seems like something good). That’s a pretty decent list of stuff to get yourself added to, but Jens and Kim Rahbek and Thor Andersen (no relation to Hans Christian, I don’t think) have managed to get their restaurant group, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, up there with the best Danish exports to the UK, even though the restaurant itself is Japanese. The first Sticks ‘n’ Sushi opened in the UK in 2012 in Wimbledon. Restaurants in Covent Garden and Canary Wharf. So it was surprising to me that the first time I heard of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi was when my colleague invited me to lunch at the new one in Westfield. Not only do I LOVE the opportunity to see what a new place is like, but I also love that I have a place here on my food page to tell you all what it’s like as well. An invite to Sticks ‘n’ Sushi couldn’t have come at a better time. As you will remember if you read my Sushi and Bento review recently, I am currently a bit obsessed with sushi and gyoza. Considering there was no gyoza on the menu you could be forgiven for thinking this Sticks ‘n’ Sushi review might end up being negative, but that would be incorrect I fear (although I know from my blog stats you horrible lot prefer scathing reviews).
So one windy Thursday lunchtime, I found myself outside Sticks ‘n’ Sushi looking in at a warm and cozy decor that gave the impression of someone’s living room, albeit one decorated with an incredibly stylish Asian theme. We didn’t have a booking, but the 5 of us were shown to a table straight away, a 6 seater by a huge window that let in loads of natural daylight. As any regular readers of my little lifestyle blog will know, I do not drink alcohol. Ever since my Crohn’s diagnosis, I have avoided fizzy drinks as well. This doesn’t leave a lot I can drink, so I did look at the Sticks ‘n’ Sushi menu and none of the “mocktail” type drinks tickled my fancy, but I asked one of the friendly waitresses if they just did normal juice and she rustled me up an apple juice that was smooth with just the right amount of sharp and tasted fresher than if it had been made from the Apple the serpent tricked Eve into eating.
Media lunches tend to follow the format of just ordering a bit of everything and everyone sharing it, and the small plates format at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi lent itself perfectly to this format. Like all half-decent Japanese restaurants, we started with some Edamame beans while we had a browse through the menu. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi does exactly what it says on the tin. You’ll find all of your sushi favourites on the menu as well as skewers made up of different meat, fish, cheeses, and vegetables. One of the worst downsides to being mistakenly told I was coeliac for 8 months was not being able to have fried chicken. Since I found out this was a mistake I have eaten it in abundance. The Karaage chicken was the first thing that caught my eye on the menu and we ordered some to start with. I don’t know how to explain the reason I like Karaage chicken so much more than normal fried chicken, but I think it is something to do with how it seems to “pop” in your mouth. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi has managed to get the perfect balance of a crisp coating and tender chicken inside. The meal was off to a great start between this and the salty edamame.
When I say I love sushi, I have to admit I am not particularly adventurous. It’s not that the raw fish element creeps me out at all, I don’t like a lot of fish cooked. But what I AM very partial to is salmon, tuna, and vegetable sushi. When your sushi experience amounts to the local YO! Sushi counter down the Asda, fish that tastes so fresh it could have been caught that morning is a real treat. My main foray into the sushi element was the Pink Alaska Uramaki, which was salmon, avocado, and cream cheese with lumpfish roe. I don’t think I have ever experienced a salmon and avocado roll where both are at their freshest flavour, owing to the fact most of the sushi I buy has been lurking around supermarket fridges for days on end.
The part of the menu I was particularly keen to try here was the sticks. When I first picked up the menu I couldn’t lie; I was disappointed at the lack of gyoza. But what Sticks ‘n’ Sushi lacked in dumplings they made up for in deliciousness. I’ll start with the “ordinary sticks”. Meatballs made out of chicken never sound appetizing to me, but the chicken teriyaki meatballs were surprisingly delicate, and the teriyaki sauce was sweet but tangy, just as it should be. Now it wouldn’t be a traditional Japanese meal without a hint of miso. I find in some dishes, miso can overwhelm the flavour of the thing it is supposed to be complimenting, but the miso-cured black Iberian pig stick had just enough to elicit that earthy flavour, but not so much that it cancels out the smokiness of the Iberian pig. There was a delightful stick made up of emmental wrapped in bacon, which was a lighter bite than it sounds.
But the real star for me was the Wagyu stick. Writing this post stirred up a long-forgotten memory of having thinly sliced Wagyu somewhere in the past, but it didn’t make as much of an impression on me as this Wagyu stick. The cubes the bits of Wagyu beef came in on the stick were so perfect, you could almost be forgiven for thinking cows were square. Having not had any steak at all during my post-hospital recovery, I was expecting my first steak back at it to be a bit of an anti-climax. Well, that was until I bit into my first cube of Sticks ‘n’ Sushi Wagyu. The outside was so perfectly crisp, it was as if someone had figured out the scientific formula to timing each sear in the plan and had stood timing it down to the nanosecond. When you sink your teeth into this succulent little box of beef, it melts in your mouth. I’ve had a good steak in my lifetime and bad steak in my lifetime, but suffering all the gristly, chewy, “pub grub” Ribeye was worth it to get to this, the pinnacle of my carnivore career. The impression it made on me was so great, I woke up the next morning and it was my first thought. I’ve done some serious Wagyu hunting in the 24 hours since I ate this meal, and I believe I’ve found an affordable steak but I will let you all know on my Twitter account if it passes the taste test.
All of the food at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi was lovely, but the Wagyu stick is seriously worth a trip on its own.
You can book a table at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi on their website.
Love to know your thoughts guys?