Japanese Izakaya in Clerkenwell from Jason Atherton
Sosharu is the eighth London restaurant from the prolific restauranteur and chef Jason Atherton, and marks a departure from his usual modern European style and into Japanese cuisine.
The restaurant’s name translates as ‘social’, following suit from Atherton’s previous London restaurants Pollen Street Social, Little Social, Social Eating House and City Social, not to mention some of his restaurants in Shanghai, Singapore, and Dubai.
Sosharu, located in a glass and concrete building in fashionable Clerkenwell, takes inspiration from the dining cues of an izakaya with its informal Japanese tapas-style food, plus a basement bar 7 Tales. The head of the Sosharu kitchen is executive head chef Alex Craciun, a longterm Atherton employee who has spent the past year training in Japan at the Kyoto Culinary School. Craciun has also worked at Kikunoi under Chef Yoshihiro Murata in Kyoto, then RyuGin in Tokyo.
The menu is full of intriguing pieces showing off the Japanese specialities of temaki, tempura, yaki and hibachi grill.
Favourites include the sea bream sashimi with shichimi and potato, the fresh fish wrapped around fine ribbons of super crisp potato in parcels that are utterly addictive, followed by a pair of ‘taco-esque’ temaki involving tempura-like seaweed shells filled with tuna tartare and topped with a spicy mayonnaise.
Then there are the stuffed chicken wings, the internal bone removed and served with a bracing pickled turnip, as well as a hot pot of rice with chicken yakitori, shishito pepper and exquisitely silken slow cooked egg yolk. We also enjoy the chicken skin yakitori in all their fried fatty glory, served with an egg yolk and yakitori sauce.
We are less impressed with cherry blossom cured salmon sashimi whose flesh flakes unhelpfully into pieces when we try to lift it, and is speckled with a gritty grain – exactly what this is we never find out, but it is nevertheless a detraction, and the crunch of the granules is an unwelcome addition to sashimi. Another less substantive dish is seen in the nori covered scallops, cooked a little too long on the hibachi grill and served in a sweet ponzu sauce that is reminiscent of an orange squash – concentrated, sweet, and one dimensional. We find that neither of these two dishes are an improvement on their composite ingredients.
Even though it’s not been an entirely flawless experience, on balance I very much like Sosharu for its elegant and often sensitive approach to reimagining Japanese classics. We end the evening on a high with a luscious slice of matcha mille crepe with matcha ice cream and chantilly cream, and although the dinner and drinks come to a costly £85 a head, we wouldn’t hesitate to go back for seconds.
Address: 64 Turnmill St, London EC1M 5RR
Tel: 020 3805 2304