We don't know.
Issue Four—May 2012
Short of rubbing chopsticks and scribbling notes at the chiliad Japanese restos in London, how could we?
But there is this one place.
It's north of Picadilly but south of Nopi. NoPiSoNo perhaps. SoNo? SoYes! It's called So and it's become our go–to place for the rice stuff.
The irony about So—or rather this review—is there's not a great deal to say about it. It's neither luxurious nor down-at-heel; not overly expensive or particularly bargainous. So is simply an authentic Japanese experience, one that exudes quality and shuns superfluous gimmickry.
There's no phoney bowing upon entry. Staff are efficient, pleasant and exclusively Japanese. They waft through the gaijan like ninjas—blink and your matcha has been refilled.
So is Apple–like in its approach to 'user experience'. As Steve Jobs would've said, it just works. But then Steve only ate pea shoots and orange pips so what would he know. Sitting at the bar—constructed from a huge chunk of roughly hewn lacquered wood—affords a view of fast hands silently plating up plump tuna and mackerel sashimi.
Lotus chips with seaweed mayonnaise, soft–shell crab and the day's sushi platter is our standard order (this is a staple restaurant for last-minute meals, so a lack of adventure is permitted, guvnor). We're not sushi experts but what So serves is delicate, confident and tautens the mouth. The wasabi will burn out your septum and the gari (pickled ginger) is the proper yellow sort—no Westernised pink nonsense.
Whilst the interior and menu is all old-world Japan, the toilets proffer a taste of Akihabara with its computerised faucet. Don't expect to just wash your hands and go; there's a manual to take in first. Jobs would be livid.
So Japanese is to London restaurants what sushi is to Japanese cuisine: an accessible treat. The best in London? Probably not. But we like it.