Sushi is extremely common in London and it is difficult not to stumble upon an Itsu or Wasabi every few kilometres when walking around Central London. In fact, from the freshest sushi to the most divine tasting Wagyu beef, London supposedly has some of the best Japanese food on offer outside the Land of the Rising Sun. My current favourites include the likes of celebrity haunt, Nobu, and Marylebone’s Dinings, tucked away in a small street just minutes away from The Landmark Hotel. This list may now have to make room for one more and let me tell you why…
Pan Chai may bill itself as a pan-asian restaurant serving dishes such as Malaysian beef rending and Korean beef bulgogi, but for me, it’s really all about the sushi! The fact that there were bums on every seat and everyone was head down, chowing on plates of colourful sushi draped in soy and wasabi, is perhaps testament to what magnetises the crowd browsing the Harrod’s food hall. And with this being Harrod’s, service was attentive with the quality and attention to detail you would expect from a luxurious department store.
Taking a front row seat in front of the sushi counter to witness the mastery of our skilled head chef named Seong, we browsed a menu that made us salivate just reading through descriptions such as ‘dry salmon flakes’ and ‘chopped tuna belly with unagi sauce’. We ended up putting our faith in the waitress as she selected a few dishes for us that came highly recommended.
First up was the Harrods Special. 8 pieces of sushi comprising snow crab, avocado and spicy mayonnaise, topped with chopped seared scallops, orange and black caviar and spring onions. It was served alongside a small bowl of smoke bellowing out through the addition of dry ice. Heston Blumenthal would be proud and it certainly got the diners around us talking as well as those browsing the food hall behind us!
Can you believe the size of this lobster tempura roll? ???? @PanChaiLondon @Harrods #panchai #sushi pic.twitter.com/LwQK7cIZ5K
— Laurie Wang (@LaurieWang_) 30 July 2016
As we dived into bites of sushi heaven, chef Seong interrupted us so that we could get to experience ‘real, authentic wasabi’. Taking out a specially made wooden board, he then rubbed this cylindrical wasabi root in small circles around the centre of the board to create a powdery-like, small pile of fresh green ‘goop’. Eager as ever to try new things, I picked up a super tiny portion with my chopsticks and threw it in my mouth. To my surprise, I didn’t cry a river of tears, but actually enjoyed the subtle, sweet flavour. Who knew that wasabi could come in so many different forms?!
Next up was otoro, otherwise known as fatty tuna belly sashimi. Don’t be put off by the name as this is one of the tastiest part of the fish and a taste I think all sushi fans must experience! As soon as each delicate slice landed on our tongues, it melted and slipped down our throats like silk. A few more slices on the plate would’ve been perfect. Yep.. it tasted that good!
Our penultimate dish was called The Banzai: 8 pieces of lobster tempura wrapped in sushi with avocado, asparagus and spicy mayonnaise, topped with unagi sauce. It was divine. Packed with flavour and sweetness from the mayonnaise and unagi sauce, this really felt like the star of the show. Especially when it came presented on top of a giant bowl with dry ice smoke pouring out from the sides. The theatre again attracted gasps of ‘ohhs and ahhs’ from our fellow diners and I can only imagine those who had just sat down thinking, “I’ll have one of that please chef!”
Our final dish was from the grill and was Chilean seabass. To be honest, we were originally going to go for the black cod, but were persuaded to go for this meatier version. The seabass was marinated in plum sauce and miso paste, before being grilled quickly and for just enough time to retain that plump, fishy flavour. Black cod may just have to take a backseat the next time I’m presented with these two choices again!
All in all, this was an incredible experience that got Mr New Yorker and I singing its praises all the way back home. Prices may be on the high side, but you’re getting quality sushi here, packed with creativeness, flavour and passion at the hands of Chef Seong and his team. Make sure to book ahead of time as there’s getting a stool to sit on round this counter can be a luxury at peak times.
London SW1X 7XL