Best for: robata-grilled meat and fish
Dish to order: Rock shrimp tempura
Two years after the success of Zuma, Rainer Becker opened Roka, its laidback little sister. Built around an open grill where the chefs are busy searing and slicing blocks of tuna, slivers of sea bass and wobbles of scallop, the restaurant is a magnet for famous faces and serious sushi lovers. Under soft spotlights and a clubby beat, you’ll find transparent triangles of yellowtail sashimi splashed with yuzu-truffle dressing, diced wagyu dotted with oscietra caviar, and juicy Korean lamb cutlets. It’s worth a visit just for a steaming bowl of rock shrimp tempura fried in barely-there batter, and hot, black sugar doughnuts that melt in the mouth.
Address: Roka, 37 Charlotte Street, London W1T 1RR
Best for: simple sushi and set lunches
Dish to order: Nasu Dengaku
Not to be confused with the Taro franchise which has three restaurants in Soho, Balham and Cannon Street, this solo restaurant on Finchley Road is split between two brightly-lit rooms with wooden interiors, lovely staff, and a loyal local fanbase of more than 20 years. Flicking through the laminated menu with its frayed edges, you’re spoilt for page after page of simple nigiri – all locally sourced – crisp chicken gyoza, seaweed salads, mixed tempura, and grilled teriyaki fish and meat. For an unexpected treat, order the nasu dengaku – half a fried aubergine slashed with latticework and topped with sweet miso.
Address: Taro, 293 Finchley Road, London NW3 6DT
17. Sushi Tetsu
Best for: sushi and sashimi only
Dish to order: don’t bother, let Tetsu guide your meal
Seven seats. That’s the capacity in this Clerkenwell restaurant, with a ban on children under 12. We wish you the very best of luck in trying to dine at this hugely in-demand sushi bar – but we couldn’t miss a restaurant from our list on the grounds that it is ‘too good’ or ‘too popular’. Run by a husband-and-wife team named Toru and Harumi Takahashi, Sushi Tetsu is essentially a private dinner party with Chef ‘Tetsu’ Toru, who runs an omakase-style service – choosing what he wants to serve. Laying out a waxed banana leaf, Tetsu will place shiny, single pieces of black bream, horse mackerel, jumbo fresh shrimp and sweet omelette under your nose, bringing out a blowtorch for the squid. Sourced from Billingsgate, the fish is buttery, melting and magical with no need for added flavour or garnish. The booking line is open for three hours a day and tables are usually gone by 2pm, so consider yourself blessed if you bag a seat.
Address: Sushi Tetsu, 12 Jerusalem Passage, London EC1V 4JP