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Review: Ichi Riki Japanese Restaurant

Published 13 July 2012

When most newcomers to Japanese cuisine think of sushi, they most likely picture the slick, conveyor-belt chain restaurants. The places to go for the best sushi, however, are usually the ones that are a little harder to spot: one such gem is Ichi Riki.

Ichi Riki is a five minute walk from St. James’s Park station. This tiny restaurant, however, really is unassuming both inside and out – it’s very easy to walk past and not notice it at all.

The steps from the entrance lead you down into the softly-lit basement which encompasses the entire dining space: the sushi counter itself with modest bar seating, and no more than a handful of tables that seat 2-4 people each. “Cosy” is very much the operative word here – Ichi Riki is much better suited for a chilled dinner with a couple of select friends, rather than a rowdy rabble – but it is perfect for an intimate evening. The only risk with such a small, homely place is that if you are unfortunate enough to be seated near a loud diner, it can be a bit awkward.

The décor inside is simple; not too sparse or overly lavish, with cute laminated menus and food posters on the walls. The waiting staff are, of course polite and service is timely – the only waiting is for the sushi chef to prepare the food to order, as everything is made and served fresh.

Now, onto the food itself. For starters I ordered edamame and pumpkin goroke to nibble on from the side dish menu, served in pretty ceramic bowls and fake decorative bamboo-style leaves respectively. The edamame is salted to whet the appetite, but the sweet, soft goroke was a real delicious surprise (and a new favourite!) As I was dining with a couple of friends, we ordered a bottle of plum wine to share. There’s only one on the menu, and though I’m not a wine connoisseur, I found it to be excellent. Plum wine is a popular Japanese and Korean beverage and is almost syrupy in taste and texture – not for those without a sweet tooth!

Unable to decide what we wanted for mains, we each opted for one of the long sliced Rolls, my favourite being the house special, the Ichi Riki Tempura Roll: ten pieces of deep- fried prawn wrapped in rice and drizzled in honey mustard sauce, all for £15. The crunchy tempura batter – which is also sprinkled on top of the dish – is complemented nicely by the soft prawn and rice, and the honey mustard gives it a tangy kick. All the rolls are beautifully presented as well, on elegant rectangular plates. Trying to chomp your way through the big sushi slices without getting rice everywhere takes a bit of practice though!

Being what it is, Ichi Riki is fairly good value for money. Eating good sushi in London is never going to be cheap, but if you pick wisely you can get a good meal at Ichi Riki that isn’t too expensive. I would recommend, especially for sushi newcomers, going for one of the main dishes or set meals that range from about £10-15, with a side order to compliment. My only gripe is that the desserts, for what you pay, are rather meagre portions – but then again, Japanese dining has never been hugely dessert orientated.

Overall, this is definitely somewhere to go if you’re looking to fall in love with sushi, or like a quiet, subdued atmosphere to your dining. The friendly staff and fresh food are bound to leave you content and hopefully planning when you’ll be back again!

Ichi Riki
Address: 17B Strutton Ground, St James’s Park, London SW1P 2HY
Tel: 020 7233 1701