JAPANESE RESTAURANT IN SOHO
Oliver Maki, tucked away on Dean Street, offered us calm from the chaos in London! Though the 40-seat restaurant is small, its pared-down, minimalist decor gives a sense of space and order to the busy heart of the city.
Founded by brothers Oliver and Amer Zeitoun, this is the first branch outside the Middle East. There are already five restaurants thriving across Kuwait and Bahrain when they first opened their doors in London in 2016. The idea at its heart is to combine traditional Japanese dishes with flavours from around the world, with a particularly strong influence taken from the founders’ Mediterranean origins.
Rather than printed-out menus, we were each handed an iPad to scroll through and select our ‘favourites’. This seemed gimmicky at first, but was actually surprisingly useful. It made navigating the substantial menu by category and dietary restrictions extremely straightforward. Tapping on the name of an individual item brings up a short description of it, any potential allergens and a photo of what to expect. This was very useful if you are unfamiliar with some of the names of the Japanese dishes.
The drinks menu at Oliver Maki is vast, with a fantastic selection of wines, sakes and cocktails. We chose a cocktail each to kick off our evening – the Super Berry Fizz: Berry Cocktail Juice & Champagne and Mediterranean G&T: Gin, Mediterranean Tonic, Olives, Rosemary, Peach Liqueur, Citrus Bitters. Both of the cocktails were wonderfully refreshing, strong and zingy.
Purists beware: this is not a classic Asian dining experience. Authenticity is cheerfully side-stepped here in favour of experimentation, fun and – most importantly – taste. The dishes are recognisably Japanese, but with a definite twist; foie gras, ribs and tacos all make appearances throughout the menu. Even the sushi is a little different, with brown rice being used rather than white, and beetroot shavings replacing nori.
We ordered a generous selection of maki dishes including Ebi Nigiri and Salmon Nigiri, a few vegetarian options and some sides to share between us including some delicious Edamame Yuzu & Ponzu. When our dishes arrived it was clear that the minimalist decor around us was to allow the food to really stand out. Each platter brought to our table was visually stunning – the attention to detail and dramatic flair in the presentation made us both very excited to tuck in!
Importantly, quality is definitely not overlooked here in favour of presentation: the fish was clearly of a very high standard – the tuna was particularly fresh, meaty and delicious.
The Volcano Maki was particularly stunning – the brown rice gave the sushi a satisfyingly nutty taste, and flavours and textures were all played with in unusual ways. From the crunchy topping to the sweet, spicy sauce it was bathing in, each bite was a real experience.
While still enjoyable, we were less blown away by the Tofu Burger Maki. Vegetarian sushi is challenging to make as exciting as the fish, and though it was just as visually pleasing, it was not as flavourful as the other dishes on our table.
A firm favourite was the Chicken in Plum Sauce – we were told that this is one of their most popular items (and the founder’s personal favourite!) and we could definitely see why. Succulent tasty chicken in a delicious but not overpowering plum sauce.
We were also sold on the Spicy Shrimp tempura tacos. Crispy, a little spicy, and oddly comforting, this was definitely the dish I would come back for. Finally the Braised Smoked Short Ribsjust melted in your mouth!
Being located in the midst of food-mad Soho, there is little margin for error for Oliver Maki, and the menu certainly delivers. The focus at Oliver Maki is on the cuisine, with innovative, beautifully crafted dishes that both surprised and satisfied us. A great Japanese restaurant in Soho that I will certainly return to.
East London Girl: Oliver Maki
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