Eat Here: Oliver Maki, SohoBy Angelica Malin
If you’re looking for a new sushi restaurant in London, Oliver Maki might just be the place for you. The sushi here is different to your everyday – traditional rolls are replaced with unusual flavourings, and the presentation is, well, rather extravagant. Think boxes filled with liquid smoke, and beautiful salads served in glass cups. But that’s the fun of it – sometimes, when dining out in London, you want something that makes you smile, which you simply wouldn’t be able to recreate at home. For somewhere new, buzzy and full of character, here’s what you need to know about this trendy Soho sushi restaurant:
Oliver Maki is the new home of sushi with a twist; combining Japanese tradition with global flavours, this Soho restaurant is part of what is fast becoming a household name. Located right in the heart of Soho, it’s great place to stop for a quick bite to eat and a leisurely date alike – it’s got an all-day feel, and you wouldn’t be judged for wearing Nikes in the restaurant, I’ll tell you that free.
Oliver Maki is part of a group of five award-winning restaurants around the world, owned by a family-run business. Inspired by Japanese food and tradition, Lebanese-Canadian co-founder Oliver Zeitoun and his family wanted to create a cuisine that transcends the boundaries of culture and country. And do you what? They’ve done a pretty sweet good job of it.
There’s a focus on quality and fresh produce here; the Zeitoun brothers come from a long line of olive grove farmers, and they use the extra virgin olive oil produced by their father and neighbours in Lebanon in the Japanese-inspired food. For example, rather than traditional soya sauce, they use an extra virgin olive oil and home-smoked soya mix, which is just lovely. The kitchen is led by ex-Nobu Las Vegas chef Louis Kenji Huang, who uses new techniques to push boundaries with the food. If you’re looking for traditional California Rolls, this is probably not the restaurant for you – but that’s why I totally dig it.
Let’s talk food. The restaurant uses only brown rice, which is great if you’re health conscious, but probably not ideal if you’re a sushi purist. The menu is divided into shots and bites (which act as pre-starters), salads, starters, sushi, signature maki and hot dishes – and it’s available to read on iPad, which is one of those things you’ll either love or hate. If you’ve been staring at your screen at work all day, then ordering off an iPad is probably not ideal – but I actually quite enjoy being able to see photos of the food I’m ordering (old school, I know) and love a cheeky visual aid when dishes are slightly more unusual. There’s various degrees of quirky at the restaurant; ranging from your traditional veggie maki, right up to tuna and goat’s cheese rolls, Wagyu beef rolls and peanut and pistachio sushi.
We started with yuzu tomato (£5), which is a pleasant enough salad of fresh tomatoes, with a tasty yuzu dressing, and the grilled edamame (£4.50), which are totally delicious, with a nice, smoky kick to them. The shake (salmon) ceviche (£9) is really great – served with a touch of rocket and spicy chilli sauce, the dish really lets the fish be the star of the show (as it should be) and it’s all perfectly balanced. The spicy salmon maki (£6) is one of our favourites – the sushi is light and fresh, with just the right amount of chilli heat. For meat eaters, there’s also burger maki with Wagyu (£27) – if that’s your kind of thing.
With the sushi, there’s a huge range to chose from, so we opted for the Sushi Jewels (£29), which features 12 pieces of sushi, all displayed in a clear plastic box for your perusal. It’s fun, interactive way of dining and the chef’s selection of sushi served in the box is delightful; everything from torched yellowtail nigiri to perfect salmon rolls. I would definitely recommend this if you fancy trying a little bit of everything from the sushi menu!
Another signature dish are the Oliver Maki rolls (£18) – house selection with eight different rolls topped with tangy dollops of guacamole, tapenade, yuzu relish and the likes, plus one with a shaving of black truffle. They are quirky and exciting; the flavour combinations are all really rather delicious, and we’re impressed by the flair with which they pull this off.
There’s a decent range of sparkling wines by the glass and bottle, and a good array of sake – try the Shirakabegura Mitani Fujio, it’s my favourite. They’ve also got some lovely Japanese-inspired cocktails; our favourite was the Japanese whisky and matcha sour, which goes really well with the food. Sake for all!
Oliver Maki is a great spot if you’re looking for something different for dinner in London; their food is interesting and unusual, with some real menu highlights. The Oliver Maki rolls are a must-try, and for something fun, order the Sushi Jewels and take yourself to nigiri heaven.