Satsuma – Soho
I don’t like the name. It’s an orange fruit. The connotations don’t scream Asian noodles and sushi.
On later reading I found out that the satsuma (Citrus unshiu) is of Japanese origin and was introduced to the West. In Japan it’s known as ‘mikan’ and in China as ‘Wenzhou migan’. ‘Mikan’ sounds much better! The restaurant should have been called ‘Mikan’ for authenticity.
Satsuma on Wardour Street is over two floors and serves okayish Japanese cuisine at a price that just creeps over the acceptable. The menu is vast covering the usual ramens and hand rolls as well as bentos, yaki udon and yaki soba. There is a variety of sides, salads and extras too, creating a menu of extreme choice, way above those you’ll find at other similar establishments, such as Wagamamas and Yo!Sushi.
A soft crab roll is rather steeply priced at £5.80, but I’m hungry and crab tends to be a little pricey, so I cave in. It’s good with zingy crunchy crab in a Tempura batter with cubed cucumber and avocado to soften. When I arrived home I looked on the Satsuma website and saw the crab roll priced at £4.00. Did I look too tourist for them? Underneath the menu, in small, faint, grey writing it says: “menu last update 8-Feb-2011.” Ah, they’ve increased the prices it would seem. And rather dramatically too!
Six California rolls were more appropriately priced at £3.60, each consisting of fish roe sushi, filled with avocado, cucumber, crabstick and mayonnaise. The white rice holding the ingredients didn’t feel soft or sticky enough, but a quick dib & dab of soy sauce and wasabi soon patched that up. A pot of green tea was £1.50.
My main of Saba Shioyaki (grilled mackerel with crushed salt) was £8.50, arriving in a square bowl pilled with white rice. The mackerel was well grilled and tasted good, a squeeze of lemon enhanced the flavour further and helped to bind the rice, of which there was an ample amount.
I’ve heard a few people draw comparison between the Satsuma Chicken Katsu Curry (£8.50) and the one served at Wagamamas (£8.95), both made using chicken breast deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs and served with curry sauce and sticky white rice. I came across one blog that suggested: “Satsuma do the best chicken katsu around.” Around where, I don’t know? But it was okay, the golden breadcrumb casing was hot and had that crunch as you bit into the chicken. Again, there was more rice. It’s one of those things with Japanese food and sushi; you know you’re going to be presented with more rice than you know what to do with.
Desserts are limited to three options: Green Tea ice-cream (£2.20), Black & White Sesame ice-cream (£2.20) or Tempura ice-cream (£5.00). Reading other Satsuma posts on the internet, it seems people loved the Green Tea Tiramisu, but this has now gone and choices are poor. Perhaps they’re hoping that your belly’s bursting with rice at this point and you’ll pay the bill and leave? I didn’t. Instead I finished with the Green Tea ice-cream, which was fine. One bogey-coloured scoop in a glass with a wafer tube. They do skimp on the desserts.
In terms of Japanese fast food and sushi turnaround, Satsuma is skilful. There isn’t the quality of some other London joints but it isn’t as bad as others. The pricing creeps above what it should, but then you’re slap bang in the middle of Soho and tourist turnaround is spry.