Sushi. Deliciously delicate and oh so pretty. I’ve always been partial to those little bite-sized gems and recently spent a fun afternoon discovering how to make it for myself. UNI is a Japanese and Peruvian fusion – ‘Nikkei’ – restaurant in London’s Belgravia and I was there with a group of bloggers to try out UNI’s new sushi and cocktail making master class. If I didn’t know my sashimi from my sushi before, then I definitely do now.
Cocktail Master Class
Before we unwrapped the secrets of sushi-making we had a taster of some of Uni’s signature cocktails made by Rafa, bar manager and master mixologist. We tried Chilli Mojito, Pisco Sour and the UNI Martini which together showcased UNI’s Japanese, Peruvian fusion theme perfectly – and all before lunchtime! We sat up at the sushi bar in the lively upstairs area which had a relaxed feel and where you can watch the sushi chefs working their magic.
The Chilli Mojito was my favourite with a kick from the swirl of fresh chilli softened with a faint sweetness of coconut water. The nearer I got to the bottom of the glass the more warmth there was as the chilli infused more into the Mojito. In a nod to Peru the next up was a Pisco Sour. Made with Peru’s national spirit, a grape brandy called Pisco, and combined with citrus juice, sugar syrup, bitters and egg white to give a perfect blend of sweetness and acidity all under a soft foamy topping. There’s also a range of healthy detox smoothies at UNI which looked just as tempting.
The UNI Sushi Masterclass
We went downstairs to the intimate atmosphere of UNI’s elegant restaurant for the masterclass with our sushi guru Oscar Cuevas. First off we made California Rolls or inside out rolls, as the rice is on the outside and a sheet of paper-thin seaweed on the inside packed with crab, avocado and cucumber. It’s then rolled into a long tube on the sushi mat (how it didn’t fall apart I’ll never know) and cut into perfect bite-sized pieces.
Sashimi is raw, sliced fish but becomes sushi when the short-grain, vinegared sticky rice (sushi-meshi) gets in on the act. I quickly discovered that sticky rice is, well, pretty damn sticky and will stick to everything – except where it’s meant to. The wetter your hands are the easier it is to mould the rice into the correct shape when pressing it into the sashimi. But not before I got it all over myself. Oscar taught us how to roll, fill, mould and stuff the sashimi making it look a whole lot easier than it really is.
Ceviche was next up and we watched as Oscar made his exquisite Sea Bass, mango, coriander and chilli cured in a zesty sauce of lime and ginger. This was one of my favourite dishes and I would happily travel to London just for a taste of this any day. Absolute heaven.
With the master classes over it was time to delve deeper into UNI’s menu so we moved into one of the restaurant’s intimate little cubby holes – warm and inviting with a gold-leafed ceiling and comfy banquette seating. Perfect for a romantic meal for two or a small group of friends – we sat six quite comfortably. That’s me on the far left and next to me is Angie from Silverspoon, then Emily from Curious London, Ashleigh from Quintessentially Me and the lovely Travelhack aka Monica.
We tasted a huge selection of dishes from UNI’s menu starting with a nibble of deliciously warm edamame beans in rock salt and chilli sauce. I may also have had another of those gorgeous chilli mojitos.
Mini tacos with salmon, king crab and and scallop all drizzled with a divine miso dressing.
The vibrant Kaiso Seaweed salad with goma dressing – while silky smooth the salad had a refreshingly crisp bite to it and was a nice contrast to the fish dishes.
Dragon sushi and sashimi with transparent slithers of ginger and wasabi pearls on the side.
More ceviche – the delectable sea bass ceviche followed by octopus ceviche. Who knew food could look so pretty.
Two vegetarian dishes arrived next; baked aubergine with sweet miso sauce which was gorgeously soft and silky and a tofu soup.
The food just kept coming and next to arrive was Chilean sea bass with chilli shiso salsa and a crunchy topping. Quite delicious.
They saved the best til last – the Wagayu Beef with rock salt and chilli – so tender it just fell apart. This together with the sea bass ceviche were my absolute favourites of the day.
Finally dessert. I was struggling to eat any more by now and then these little globes of sweetness pitched up. Mochi is Japanese ice cream coated in pounded sticky rice and were the pefect way to finish off the meal. Not too big and not too sweet.
The food at UNI Restuarant was excellent; full of fresh zingy flavours with a warm Peruvian twist and all beautifully and vibrantly presented.
The next set of dates for masterclasses 2015 are:
14 March, 18 April, 16 May, 20 June, 18 July and 15 August
Classes cost £35 per person. 12:30 – 14:30 pm
UNI London is just a two minute walk from Victoria Station at 18A Ebury Street, London, SW1W 0LS
Tel: 020 7730 9267
UNI is open Monday to Saturday 12pm to 10.30pm
A big thank you to UNI for inviting me along to their sushi and cocktail master class. All views and opinions, together with my new found penchant for Chilli Mojitos, are, however, entirely my own.