I paid a visit to Hot Stone, a Japanese steak and sushi bar at 9 Chapel Market last Friday, prompted by their deliriously sizzling Instagrams and the memories I have of other Japanese restaurants* in London and New York that have delighted and heightened my senses over time.
In I went for lunch, with a hunger that said I had not had breakfast and an appetite that wanted to try everything on the menu. With the restaurant just open for lunch and filling up with bookings and walk-ins fast, I had the privilege of choosing a table at the front of dining room, although several other guests, in particular two posh lads, let’s say, proved very picky about where they wanted to sit, changed tables a couple of times until they sat close enough to talk straight into my ear and the manager was more than willing to oblige – them.
Luckily the manager and the waiting staff were very obliging about my entire experience as well, from taking my order and explaining the ingredients of every dish that arrived at the table, to grating fresh Japanese wasabi under my nose and serving me my drinks. On this occasion, I ventured out and ordered some Sake, which promised undertones of strawberry and earthly flavours. I did not sense any strawberry undertones or earthly flavours in my clear glass of Sake, a fact which cemented my instinct that spirits are actually my drink of choice.
Hello, then arrived the dishes I had ordered – from the Seared Salmon, to the Crunchy Sushi Roll, to the 9 Chapel Market Roll. All made with perfectly cut fresh ingredients and layers and layers of fresh rice and fish, served with fresh soy sauce and freshly grated Wasabi root, mouth-watering and full of flavour. I don’t know what it is about well-crafted Japanese food – every time I have it, visions of Uma Thurman, Kill Bill and Quentin Tarantino flood my mind. I think that is a good thing.
The Crunchy Sushi Roll competed closely with the eponym dish at Salt + Charcoal, nevertheless it is the sauces, the crunchiness and the actual Williamsburg-nestled location of the latter joint that will keep it in the poll position of my Japanese digs forever and for always and Hot Stone as a really worthy deputy winner.
Hot Stone is located at 9 Chapel Market, London, N1 9EZ.
*Akira, Japan House, 101 – 111 Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA, and Salt + Charcoal, 171 Grand Street, Brooklyn, New York, 11249.