I have found my sushi heaven.
Having trawled countless foodie threads from eGullet to Chowhound, one recommendation kept cropping up time and again - Tomoe. This small, unassuming restaurant was apparently just off Oxford Street, so my husband and I made it our mission to go there for our anniversary lunch. We didn't book, as I decided that if it was Meant To Be, there'd be plenty of room to fit us.
We made our way past a dozen identikit bistros on James Street, before finding Tomoe on Marylebone Lane, well secluded from the bustle of Oxford Street. Indeed there was a table for two free, and I was comforted that all the faces around us were Oriental because that means it's good, right?
As soon as we sat down, they brought us complimentary Japanese tea. I looked around and was a little frustrated by that Japanese custom of having special, off-menu dishes written in kanji on little signs adorning the walls. At least that was my gaijin assumption - they could equally have said "If you can read this sign, that means you don't suck".
However, the menu itself was clear and comprehensive, split into one-plate meals like donburi, soba and udon, as well as larger teishoku like udon/sushi sets. There was also a wide range of sushi and sashimi. Hubby went for a classic tonkatsu set and I went for tempura udon. We also ordered a deluxe sashimi set, and five individual nigiri of tobiko (flying fish roe), unagi (kabayaki eel), hotate (scallop), chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) and o-toro (super-fatty tuna), as well as a portion of tsukemono (Japanese pickles). I am greedy.
First came the tonkatsu set, or rather its side dishes - miso soup, Wafu salad plus tiny saucer of pickles. "Here are your tsukemono" chirruped the waitress as she placed in front of me another saucer of pickles, as tiny as the one included in my husband's set and certainly not worth the extra £1.80. I felt sad and promptly ate all of his pickles too. I said I was greedy.
Next came the tonkatsu itself, a crispy, crunchy, panko'ed pork chop on a bed of shredded white cabbage. The accompanying rice was good and fluffy and the pork itself tender and flavoursome.
Tempura udon brought chewy, firm noodles in a rich broth topped with a variety of tasty tempura including prawns, shiitake mushroom, aubergine and potato, but sadly the batter was a little soggy (though this may be due to the fact that I was fannying around with my camera for so long before tucking in). Regardless, with a sprinkle of shichimi pepper, I happily lapped it all up.
The deluxe sashimi appeared as a bejewelled platter of sliced maguro (tuna), hamachi (yellowtail), tai (sea bream), hotate (scallop) and salmon.
There was also chopped-up saba (mackerel) with ginger and spring onions, and real-ish wasabi, shredded daikon, cucumber and shiso leaf. Every piece of fish tasted fresh, delicious and vibrant.
The real star of the meal however was the sushi. The rice was warm and pearly with the slightest vinegary tang, the neta (toppings) were fat and generous and, my, I don't know if they were having a good day or what, but every single nigiri was packed with explosive flavour.
The tobiko popped with savoury bursts, the unagi was sinfully unctuous, the hotate sweet and lush, the chutoro delightfully rich and the o-toro - sweet. buttery. goodness.
The whole lot only came to about £50 for both of us and we ate so much.
Tomoe is now my number one Japanese restaurant in London!
Around Britain With a Paunch, londonelicious, Kake and An American in London all loved it too!
Tomoe Sushi Bar
62 Marylebone Lane
020 7486 2004