When you think of great Japanese restaurants in the capital, it would be easy for your mind to wander towards the moneyed neighbourhoods of Mayfair and Knightsbridge, with somewhere like east London’s Bethnal Green barely given a second thought.
Issho-Ni, a lively restaurant and cocktail bar, has set out to show that you can find high-quality Japanese food in London outside of SW1, and it certainly did a good job of proving that point to us.
Issho-Ni is a hidden gem nestled in the midst of a workaday parade of newsagents and takeaways. Despite the dispiriting setting, it’s a stylish two-floor space which forgoes typical Japanese minimalism for pops of colour matched with a rustic-chic vibe. Exposed brick walls and dark wood flooring are juxtaposed with curved blue velvet banquettes, as well as a few fun nods to Issho-Ni’s heritage in the likes of an array of origami swans hanging from the ceilings and vibrant murals of geisha girls splashed across the walls.
Issho-Ni is the brainchild of restaurateur Claire Su and sits on what was once her parents’ restaurant Noodle King. These days, the menu consists of an izakaya-style offering of small plates and larger dishes, overseen by head chef Eduardo Aguiar, whose CV includes Roka and Chisou.
The skill in the kitchen is evident from the stand-out dish of the evening of butterfish sashimi, seared lightly to retain its supremely fresh, velvety texture and given extra oomph by a truffle-laced ponzu sauce.
There’s plenty here for meat eaters too, though, in the likes of wagyu kushiyaki. The premium meat’s famously marbled texture is maximised thanks to being cooked over a charcoal grill, before being finished off with a sprinkling of garlic flakes and spring onion.
We often find desserts at Japanese restaurants uninspiring, but Issho-Ni’s innovative remakes of classic puddings are an exception – witness the indulgent chocolate delice served with a scoop of saké-infused ice cream which acts as a palate cleanser against the richness of the mousse.
If you can’t make it to Issho-Ni in the week, visit on Sunday to enjoy free-flowing Prosecco or cocktails alongside brunch, while the restaurant also hosts occasional chef’s tables for those that take their Japanese food as seriously as Su and Aguiar do.