23 November 2010
My husband and I were intrigued to watch the huge Itsu on Notting Hill Gate take shape over the winter months, and so it was with some excitement that we went almost as soon as it opened. Set over two floors, its ambitious scale belies its laid back atmosphere, as does its glamorous, high octane decor. The designers of this impressive space have managed to create a cool, clubbish vibe which provides a stunning backdrop to the dining experience rather than competing with it. Not easily achieved.
The ground floor is home to three enormous conveyor belts with well-priced. well-judged and delicious Itsu classics. Fresh and sparky, the seafood is partnered with a variety of interesting sauces and marinades which add drama and depth not usually found in the world of conveyor belt sushi. Special mention should go to the crab crystal roll, dreamily fresh and taken to new levels by a vibrant green-herb sauce and the yellow tail “new style”, hot with chilli and beautifully seasoned. From the hot menu, we tried tiger prawn tempura – light and delicious – and langoustine gyozas in “dynamite” broth – good gyozas, brilliantly flavoured broth, alive with lemongrass and a surprising but delicious note of aniseed.
Above, the huge bar is set out in distinct zones, with large booths, delicate velvet chairs and space to mingle. Clever “cake stands” allow drinkers to become diners by helping themselves to dishes from the conveyor belt and stacking them, a great idea which had quickly caught on. No doubt this place will be heaving at the weekends but on the Thursday we visited it was well populated but not packed.
When it opened, Itsu managed to build on the concept of the conveyor belt restaurant in excellent style. The same trick has been pulled off here, the Itsu concept itself refined and raised a few notches. We'll be back very. very soon.
I have edited my original scores for this place to reflect the poor service we have experienced here. On 2 occasions now the conveyor belts have been turned off despite us and other diners being only halfway through dinner! When we complained the waitress bought a selection of food to our table, but that is hardly the point. I suspect that this policy is down to the restaurant being only half full most of the time – the much anticipated crowds have never materialised and the ambitious first floor is completely empty – but I would suggest that penalising those of us who do choose to go is a flawed tactic.
We still eat here from time to time as the food remains fresh and delicious, but my (considerable) enthusiasm has definitely waned!