Let us start by getting one thing straight – Atari-Ya is not a computer game.
Up until two, maybe three years ago, it may as well have been because nobody knew about it. What with the prevalence of sushi-mania, it was only a matter of time till London’s best kept sushi secret leaked out… and everyone is talking about it.
Located rather discreetly on the corner of Monkville Parade, this Japanese mini market and (shhh!) sushi bar can quite easily be missed. Inside, the format is clear. Everything on the right is for wholesale and retail and on the left is well, a sushi bar.
This is no frills sushi: no special treatment, no fancy furniture and no pressure to sit down either. Decoration is kept to a minimum but there is a charming wall-clock with a face made up of various pieces of sashimi (raw fish).
From the minute the place opens, it is heaving with customers coming in and out and ordering more to pick up later. The phone rings non-stop for takeaway orders and the waitresses are always politely rushed off their feet. There are three or four ultra rapid and friendly staff working behind the bar. It is worth mentioning that they are flexible and will customize the sushi at your request. Lots of Japanese people choose to dine at Atari-Ya, a clear indication of its authenticity.
Due to the extortionate prices at most sushi bars, sushi lovers often find they have to refrain from ordering too much. This is what makes Atari-Ya special. Hand rolls start from around £1.50 for one filling and won’t come to more than £1.80 for two. Nigiri (fish on rice) is about £1 and vegetarian and non vegetarian sushi rolls (maki) vary but are approximately £2 to £3. Sashimi (five pieces of raw salmon or tuna) is priced according to weight but is usually between £3 and £4.
Everything is half the price of chains like Hi Sushi and Yo! Sushi and the portions are far greater in size. The hand rolls come packed with rice and the slices of tuna and salmon sashimi are large. All the fish is fresh from Billingsgate Fish Market and for those who are unsure about eating raw fish, Atari-Ya closes earlier than other restaurants so none of the fish is kept out for too long.
There aren’t any specials like the Dragon or Rainbow roll as this is authentic Japanese sushi but their signature spicy chicken teriyaki inside-out roll prevails over any of the Americanised versions. The teriyaki chicken is moist, succulent and not too spicy and a must try for all sushi aficionados.
The refrigerator of soft drinks (Diet Coke, 7-Up etc) at the back facilitates a casual self-service policy. For adventurous types, there is a selection of Japanese Aloe Vera fruit flavoured drinks and these are quite popular too. Green tea and miso soup are available on request.
The Last Word
For an inexpensive lunchtime snack, Atari-Ya is ideal. For a deceivingly lavish evening of sushi and wine, put a takeaway order in early and grab a bottle of sake from the mini-market. But don’t tell anyone where you got it!