So Restaurant continues to astound with some of the best sushi the capital has to offer. It may stretch your wallet, but for fine dining with a Japanese twist this is as good as it gets.
So Restaurant is divided into two distinct sections. Upstairs is the bar, which serves a selection of sushi tasters. This area also serves as the main restaurant on the rare occasion that they’re not very busy, and although the ambience is more conducive to snacking on sushi rather than dining from the main menu, it is nonetheless an attractive area.
However, on the whole it is downstairs in the main restaurant where the serious eating happens. The dining room is dark without being cloying, based in the basement it certainly has a more romantic air than upstairs. There’s a huge window across the wall that separates the kitchen and the dining room so you can see the expert sushi chefs at work – always a good sign of a decent restaurant. The tables are well spaced out and you can sit apart from other diners without feeling too segregated. The tables are kept very simple – there are no grand tablecloths here – just a nice, dark wood theme that works in its simplicity. This is typical Japanese style – simple, minimal and clean, and it really works.
For a restaurant of such high quality, the atmosphere at So Restaurant is surprisingly relaxed. There are no false airs and graces, just excellent service and a quiet hum as diners enjoy their food.
However, it’s the staff who really make the atmosphere. Friendly, professional and courteous, they’re only too happy to talk you through the menu, make recommendations and tell you the history behind each dish. Their knowledge is impeccable.
The food at So Restaurant is nothing short of incredible. At worst, it is delicious, at best simply excellent. There’s a nice choice depending on what you fancy from a larger than average sushi and sashimi menu to a more traditional three course selection of hot dishes. If you’re after a quick lunch or a bite before hitting the nearby bars then opt for the fresh, high quality cold fish selections. However, the real piece de resistance is the hot food.
The chef is Japanese but has worked in French restaurants and the influence is subtle but definitely present, adding a new dimension to the usual cuisine. This is best highlighted in the octopus with cherry tomatoes in a light sauce. When it appears, it looks more like a typical salad, but the unusual mix of salad and octopus is light and subtle. The gentle sweetness of the tomato bursts in the mouth with the heavy, meaty texture of the octopus. Delicious. Alternatively, the scallops are cooked better than at many fine dining restaurants without the sliminess that sometimes infects the middle. Instead they’re perfectly juicy and tender with a delicate salad of Japanese radish, which is slightly sweet and has a pleasant crunchy texture that goes well with the soft scallops.
Main courses are just as good. The Wagyu beef is expensive at £40 but is exquisite. Cooked medium rare and appearing perfectly pink, the steak is rich in meaty flavours and juices and tears apart easily in the mouth – who knew you could eat steak with chopsticks? However, the highlight is the whole sea bass (£20). Don’t be put off by its appearance – a whole fish, complete with the head smells incredible but looks a little daunting when holding your chopsticks. However, it’s cooked perfectly, the flesh flaking from even the smallest of bones. Once you get your technique down it makes the whole experience of eating fish more of a joy, working to pick the sea bass apart and being rewarded with mouthfuls of warm, tender fish.
Finally come the desserts. In typical Japanese style these almost taste healthy and are perfect for those who enjoy sweets without the guilt. The tofu cheesecake with homemade nougat ice cream may sound unappealing but it can rival most fatty cheesecakes. Slightly more crumbly than the more traditional recipe, it still retains all the creamy flavours, and the nougat ice cream is fresh and sweet, providing the perfect accompaniment. Alternatively, the green tea chocolate cake with mint ice cream is incredible. The chocolate cake avoids the heaviness of the usual recipes and instead has a lightness to the sponge offered by the clean taste of the green tea that comes through. The mint ice cream isn’t what you might expect – it’s not the sweet mint we’ve become accustomed to, but tastes of the herb. Fresh and light – more like a sorbet – it’s an unusual accompaniment that really works.
There are a wide range of drinks on offer at So Restaurant. They have a large selection of wines (£16-£74) and Champagne (£37-£620) to suit any budget, however decadent. For beer drinkers there is an excellent choice of Japanese beers, including Asahi and Kirin. There are also a few interesting sake based cocktails for just £5-£7. However, if you’re looking for the full Japanese experience it’s recommended you opt for the sake tasting. For just £8 you receive four decent-sized glasses of different sakes (which change regularly) complete with a guide to what they’re called and how they taste. It allows you to try different, quality authentic sakes and makes for a great talking point – especially if you’re on a date.
After your meal it’s highly recommended you indulge in a pot of green tea. A highlight is definitely the Genmaicha - a mix of green tea and roasted rice. With a distinct nutty undertone, the tea is fresh and clean with more dimension of flavour than many green teas and without any of the bitterness than can occasionally accompany them.
The Last Word
This restaurant really is a star find. Serving some of the most delicious, well-prepared sushi and Japanese food you’ve ever tasted in pleasant surrounding and with a top-class staff, you can’t fail to be impressed.