This small sushi bar in Putney has been wowing locals with its fresh food and pleasant ambience, giving the big rival sushi chains a run for their money.
Blink and you’ll miss it along the busy Lower Richmond Road, this diminutive sushi spot in London’s southwest is worth seeking out. With a bright white modern decor enhanced by delicate oriental touches, the interior is fresh, clean and welcoming. There are only a couple of tables, although you can choose to perch at an elegant high bench or be a full-blown Japanese epicure and cross your legs, fluff the cushions and sit at the authentic knee-high dark-wood table in the secluded side room. If you want to mix sushi with sunshine (weather permitting!), there are a few tables lining the window outside under the black canopy emblazoned with the scarlet Sushi 54 logo.
With space for no more than about twenty seated patrons, Sushi 54 has an intimate and relaxed atmosphere. The staff are exceedingly friendly and ever helpful – flitting between attending the few tables and manning the counter at the front where there is a steady stream of customers ducking in to pick up their takeaway sushi feasts. Those after a buzzing, lively restaurant should look elsewhere but it’s great if you’re out to enjoy your own company.
The menu is enormous – while the sheer size of the offering could raise concerns about quality at restaurants of other cuisines, here the copious choices for fresh and delicious sushi are a plus for connoisseurs. Look to the Top 10 sets if you need a nudge when ordering – here you’ll find sets of maki, nigiri and sashimi organised into various serving sizes, from about £6 for the mini up to about £30 for a large bento, designed for sharing. The small bento is a great choice for one, including two nigiri (sizeable mounds of sticky rice draped with equally sized tender, succulent pieces of salmon and tuna, spiced up with a dash of wasabi), four slivers of fresh salmon and tuna sashimi and two perfectly browned gyoza – irresistibly plump dumplings stuffed with a savoury minced chicken or vegetable filling. With the bento boxes you also get a dose of the light and moreish miso soup, perfect with soft tofu squares and crunchy spring onions, as well as extra rice.
If you’re more inclined to tailor-make your order, there’s tons of sushi combinations available. The choices of nigiri and maki sushi include traditional fillings like cucumber, avocado, salmon or tuna alongside the more unusual eel, octopus, oshinko (yellow pickled radish) or the salty tobiko (flying fish roe). There are also noodles, soups and salads. A tiger prawn tempura is very pricey at about £8 for three pieces but the prawns are sizeable and coated in an airy, lightly oiled, crispy batter that will leave you wanting to dole out for more. For something a little different, try the Mexican futomaki – a large rice roll stuffed with salmon, mozzarella and jalapenos that is superbly spicy and savoury.
It’s not commonplace to follow a sushi smorgasbord with a rich dessert but the homemade brownie with green tea ice cream is a spongy, gooey delight perfectly contrasted by the refreshing sorbet on the side. All the food at Sushi 54 is beautifully presented, delicately arranged on crisply white plates – a visual feast as well as a tasty one.
Sushi is typically best when paired with a crisp white wine and there are a few decent tipples on offer that perfectly suit, starting from £13.50. The dry and delicate Marlborough Summerhouse Sauvignon Blanc is ideal with fish, although there is a French rose and a few reds as well. Beer-wise there are Japanese stalwarts Kirin Ichiban, Asahi and Sapporo and sake is also on offer. If you’re having a teetotal evening, there are five varieties of green tea or jasmine tea, plus the usual soft drinks.
The Last Word
Mixing traditional favourites with some more off-the-wall combinations, Sushi 54 promises something delicious and unique for sushi fans. The steepish prices won’t lure fans of the cheaper sushi chains but if you’re willing to pay a little extra for a more refined atmosphere and better, fresher food, then 54 is your number.