Just a few steps from my front door is one of the most impressive Japanese restaurants in London. Restaurateur Toru Sasaki opened Murasaki in early 2017 in a small parade of neighbourhood stores in Maida Vale, but its reputation stretches wide. I’ve seen footballers, musicians and actors here, along with my neighbours, sitting either on the all-seasons terrace or inside among the silk kimono obi hangings.
Murasaki means “purple” in Japanese, but in the sushi world it also means “soy sauce”. At Murasaki they make their own blends from different soy sauces – and it’s such attention to detail that makes this restaurant stand out. That and the considerable skills of head sushi chef Koturo Ishiguro, who comes from a long line of sushi chefs in Toyama, northern Japan. It can take years just to perfect the shaping of sushi, he explains; there needs to be a certain amount of air within the rice so that it “expands in your mouth. It should also be served at body temperature”, then dressed with a customised ratio of mirin and vinegar.
I like to sit at the bar watching the sushi chefs perform their craft, using fish that is delivered daily from across Europe. My favourite dishes are the salmon sashimi (£6.50) – raw, gentle flavoured salmon from Scotland and Norway, served on a shiso leaf cooled with crushed ice; the signature Murasaki roll (£15), with its snow crab and avocado filling; agadashi tofu in a flavourful dashi broth (£5.50), with a small mound of grated daikon radish and a whisper of bonito flakes; and last but far from least, the black cod miso (£25), which is as good as Nobu’s. My choice tipple from the wide range of regional sakes is the Kubota (£20 for a 350ml bottle); it’s very light and dry, and a pleasure to drink either hot or chilled.