“I like to sit at the bar watching the sushi chefs perform their craft”

Delicious Japanese cuisine – from standout sushi to regional sakes – tucked away in west London’s Maida Vale

Head sushi chef Koturo Ishiguro making nigiri sushi
Head sushi chef Koturo Ishiguro making nigiri sushi

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. 

Agadashi tofu in dashi broth, £5.50
Agadashi tofu in dashi broth, £5.50
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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. 

The signature Murasaki roll of salmon and sea bass with a snow crab and avocado filling, £15
The signature Murasaki roll of salmon and sea bass with a snow crab and avocado filling, £15
Black cod miso, £25
Black cod miso, £25

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.

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