The Japan Centre is nestled in the heart of bustling Picadilly madness. It’s a multi-storied building fully kitted out with a Japanese grocery store, a book store, travel store and with the main floor being their restaurant called Toku. On a Saturday, the crowd inside is almost frenzied with plenty of people moving in and out of the main floor, as well as going up and down the stairs. Fortunately it wasn’t raining on the weekend I went, so at least the waves of people could escape outside.
I sat at the sushi bar, located to the left of the entrance as you walk in and where three chefs were preparing all of the sushi and what looked like, all of the tempura orders as well. As soon as you are seated, an attendant will draw a small bowl of wasabi peas from a large container – probably the one thing that pushes the service charge up from your standard to their 12.5%. Admittedly it’s a nice thing to snack on these things as you peruse the impressive menu choice. The first two pages are all drinks with a huge selection of sake, Japanese beer, plenty of normal soft drinks and juices and many Japanese drinks, including my most favourite ones – Ramune and Calpico.
The sushi menu is vast, though ordering by the piece is expensive such as £6 for two pieces of the eel nigiri! Other dishes, particularly the lunch sets or the don (rice bowl) dishes offered more value. Not able to turn down the chance of trying the eel, I still ordered the expensive nigiri sushi as well as the Katsudon dish that comes with miso soup.
The sushi was the first out of the dishes to arrive and though beautifully presented, was also the smallest bit of eel I’d seen for a while. The typical sauce, not quite lavishly dripping off the eel itself, was artfully dotted around the wooden platform it had been presented on and accompanied by the typical ginger and wasabi paste. The katsudon was much more pleasing with the perfect amount of egg and dashi sauce covering the kastu on the rice, and not too much rice that you ended up with a whole heap at the end of your meal.
Although meals here are reasonable, stay away from ordering sushi for the piece, and even then, the sushi sets are pretty expensive compared to many other places (like Donzoko). The bowl dishes and the the non-sushi sets offer much better value.
Found on: Japan Centre, 212 Piccadilly, London, W1J 9HX
Contactable on: 020 7255 8255
Highlights: Authentic Japanese food with a huge variety of everything
Room for improvement: Sushi is overpriced and it’s really busy
The Kua Rating: 7.5 out of 10