PHAM SUSHI: LOUSY SUSHI IN THE NABE
Way back when, scarcely after the beginnings of recorded history, there was a suggestion that I would need to go and spend an extended period of time in New York.
Of course, I railed against it. It is a fine city, no doubt. Possibly amongst the top 10 or so in the world, but I just could not imagine myself being that far from access to things of cultural importance.
One thing however did almost make me change my mind. The fact that NYC has staggeringly good Sushi places not just at the high end, but at every level and in every neighbourhood. London just does not come close.
I mentioned on a post when I first started this blog that my understanding of just how good Sushi can be came from when a then friend of mine took me to Jewel Bako in New York. It was an epiphinal experience filled with extraordinary tastes and delicate balance the like of which I had not experienced before. It is one of the few moments of eating that truly changed the way I thought about food. More recently, the Omakase at Yasuda took it to another level again. Although I am no longer in touch with the friend in question, she retains a fond place in my memories not least for this reason.
Even at the meanest neighbourhood level in NYC it is possible to get sushi of a level that London finds hard to match. Sure, we have some exceptional places, Matsuri being my favourite. Also, we are developing some very acceptable neighbourhood options. Blossom is a good example ( although it has now closed in Hoxton Square and moved to a grim site under City Point ) Saki in Smithfield is as good as I get anywhere and there are a number of others but, there is just not the range that London Lite ( I mean NY ) has to offer
A number of people have told me that Pham Sushi, on my own doorstep, was a great neighbourhood place and one or two said it was amongst the best in London. I have been there once before but cannot claim to remember a single thing about the meal as the person I was with informed me as soon as we sat down that she loved me and the rest of the meal was, unsurprisingly a bit of a lovely blur. That, however is a whole ‘nother story.
Tonight after a brief drinkie with a chum in The Star & Garter in Soho, I had a real sushi jones, so hopped in a cab back to Whitecross St, the location of Pham Sushi and plonked myself at the bar.
The place was packed and they were turning people away at the door which gives testament to its popularity and made me think I was on a winner.
A simple order of a mixed tempura and a mixed set of Nigiri, Maki and Sashimi seemed a perfectly decent way to try out the place, particularly when added to an extra order of sweet shrimp nigiri.
But, quite frankly, it was dreadful. The tempura was oily and lacked any crispness. The sashimi was lacking in freshness. Not off, just lacking the spark. The nigiri looked dull and the rice was mushy. Worst of all were the maki where a soft shell crab filling took more chewing than half a yard of biltong.
With one beer, the bill was a massive £30. Hardly a neighbourhood price and certainly not acceptable for the level of sushi that would have any owner in New York run out of town on a rail.
There are very few moments indeed when I regret not taking up the offer to live in NYC. When I am craving great sushi forms the majority of them.
This was not great sushi. Far from it and I did not even get the compensation of someone telling me they loved me.