Travel is everyone’s favorite sport right now and a pairing that’s never gone out of style is food accompanying travel. Food is as good a reason as any to visit a new country or destination and often results in the most lasting sensory feelings.
And sometimes, if you’re lucky, the star meal won’t be what you expect. Coming to London you might expect fish and chips to bowl you over, but like all great cities, the city of London brings the world to you.
My current favorite dining experience in London is a taste of Japan, with a Thai and Colombian twist, paired with the irreverence of a team which only respects delicious.
Kurisu Omakase is exactly what a seasoned sushi fan may expect it to be, but it’s also not at all. That’s contradictory, so let me explain.
Yes, it’s an 8 seater and yes, they only serve a set meal omakase showcasing the finest fish with incredible starter courses and delectable nigiri. But it’s also not at all what the sushi glitterati may expect at all.
There is no velvet curtain drawing you in with a single carving of Hinoki wood serving as an ornate counter top paired with acoustically treated walls. There is no air of luxury pretension at all. You’re in Brixton — like really in Brixton and refinement is for food.
As Chris and his team tell every guest, he’s half Thai, half Colombian and the cultural formalities of Japan are respected, but left optional on the dining invite.
Sure, he trained at the top sushi academy in Japan and has dined at most of the world’s greatest sushi dens himself, but the pomp and circumstance isn’t really his joint.
And that’s why you have things like the toro “spliff” to finish the meal, which may be my fave when it’s on the menu. Nigiri pieces are every bit as precise as a top omakase in Tokyo, but might have incredible, Thai inspired herbs adding a depth of flavor that traditional nigiri might restrict.
The dedication to every piece of rice and exquisitely cutting every piece of fish to maximize texture and experience is endless devotion, but the desire to play within the confines of what a truly traditional Japanese omakase offers is not there — at all.
Pieces have names and you’ll never forget them. Once you’ve had the “Houdini”, Harry won’t be what you think of. The “chop chop”, don’t even get me started. It’s the most wow factor combination of toro, hot and cold.
What you get is this eclectic, amusing, hyper formal yet informal meal all served in Brixton, in a shop window. It’s gloriously weird and tasty. While formality may not be a thing here, respect for food is. At least brush up on omakase etiquette before dining and definitely don’t ask for the soy sauce.
Jay Rayner, Hype And Present
Jay Rayner, at least to me, is one of the world’s greatest ever food writers. He takes words and makes you see, taste and hear things. It’s sensory overload via text, with a dry and painfully direct humor.
When Jay Rayner reviewed Kurisu Omakase in the summer of 2021, it was an instant kingmaker moment. Jay l-o-v-e-d the meal as he penned in the Guardian and what was already a hot ticket, with tables laid out in quarterly drops and gobbled within 6 hours, became gobbled within the hour.
Many restaurants get into all sorts of shenanigans to capitalize on their moment of fame. Some even do straight up dumb $#!t to print coin while the spotlight is on. But a true restauranteur changes nothing. Clearly, what was working is working, so why do a single thing about it?
This is where my love for Kurisu Omakase has grown into romance. I’ve reviewed it, but since then I’ve aimed to visit at least once a month and pretty much have. Every meal, yes every single meal has been a new experience luring me back.
Sure, the nigiri pieces will always be largely a take on the same stunning fish, both hyper local and globally sought after, but the little twists which elevate this food from simple omakase into a meal that’s respectful of sushi tradition yet unaccepting of the usual confines are everywhere.
The starter courses though, damn. Those are just a different world of seasonality and I think my takeaway is that if everyone who went to Kurisu Omakase just once as a treat knew how stunningly different and fun a return visit the next season would be, a table would truly become impossible.
I thought things hit peak with a Jerusalem Artichoke fish tempura — yes I did forget the exact fish — dish months ago, but the pink peppercorn based sauce of late was extra.
It’s clear that hype is not a part of this experience. The traditional dedication to the every day process of creating truly great sushi and omakase meals is the experience. That, plus an irreverence for traditional ingredients and stuffy settings.
This meal is smack dab on the road in bustling Brixton, with all the sounds and amusements that come with it. Frankly, I’d be sad if it were ever tucked behind vaulted doors with pristine hinoki wood. This is the multi-cultural brilliance of London taking on Japanese tradition and it wouldn’t be the same without the eclectic mix.
Hot Tip: Kurisu Omakase Reservations
Kurisu Omakase reservations are fun, because they’re not fun. There is no VIP line to call. Chris lets Instagram followers know when the next quarter of tables is dropping and off to the races you go.
But, there’s a bit of a hack. Life “happens” and people occasionally need to bail on their long coveted reservations. When that happens, Resy “Notify” is your friend. If you turn alerts on for any seatings you’d be interested in you can occasionally score a seat that had long been sold out.