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Sushi: House of The Rising Sun Shrewsbury Review

 

House of the Rising Sun Shrewsbury Restaurant Review

House of the Rising Sun Shrewsbury Restaurant Review

East meets East London in the West Midlands, with a drop over in Spain.

My first experience of eating sushi was on a recent visit to Japan and was in a budget sushi bar halfway through the trip near the entrance of Nishiki Market, known locally as ‘Kyoto’s pantry’. All other meals on the trip had been painstakingly researched, but this one (in the rain) hadn’t – though, given its location, I felt I could trust it.

With hindsight, no one wants to hear ‘budget’ and ‘sushi’ together in the same sentence. Budget planes, budget hotels, budget supermarkets; yes. Budget sushi: never.

The second experience, saved for our final night in Japan, the climax to ten days of feasting on food, culture, theatre and so very many temples, was a traditional Kyoto-style sushi restaurant in Gion, favoured by geisha and their clients. Here they served Saba-sugata-zushi, a pressed sushi with mackerel (saba) fermented in sushi vinegar and wrapped in pickled kombu, which is much thicker than nori on better-known Tokyo-style sushi and should be removed before eating. The mackerel, however, was pungent; somewhere akin to a mild surströmming.

Had we gone any other day of the trip it would have been an ‘experience’ but on the last day of the trip it was distressing. So distressing, the ‘experience’ could only be put right by cherry blossom cream puffs from the Franco-Japanese bakery found in the reception of our hotel, of course.

After these experiences, I do not consider myself a sushi connoisseur, but I do miss sushi having moved to landlocked Shropshire from (granted, also landlocked) London over a year ago. I used to walk past three sushi bars alone between Canary Wharf tube station and the DLR on my way home to Poplar. If feeling more adventurous, I could have planned a trek to Ealing or Bayswater – walking poles and all. Apart from an Ocado delivery, the opportunities for fresh sushi in Shropshire are few and far between.

So I was delighted to be invited to House of the Rising Sun in Shrewsbury where, head chef, Sam Butler made it to the UK heat of the 2015 Global Sushi Challenge.

A local boy with a clean passport; his sushi skills are self-taught. His menu is not limited to sushi alone, but encompasses the full Pacific Rim – India, Thailand, Cambodia, China, Korea and Australia – in an East meets West food offering.

House of the Rising Sun felt familiar, perhaps I had noticed it when eating at Number Four opposite earlier in the year. It’s branding felt recognisable. Somehow it had been lodged somewhere in my subconscious, though I had (wrongly) assumed it was a cocktail and burgers joint.

Bare bulbs, metro tiles and waiters in skinny jeans; dark recesses and reclaimed parquet make it feel like a little corner of Shoreditch has been picked up and relocated to Shrewsbury; though thankfully without the beards or Russell Brand.

However, it is the sushi counter you pass on your left as you enter the restaurant that sets this place apart from the tedium of endlessly opening ‘dirty’ burger pop-ups and joints.

The menu is confusingly large and prompts are needed from our waitress. Service was attentive and friendly, without being overbearing. The staff were knowledgeable and could easily navigate the fusion menus, recommending dishes along the way.

The first page of the menu offers sushi, tempura and sides. Sharing plates follow on the next page. A traditional starters, mains and desserts menu is also offered, including a decent steak selection; and a ‘Wave Menu’, a tasting menu meets tapas option. In case we didn’t have enough choice, we were also given a specials lunch menu for the day. The menus could be simplified, particularly for lunch service, but overall the Wave Menu does offer a good selection of dishes at a reasonable £30 a head.

We start with twelve pieces of mixed sushi, which is served in a traditional lacquered bento box and sprinkled with a colourful variety of micro cresses and edible flowers. The plates, for all our dishes, were beautiful and gave an authentic nod to the East – where presentation is key.

Given Sam’s recent activities achieving ‘Uk’s Top 10 Sushi Chef’ status, the sushi is, unsurprisingly, excellent. Sushi is really all about the rice. Yes, the thing that sits on top of it is the star, but if the rice is wrong then it’s all wrong. It’s the rice that makes sushi, sushi. Here, at House of The Rising Sun, the rice is excellent. It balances the sour-sweet-salty aspect of Japanese food perfectly and holds it shape without being claggy or overcooked. This is real sushi.

The fish was melt-in-the-mouth soft and discernibly fresh. The selection of fish (tuna, salmon, swordfish and scallop) had been used for both the edomae and sashimi; perhaps a little repetitious, but good for sharing.

A highlight was the char tartare, which – as well as fitting the East meets West criteria – is a delight to say. Char is closely related to salmon and trout, with characteristics of both including the bright pink colour and sweet taste, which complimented the traditional tartare elements – acidic gherkin, capers and lemon juice; and fatty mayonnaise– excellently.

The rolls are a good way to dip your toe in the water if you’re new to sushi and don’t want to dive in at the deep end with raw sashimi. Classic combinations inspire the fillings such as soft-shell crab and pepper, and lobster with Thai basil, lemon mayonnaise and salted cucumber. The tiniest, Alice in Wonderland-like enoki mushrooms peep out of one with thin matchsticks of carrot, showing brilliant skill from the kitchen.

We were torn over the chilli salt squid tempura. The squid was perfectly cooked but the tempura was greasy – a hard balance to get right; particularly on a busy Saturday lunch service. The accompanying sticky syrupy sweet chilli sauce (clearly made in house) was excellent. I would take bottles of it home if I could.

Meandering across the menus, our sharing plates came out next from the main kitchen upstairs. Seared scallops with morcilla and apple miso purée – a classic combination – paired excellently with my glass of Chilean Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc. The locally made morcilla was excellent, crumbly with the right amount of subtle spice. However, so very sadly, the hand-dived Scottish scallops were full of water and had lost their flavour.

The duck bonbons, perhaps more golf balls than bonbons, were generously overstuffed, moist, well spiced and truly satisfying. The Szechuan plum mayonnaise was silky smooth and had a sharp, clean flavour that complemented the duck perfectly.

As an ex-pastry chef, dessert is the most important course to me. If I could choose what I really wanted, it would be a tasting menu of desserts – life is savoury enough. All the offerings on the dessert menu sounded exceptional though expand the culinary journey via churros and chocolate sauce.

British social protocol, however, meant I could only have one dessert (and half of my partners). After many umming and ahhing, we (me) settled on a peanut butter jelly sandwich and jasmine rice parfait with passion fruit and sweet puffed rice.

Though beautifully presented the jasmine rice parfait, which was the consistency of a very soft nougat, was totally overpowered by a very acidic quenelle of passion fruit sorbet and accompanying blobs of passion fruit gel. The PB&J had a rubber-like disc of strawberry jelly that was pushed around the plate by both my partner and myself. The peanut butter ice cream was delicious, and the star of the dishes.

In landlocked Shropshire, House of the Rising Sun offers a little piece of the East in East London surroundings. To be head chef and representing House of the Rising Sun in this year’s Global Sushi Challenge at the age of 26 is a great achievement for any chef.

The fact that Sam is self-taught demonstrates a clear passion he must have for fish and rice; time and experience will round off the corners. But for those of us who yearn for excellent sushi in the middle of Shropshire it can be found: here: www.HOTRS.co.uk

Review by Eat-the-Midlands Contributing Editor Louise Thomas. September 2015 © Follow us @Eat_themidlands

House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury ”HOTRS peanut butter jelly sandwich”

HOTRS peanut butter jelly sandwich

Sushi at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Jasmine rice Parfait, Passion Fruit & Sweet Puffed Rice at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Confit duck bon bons, Szechuan plum mayo at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Confit duck bon bons, Szechuan plum mayo House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

 

Lobster, Thai basil, lemon mayonnaise and salted cucumber roll from the Mixed sushi and sashimi at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Lobster, Thai basil, lemon mayonnaise and salted cucumber roll from the Mixed sushi and sashimi House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Hand Dived fresh Scallops Seared, morcilla, apple miso purée  at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Hand Dived fresh Scallops Seared, morcilla, apple miso purée at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Sushi at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Chilli Salt Squid Tempura at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Sushi at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

Sushi ‘Bento Box’ selection at House of the Rising Sun Restaurant Shrewsbury

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