Ukai: where dessert should come first

I can eat sushi everyday. There are some Japanese and sushi chains in town that have better sets than the bastardized ones you get from supermarkets. They’re good enough for lunch, the type you eat when you want to satisfy a quick craving. But when you actually want an out of this city experience, when you want to taste the zen of Japanese cuisine with food that melts in your mouth, the choices are rather limited.

Yes, there are pretty good sushi places in London *fistpump* but they can be quite pricey *facepalm*. Some may be a bit overrated but some are definitely worth it. Most of the time, it’s hit-or-miss. I remember shelling out £50+ for a really really good authentic meal (an extra £10 for a single piece of otoro, or tuna belly nigiri) but I was still hungers after so I ended up getting a cornish pasty for a night cap.

I first came across Ukai last year and was a bit reluctant because a) the menu didn’t give anything away other than their lunchtime delivery menu (not a food snob, but this made me think it was no different than lunchtime sushi spots!), b) it looked more like a bar - dimly lit and cozy (perhaps to hide how their food looked like?) and c) it actually had an upstairs bar. I’m glad my friend pushed me to go though, because that night I had the freshest sashimi I’ve had in eons. And it didn’t cost an arm and a leg! (To be fair, it was another Taste card restaurant so I got 50% off!).

A few favourites from the menu:

Forgive me for starting with dessert, but the warm chocolate brownie (£6.60) is divine! Okay, it may not be the standard Japanese dessert but you can switch traditional vanilla ice cream to green tea and get yourself a proper treat! And speaking of green tea…

The green tea panacotta (£5.80) is absolutely amazeballs. It comes with a chocolate sauce which is good in flavour albeit slightly watery for my liking. I can devour ten servings of the panacotta (sans sauce) in one sitting and not feel guilty. It’s light, flavoursome and perfectly balanced: strong enough green tea with the right amount of sweetness.

I love a good agedashi tofu, especially when the tentsuyu is not overpowering the whole dish. Ukai’s crispy chilli tofu (£5.5) comes in a small plate but the portion is good enough to share between two mates. Perfectly crisp on the outside with hot tofu on the inside, this one’s definitely another favourite!

A typical sushi joint favourite, I’ve tasted heaps of California rolls. Ukai’s uramaki (£4.8) is straightforward, just the way I like it: with actual crab meat (instead of the usual kani or crab alternative), cream cheese and mango (instead of the usual avocado) and each bite is outstanding. Ukai is generous with the crab meat and it’s so fresh one could taste the sea. And speaking of melt in your mouth crab…

Oh hail the soft-shell crab tempura (£7.95). For someone who hates deep fried stuff, this is great and not oily at all. The batter is light, and seasoned well. The crab is plump and juicy and is a revelry of the natural sweetness of all crustaceans in the world. Its buttery texture is so good you don’t really need the tentsuyu it comes with.

Photo grabbed from

The spicy salmon mix (£11.50) is a gem. 11 pieces of clean-cut and fresh sushi and sashimi plus a well mixed soy-wasabi sauce equals a very happy belly. You can fill yourself up for lunch without feeling bloated at all. I myself prefer tuna for sashimi, but the three big cuts of salmon were so fresh and so delicious with the chili crust. The nigiri is good and massive, and the spicy futomaki is packed with so much flavour I want to cry just thinking about it

So yes, Ukai is definitely a great find and is easily one of my favourite places to eat in Soho (I’ve eaten here four times last month). They have good food that set the bar high without necessarily burning holes in your pocket, a good selection of wine, sake and cocktails and really good service. I wish they’d update their website though, as the online delivery menu is quite limited compared to the main restaurant menus. 


58 Poland Street | London W1F 7NT | 020 7734 1444
Average £20-40 per person (meal with wine/sake), 50% off food with Taste card.

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