Review: Mai Sushi, Chalton Street

Top-notch Japanese food at an institution that’s chocka day and night

Mai Sushi, Chalton Street

Peter Nguyen, Mai Sushi, Chalton Street
Peter Nguyen, the son of Mai Sushi’s owner. Photo: Dan Hall
So packed with tourists, businessmen and local Japanese is this simple, bamboo-clad dining room on any given lunchtime that the noise is almost deafening.

Adorned with paper fans, Japanese porcelain figurines, and wall art depicting cherry blossom, Mai Sushi feels casually authentic, like walking into a neighbourhood hangout in Osaka.

It’s so diminutive that you’ll probably have to queue – unless you’re dining alone – in which case they can usually squeeze you in. Service is functional and quick, and the turnover fast; it’s not the kind of place you necessarily linger.

However, the reason for the madness of this tiny institution is it’s so good. A huge leather-bound menu might seem overwhelming, but there are plenty of unintimidating sushi sets to ease you on your way.

Mai Sushi, Chalton Street
Casually authentic aesthetics. Photo: Stephen Emms
If you’re scared of going a la carte, a perfectly adequate salmon and tuna set is £10.50, while a more daring Chef’s Selection (expect a surprise or two) is between £10-12.

I’m utterly hooked on the excellent salmon bento box at £13. It’s great value, and more filling than you’d expect: a delicious miso soup to start, rich in umami flavours, is followed by a generous box of tricks.

Three luscious good-size pieces of sashimi – tuna, salmon and bream – snuggle up alongside pickled veg, a zingy Asian salad and slab of salmon teriyaki, its sauce perfectly balanced between salty and the sweet kick of mirin, better still when easily dunked in a pool of soy and fiery wasabi.

Like many places in Euston it feels like a secret – and if you drink tap water, the bill, with service, is south of £15 a head.

This is box title
Open daily 12midday to late at 36-38 Chalton Street, NW1. More here.

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