Having heard much about the Danish restaurant chain, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, my expectations were high. Aside from the relatively noisy chatter and music, diners are likely to be struck by the clean and modern décor, blue drapes and dimmed lights creating a calming atmosphere in which the Scandinavian design influence is evident, even if perhaps in dissonance with the food. After being instantly greeted by staff and introduced to our exuberant and highly attentive waiter, we were presented with a refreshing Mio Sparkling Sake (£9/ 125ml glass) and a warm hand towel. This was a first for me, as my budget doesn’t normally extend to restaurants offering warm hand towels. It was instantly clear this would be a place to come for a celebration, perhaps graduation, and that my dining companion (beloved Editor, Anya Gill) and I were in for a special experience.
We were undoubtedly offered the best of the menu; the Extravaganza (£98) which offers a sample of multiple items from the menu, each of which can also be bought as individual sets at prices ranging from around £7 to £13. Every item came out seamlessly, with no waiting time, only time to digest and enjoy. We were instantly enamoured by the vibrancy of our first course and, for the first time, I felt I understood the meaning of ‘a feast for the eyes’. On our table was a multitude of dishes: bright orange Hotate Ceviche (scallops, in tiger’s milk) peppered with chilli, coriander and celery, Shake Tataki (seared salmon), Ebi Bites (tempura shrimp, miso aioli, chilli, lime) and, my personal favourite, Maguro Tataki (tuna, chunky wafu, daikon and black sesame truffle sauce). This is not forgetting the mountain of grilled edamame with a delectable glaze, which lasted the whole meal and provided a salty soy and sesame interlude between the sticks and the sushi.
We began with what was, in my opinion, the most striking dish. The Maguro Tataki, top-quality tuna, with sweet wafu, all set against a streak of black sesame truffle sauce, which provided a spectacularly rich and luxurious flavour to the soft and delicate tuna. Next, the tempura shrimp which were incredibly moreish, large and succulent shrimp in a delicate and crisp batter, topped with an addictive miso aioli. It was hard to know what to follow this with, but the scallop ceviche caught our eye. I have never had tiger’s milk before and the citrusy burst was far from what I expected. This dish tasted as wonderful as it looked, the sweet and vinegary sauce an entirely different flavour from any of the dishes we had so far sampled. The raw scallops, which I was initially eying with suspicion, were soft and melted away on the tongue. To round off our ‘Bites’ course, the Shake Tataki: seared salmon, kizami-wasabi, daikon and ponzu. The dish was beautifully elegant, each perfectly sliced salmon piece delicately laid in a pond of salty, citrusy ponzu. The salmon was satisfyingly velvety and truly a treat while the daikon and cress added the faint crisp that the dish needed. The salmon proved to be the perfect way to round off our expertly prepared first course, not to mention the accompanying Picpoul de Pinet (£7.20/ 175ml glass), a light and refreshing white to compliment the bites.
The table was swiftly cleared and re-filled, this time with a slate platter of nigiri and maki. The maki each had crisp tempura shrimp, one set topped with tuna and (an unexpected addition) barbeque sauce and one topped with finely sliced avocado. The tangy barbeque sauce, along with the tempura prawn in the centre, was unusual but somehow worked perfectly. Beside these precisely prepared maki, the nigiri was one of the most plain-looking parts of the meal, and yet one of the tastiest. The seared salmon and hamachi, also known as yellowtail tuna, was sumptuous. The hot sticks that followed were a welcome sight after so much raw fish, easy enough to nibble on slowly with a drink; a rich combination of scallops and bacon, rib-eye beef and, my favourite hot item of the night, the simple but luxurious miso marinated black cod. Moving eagerly on to the dessert (£9 for a trio), we sampled a creamy cheesecake, a dark chocolate, caramel and peppermint fondant, topped with a crunchy hazelnut brittle, and a matcha cake. Diving into the melting, warm centre of the matcha cake was a highlight of the night and showed that they mastered desserts just as well as they mastered the sticks and sushi.
Following this feast, we took time to enjoy a good quality coffee whilst perusing the drinks menu, an extensive list of wines, spirits, sparkling, soft and hot drinks, and chat to a couple sitting close to us. It was clear that very few people would get the selection we sampled considering the price of what had been complimentary for us. The couple acknowledged that the meal was a once-in-a-while treat but were also thoroughly satisfied with their meal and condoned a highly positive review. It is important to note that this is not somewhere for students to go when hall is closed and they can’t be bothered to cook, but probably somewhere to go with family or for a celebration with friends on those rare occasions of splashing out to try some good quality food. Having spent over two hours in the restaurant, we finally left the friendly group of waiters to go and discuss the night over some (cheaper) drinks. We had a truly exceptional meal at Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, the highlight of my university eating, and an experience I would strongly recommend to anyone looking for something special.