Friday, 1 July 2011
Tsuru (previously Ginza), 139 Woolwich Road, Greenwich, SE10 0RJ, London
You would've thought that in a village (right word?) like Greenwich, there would be quite a few good restaurants around. I mean, you get tourists by the bus-loads here, each one eager to be at The Start Of Time(zone), and surely these guys have to eat something in between all that time(zone) travelling? Apparently not.
From the restaurants we've tried in Greenwich central (ie the small bit that exists between the 2 sets of traffic lights), the only ones worth dining at are the chain restaurants like GBK and Pizza Express. If you're really desperate (like, really really) for some Chinese takeaway style food, then there's always Tai Won Mein which serves up cheap nosh in quantities worth taking pictures of. However, if you're up for some decent, non-chain restaurant style food, I'm afraid I've not found one that's worth blogging about yet. Maybe it exists, I surely haven't found it.
But read on. There is a glimmer of restaurant hope yet further down the road.
So, moving down Trafalgar Road, further away from Greenwich town itself, there once was a lovely little Japanese restaurant called Ginza. This lovely gem of a find served some of the freshest, thickest slices of sashimi I've had in London, with a cosy, comfortable interior most suited for first dates (if you're splashing out). With almost no obvious clientele base in the are, how the business survived, I never knew, but I guess that question is out the window now that the restaurant seems to have changed its name.
It's now called Tsuru.
To be honest, you'd never even know the place had changed name if you just went by it. The decor's the same, the signboard's the same (with the obvious exception that the letters now spell T-s-u-r-u- instead of G-i-n-z-a), the colours are the same. Heck, the whole restaurant including the little walk-through-cloth-door-things are the same.
Anyhow, we decided to give this new place a try - going with the assumption that since everything but the name remained unchanged, maybe, just maybe, the quality of the food would be the same also. With my folks and the husband in tow, we headed there one Thursday evening around dinner time. As usual, there was only one other table occupied by 2 diners who seemed more absorbed in their Blackberries/IPhones than each other, so all the attention of the waiting staff were focused on us. The service was fast and efficient, with our tea cups being filled up constantly.
We decided to go all out and order whatever we wanted. Usually, there is always some sort of limiting factor; be it the waist-line, the budget, or just self-control (which is usually absent at the best of times). Today, we chucked all of that out the window, and just flipped the pages of the menu, letting our fingers fall where it felt like. While I rubbed my hands in glee at the thought of all this food, my camera gave a squeak of approval, indicating that it was indeed time to place our orders.
I love it when there are free side dishes. These were good ones, too.
Pickled cucumbers which had a funny (in a good way) texture, being slightly chewy yet crunchy. How do they do that. Pickled ginger - OK though nothing special, but free so always good.
One of my absolute favourites when I can find it. I knew that Ginza did a very good version of this, so to test the standards of Tsuru, I decided to give this one a try and I'm glad I did. I think the portion got a little bigger from before, not that I'm complaining. Thinly-sliced cucumber and crabsticks mixed in with Japanese mayo and fish eggs make for an absolutely unbelievable combination - I think I could eat truckloads of this stuff. Crunchy, soft and creamy at the same time - perfect filling for a sandwich.
I'm beginning to think I have the taste buds of a 5-year old. Why do I like Kewpie mayo so much? This hand-roll was very generous - lots of soft sushi rice filled with crabsticks, cucumber, lettuce, mayo, topped with fish eggs. In fact, this could have been the crab salad, wrapped in seaweed. Realisation.
Sashimi boat (£36 for 30 pieces)
When I said push the boat out, I meant push the sashimi boat out. Since there were 4 of us there, we had to try this one out. As there was about 4 slices of everything, a quick calculation shows that there must have been 6 or 7 types of sushi, with some types having more or less than 4 slices (most useless sentence of the day). I'm trying to recall what types of fish there were, bear with me ...
Salmon - fresh, cold and thickly sliced.
Squid - I had this all to myself. Each piece was crunchy, cold and creamy at the same time.
Tuna - Husband's favourite, and apparently it was nice. Tuna tastes of nothing to me, and has a texture which I don't like.
Octopus - Fresh, cold, though I don't like it as much as I like squid. Squid is the bees knees.
Surf clam - New found favourite. Doesn't taste of much, which is good, because if it tasted of fish, maybe it's gone off. Anyhow, chewy and springy which I like.
Scallop - Mmm fresh and very soft. Sweet tasting, well-textured, fab.
Prawn - Served cold, each (tiny) piece of prawn was delightfully crunchy and sweet-tasting.
Red snapper - Didn't have much of this but from the bite I had, it was lovely also. Just like everything else served.
OK, so I can recall 8 items, which means there wasn't 4 slices of the stuff. Maybe I'm making the whole 4-slices thing up. Whatever. It was nice.
Mmm mmm mm this was so good. I've had something similar to this before, but what makes this so much better than the others is the fantastic quality of sushi rice used. Soft, slightly vinegary, chewy - it wrapped and complemented the warm prawns perfectly. Maybe there was more Kewpie in it, that's why I liked it so much? Each piece was like a little drop of morning dew (or similar) - even imagining it now is making me want a piece.
Ebi (prawn) tempura
Like how huge is this prawn! You probably can't tell, actually, from the photo, but it was the length of a Subway sandwich. Batter was nice, went all gooey and soft when dipped in the radish sauce, and prawn was fresh and crunchy. The item on the menu was actually the mixed tempura with vegetables but we decided to ask the chef if he could make it just prawns and he did.
Sizzling plate brought to the table, and we went 'Wow that's a lot of onions on top'. Turns out (as you probably already know), those weren't onions, but Bonito shavings instead. As we melted each shaving on our tongues, the taste of the fish and meaty steak blended in wonderful mix of sweet, salty and umami tango. I thought the meat would be slightly chewy, but they were as soft as cotton candy, and it hardly took any chewing at all - which was good so we could eat more in less time.
Fools, what fools we were. Like we thought there wouldn't have been enough carbs to fill us up, what with all the fish and meat on order, so we decided to bulk it up with one portion of plain rice (and how pretty it is too). Turns out, we were stuffed by the time we finished the sashimi boat, so it was with plenty of bravado and effort that I finished the rice (helped down with lots of steak gravy).
Unagi rice box
Ordered this as it's one of our favourites, although by the time it arrived at the table, we were kinda looking at it with a mixture of wry and full stomachs. Despite that, each piece of eel was tasty and tender enough to entice us to have more of it. Soft, slightly slippery on the chopsticks, and ever so sweet and jelly-like, this was a delight. The gravy was perfect with the rice, and we ended up finishing that too.
Grilled salmon head
One of the cheaper items on the menu, though the taste and quality was on par with the other items. It's probably because salmon heads are sold almost as discards in supermarkets, I reckon you can get one whole one for under £2. Grilled to dry perfection (the way it should be), the skin was crispy (so thin and crispy it was almost like crackling paper) while retaining the lovely salmon juice inside. The lemony sauce provided for dipping the fish into was again another success when eaten with rice.
Green tea soba
One of the simpler dishes with deceptively complicated methods of preparation - and my mom's favourite dish. I can't say for sure if the soba is made fresh on the premises but it sure tasted good. There's something about soba that makes me prefer it over pasta and most other noodles. For one, it can be eaten cold without it being starchy and sticky. It's also chewy and al dante despite being left out for some time, and in fact, it's probably one of the few items which taste better when eaten cold. The sauce provided for dipping wasn't too sweet, wasn't too salty, and in fact was just right (Goldilocks style). Slurped my way to the finishing line.
Glad to say that although the restaurant has changed its name (and seemingly most of its staff), the menu is pretty much the same as it was before. The quality of the food has definitely remained consistent, if not better than before, and we look forward to having this little gem in Greenwich as one of our 'special occasions' dining venues.