Eat - No 1 Sushi Bar

  • The List
  • 17 January 2008
No 1 Sushi Bar

Roll with it

Sushi suffers from a relatively low profile in Scotland despite our abundance of great fish produce. Edinburgh’s No 1 Sushi Bar is the latest outpost doing special things with seafood


Stories of fine Scottish wild salmon being caught, frozen and flown to high end restaurants in Japan are closer to the truth than you might think. Why then does sushi remain such niche cuisine in this country?

In Scotland, Japanese cuisine has been the first truly new flavour to infect the Western palate for a decade. Only the feverish energy of north Africa and the warming comfort of eastern European cooking have come close. Moreover, sushi takes the popular mantra of fresh-local-produce-for-fresh-local-people to its most logical but artful extreme.

Since Yo! Sushi packed up its outlet on Edinburgh’s Rose Street, smaller scale individual entrepreneurs have been left to innovate in the field. That’s where No 1 Sushi Bar comes in with its considered menu of Japanese staples: soups, dishes from the wok, and of course sushi. Looking like a cross between a style bar and a comfy old-school Chinese gaff, the modest surrounds actually help the food, allowing bright, trembling hunks of fish, rice and noodles to emerge as the stars of the show. And what a show it is.

There’s a perception that eating raw fish is pretty odd. That’s why, as an introduction to this new restaurant the only option was to pick the most extreme thing we could glean from the menu. That meant barbecued eel, an animal I have consumed only once before, in a mediaeval Italian restaurant, which felt like eating a bicycle tire smothered in lard, worlds away from this dish of tiny sardine-like fillets, decked out in a honeyed, piquant dressing on a bed of steaming snow white sushi rice: tender, unctuous and perfectly balanced.

That pretty much goes for the rest of the menu too, particularly the sushi. Slivers of wasabi spiced tuna are paired with avocado and cucumber, wrapped in a sheet of seaweed. Just listing the components doesn’t do justice to the flavours which combine to make something simple but extremely effective. The genteel miso soup acted as a warming anchor to the other tangs and flashes such as breaded chicken on a bed of fried udon noodles, hunks of aubergine, carrot and sweet potato battered for feather-light tempura. One mind blower was a scallop and bacon starter, the frilled shell housing a petite scallop engulfed in a heavy, salty, creamy bacon mixture. It felt almost American in its effusiveness.

No 1 Sushi Bar may make heady claims with its moniker but, like Sushiya in the city’s west end and Tang’s on Candlemaker Row, this recent addition provides a credible outpost for something that tastes special without ceremony or intimidating surroundings. And, contrary to perception, fiscally, a Japanese banquet compares favourably to your average steak house three-courser but promises some flavoursome surprises for your buck.

37 Home Street, Edinburgh, 0131 229 6880
Open Sun-Thu noon-11pm, Fri-Sat noon-11.30pm
Average price for two-course evening meal: £15