Friday evening, the streets of London buzzing with people celebrating the weekend. Whilst on the corner of an inside street in Soho sits one of the best, yet underrated, Japanese restaurants I have had the pleasure of eating at. What I love about Oliver Maki is that it is one of the most simplistic places you will eat at and this isn’t an indication of the food by any means, the website makes you want to salivate all over the keyboard, it is an Instagram celebrity in its own right and rightly so! When you enter the restaurant it is a small, clean, minimalistic restaurant (or so it seems!)
As usual, being the early one, I got shown up a rather steep and narrow staircase where the upstairs wasn’t any bigger but the decor was cute – dark but not too dim. The tables laid with clean glasses (by clean I don’t mean hygiene wise, I mean simple, minimalistic, non-fancy glasses, which are so underrated in today’s day and age) and an ipad menu. Not your ordinary menu. As the menu was in Roman Japanese, you could tap on the individual dish for an image, any allergic ingredients or alcohol, and a short description of the dish. Now if you’re like me and don’t know your nigiri from your sashimi then this is gold dust!! Would have loved to see a few photos, but I guess they wanted to leave the presentation a surprise.
The waiters were so accommodating and really went out of their way to ensure that our every need was looked into. I had heard through the grapevine that Oliver Maki was halal but I was sure to speak to the waiters about it as I usually do. They advised which dishes were halal and it turns out all the chicken dishes are halal so go crazy! Although usually it doesn’t bother me if a Japanese restaurant doesn’t serve halal meat, as there are so many seafood options but when a restaurant serves halal meat you order it if only to prove a point! Strange that a Japanese restaurant in the middle of Soho is halal, but the interesting part is that the restaurant is a creation by two Lebanese-Canadian brothers whose family name, Zeitoun means olive in Arabic. What I love is the family history that seeps through the dishes, the olive oil used in some Oliver Maki restaurants is made by none other than their own father and family in Lebanon. If that wasn’t enough to make you visit, the restaurant is led by Nobu’s ex Sushi Chef, Louis Kenji Huang who works closely with the Zeitoun family to create special dishes with unique ingredients.
Based on the simplistic venue, you’d expect the the food to be the same too. But expectations are surpassed in terms of the presentation and experience of food. We started with the Filo Shrimp Tempura Shots which come in pieces of 3. (Don’t worry they don’t have real shots in them).
These little shots of goodness were amazing – I could have had a few more of these! That feeling of excitement when a waiter brings a beautifully presented dish to your table is priceless. That was me when I saw these, but the taste was even better than that feeling. They were crispy but not messy, the shrimp was cooked to perfection and just melted in my mouth. I was left wanting a lot more. A bitter sweet feeling.
Next, Spicy Shrimp Tacos, which were little tiny parcels of goodness, the spicy shrimp had a bit of a kick to it, but beware the “Shots and Bites” portions are just that – small and full of flavour so you will be left wanting more!
Next we moved onto what we were there for.. the sushi! We went for the Sandi maki and Fido Maki both came in 8 pieces.
Sandi maki, made with crabsticks, avocado, rocket, wrapped in a tempura filo, and topped with chopped salmon and spring onion. One of my favourite dishes on the menu – the crispiness of the tempura filo was perfect, the crabsticks were full of flavour, although I would have preferred it to be actual crab rather than crabsticks. But tempura in sushi is my absolute weakness and this was no exception.
Next came Fido Maki – snow crab, midori rice with spring onions and spicy sauce – overall a great tasting sushi. Together with the sushi we were presented with not just any soya sauce, but the Oliver Maki Soya, which was an infusion of soya sauce, the famous Zeitoun olive oil and schichimi, a spicy Japanese powder.
I was relatively stuffed at this point, put I’m not a quitter when it comes to sushi (or any kind of food really!) So we went on to what I was looking forward to most… The Sushi Jewels, and that’s exactly what they were… We were presented with an acrylic box with 3 layers that I can only describe as a box similar to where I store my makeup..
LOVE the presentation, if you’re going to visit Oliver Maki and order one dish, this is the one. All pieces are made with brown rice with a selection of nigiri fish. At £29, the 9 pieces of sushi are the best handpicked nigiri especially created by the chef and might be different from visit to visit. The Sushi Jewels are known as “Omakase” which means leave it to the chef. The top layer has 3 torch flamed nigiri infused with smoke. The top layer was my favourite…
Torch flamed nigiri of salmon, seabass and tuna with hints of hazelnut, the smoked fish tasted of meat and were strong enough in flavour but not too overpowering. I love anything that’s smoked but this was one of the most unique sushi I have tasted. Although the tuna was a little slimier than sushi usual is, and kept slipping off the rice. The bottom layer was interesting..
Gunkan Maki, also known as “Battleship” maki and salmon roe. It was interesting but not great in taste, the beetroot was crispy and fresh, but made the taste somewhat bland. It was one of the lesser dishes on the menu, I wouldn’t have got it if it were not part of the Sushi Jewels.
After all this, we were close to food coma, but soldiered on with dessert, and am so glad I did.. I went for the Matcha Tiramisu, and out came this..
The greenfinger in me had a field day, and felt as though I was offered a plant. The presentation was super cute, it came as a two-part glass pot. I lifted the top and probably had one of the best desserts of my life (BIG statement!)
If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know how matcha obsessed I am, but this was something else. The dessert itself was so light and creamy, the matcha was not overpowering and you could definitely tell it was a tiramisu as you could still taste the coffee. The crunchy coffee beans at the top made the dessert all the more special.
Our waiter was lovely and as we chatted away, he stated that most people just come here to photograph the Sushi Jewels and Matcha Tiramisu (we can totally see why), but for the first time in my life, I actually couldn’t wait to put my camera aside and tuck into this dessert. By far the highlight of the meal for me!
Overall, I would recommend Oliver Maki to all you sushi lovers out there. The experience was great, and even though I didn’t get to ordering any of the halal dishes, it is so satisfying to know that the option is there. The matcha dessert was by far my favourite.
Priced at approximately £50 per head for all the food we ate, it was a decent price for me considering we were stuffed to the brim when we left, and the food was more than satisfying, the quality of the ingredients were exceptional, and we didn’t even have an opportunity to eat a lot on the menu. I will definitely be going back for more and will try to taste some more of their dishes.
Food – 8 out of 10
Service – 8 out of 10
Price – 7 out of 10
Atmosphere – 6 out of 10
Experience – 9 out of 10
Overall, giving Oliver Maki a total TLH score of 8 out of 10.
About Gem Hunter The London Haloodie
The London Haloodie is a London based food blogger with a passion for the finer things in life, from Chanel to afternoon teas. TLH’s appetite for good food found her searching high and low for halal options within the fine dining scene around London – which were many, but not many people knew about them. Her passion for good halal food takes her to the finest places in London, and she wants her fellow haloodies not to miss out! So follow her on her journey to bring you the halal treasures of London dining. Check out TLH on Instagram , Twitter and check out her blog