Issho Ni in Japanese means “together with” and the concept of the Issho Ni restaurant is to create a relaxed space where diners can share plates of Japanese food made with a twist. The restaurant is located halfway between Shoreditch and Bethnal Green station, and is a 15-minute stroll from Liverpool Street. It’s just outside the main Shoreditch High Street area but that’s part of its charm. Issho Ni has that friendly local restaurant vibe going on and especially walking up to the restaurant you feel you’re in hipster East London.
At the door we were warmed greeted by Georgi, the Issho Ni manager, who showed us to our table next to a lovely floral decoration. The restaurant has plenty of natural light coming from the long windows and the interior is tastefully decorated. We’re talking stylish brown leather chairs, green high-backed sofa booths, and glittering ceiling lights. The leather chairs incidentally were extremely comfortable, and I’d guess that the circular sofa booths are even more so.
Issho Ni Bottomless Brunch rules
Looking at the menu, we could see there are 5 mains to choose from. The brunch comes with unlimited sharing plates and one main each, but you pick your main dishes at the start. Georgi explained the brunch rules too. You have to finish all the food on your sharing plates before ordering more and that the main course comes out after an hour. This all sounded fair, and we selected our mains along with drinks – Prosecco and the Bloody Geisha cocktail.
Starter dishes and drinks
All four starter dishes came out together soon after our drinks. We had one bowl of Edamame, another of seaweed salad, a bowl of Kimchi and another full of Wasabi peas. While each tasty bowl lasted us for the whole meal, the Chuka seaweed salad was my favourite. The dressing was spot on, and the sesame seeds added a nice texture layer. Also, the shredded nori flakes on top both looked and tasted great.
How did we find the drinks? The Prosecco was sweet, refreshing, and easy to drink with an elegant finish. The Bloody Geisha might need renaming in our opinion. However it tasted fantastic and even though it’s a little spicy you’ll want to order another. Issho Ni add in several ingredients to the Vodka and tomato juice base including Tonkatsu sauce and tabasco. Around the top of glass, you have purple Yukari (Shiso) seasoning and salt, and this works well with the cocktail.
The sashimi plate came with 8 slices of salmon sashimi and 8 of sea bass. We really enjoyed the thick cuts of salmon sashimi which simply melted in your mouth. When it came to the sea bass, I found the slices firm and having a delicate sweetness to them. Having expected something like standard tuna or sea bream sashimi, this was a welcome surprise.
Issho Ni Maki Sushi Rolls
Next to arrive was the plate of maki rolls in 4 carefully aligned rows. You can instantly see the rolls are different to the traditional maki in Japan with colourful sauces topping each one. This may trigger purists but if you are open to fusion, you will certainly enjoy these rolls.
If you look at the photo above you’ll see the crunchy veggie rolls on the left. They’re made with avocado, carrot and takuan (picked radish) topped with a drop of sour plum sauce. Next to them are the spicy white fish rolls with shiso leaf and jalapeno with some spicy mayo on top. I’ve not eaten this kind of hot pepper combination with sushi before, but enjoyed the exciting kick it gave. My favourite rolls were the second to the right. You can see these colourful salmon and avocado rolls with tobiko (flying fish roe) and a drop of zesty yuzu mayo. Then on the far right were the prawn tempura rolls made with prawns, avocados, and crowned with sweet chilli mayo. It was a great presentation touch to add in the whole shrimp into the last roll in the row.
Main course dishes
First, we simply had to try out the Wagyu Beef Steak which costs an extra £7 to order. This was 120 grams of pure A3 grade Wagyu. It was grilled on a charcoal grill and garnished with a sprinkling of fried garlic chips and finely sliced spring onion. This Wagyu was tender yet firm and without any fatty pieces. We quickly ate all the succulent slices – some by themselves, some with the garlic, and some with the sweet and savoury Yakiniku sauce. We certainly would order an extra plate of this Wagyu if it was possible!
Next, I ate a portion of the Nasu Dengaku. It’s a dish of fried or baked aubergine that you can order at many Japanese restaurants in London. What Issho-Ni have done is to cut it into four easy to share pieces and added an aesthetically pleasing brush stroke of miso glazing to the plate. Seeing it like that makes you wonder why no other restaurant serves it in this way. The fried aubergines themselves were delicious although slightly soft for our preferences. When it came to the mixed miso and sesame glazing it really held the dish together and we enjoyed the sweet and rich in umami taste.
I tried the Salmon Teriyaki last as just by looking at it you knew it would be good. The salmon itself was juicy and cooked to mouth-watering perfection. Issho Ni add just the right amount of sweet Teriyaki sauce and it combines well with the salty flavours from the salmon. They also sprinkle some smoked sea salt on top which looks pleasing but perhaps we would have preferred a little less. Overall, it was a great dish to finish an amazing selection of main dishes.
How would we rate Issho-Ni’s Bottomless Brunch?
Honestly, whenever I hear bottomless brunch, I fear about the quality of the food and that the atmosphere might be a bit loud for my liking. At Issho Ni, we experienced the opposite during our brunch. The atmosphere remained casual and friendly, and I’ll go even further to say relaxed chic. In fact, it didn’t even seem too different from a regular weekend lunch time meal.
Now for the food. I’ve got to say we were impressed. Each dish was well-thought out and beautifully presented. We really enjoyed their twists on traditional Japanese izakaya food, and most importantly the food tasted great. You need to come open minded though and don’t expect plates to come out like in a Japanese ryokan.
Innovation when done well brings in completely new dishes and it was exciting to try out the maki rolls with colourful and flavourful sauces that worked so well with the sushi. I read that the head chef Eduardo Aguiar worked at Roka and Chisou and started his career out in a Kaiseki restaurant. It certainly shows in these dishes, and we’d be very interested to visit again to try out some of the a la carte menu in the evening. For all these reasons, we would rate Issho-Ni’s brunch at 4.7 stars out of 5 stars.
Issho Ni Service
Finally, some words about the service. The team attentively looking after us throughout the whole brunch without being intrusive. Each dish came with an explanation and any questions I had about the ingredients or food was answered. When we came close to finishing a drink, a member of staff would come over and asked if we wanted another. Also, while it was a bottomless lunch, we were completely content with one serving of each generously sized dish. Even so, the team did check in to see if we wanted any extra plates of sushi or sashimi when it came close to the end of our brunch.
Just before we left and after we thanked Georgi for such a wonderful meal, I asked a couple of questions to get an idea of how Issho Ni were getting things done so right. Georgi explained that the owner (Claire Su) has a clear concept of the restaurant and how it’s managed. He’s been at Issho Ni since shortly after it opened 3 years ago and has seen the restaurant truly blossom and become more refined over the time. It’s great to see a manager feeling right at home and naturally motivated to improving the restaurant. Staying successful in one of the most hipster areas in the city can’t be easy but Issho Ni are staying right on top of this. The only question left to ask yourself is when are you next booking a table there and which friends are you going Issho Ni together with?
We’d like to point out this was a complimentary meal, however we have given our honest opinions throughout this review. Thank you to Japan Nakama for setting up and joining this bottomless brunch with us. If you are looking for more information on Japanese culture, movies, music and lifestyle definitely check out the Japan Nakama site. Also if you are searching for more Japanese restaurants, here’s our list of the top 10 Japanese ramen restaurants in London. Finally, please let us know your experience at Issho-Ni if you have been in the comments below.