When I was in university, I once took my dad to an all-you-can-eat-Chinese-buffet for dinner.
Alright, in my defence I was a) a student and b) had been before and survived. Surely those two facts will negate the fact that I paid the princely sum of £4.99 for my dad’s dinner? My beloved dad, the man who put up my shelves and sanded my floorboards, who got rid of spiders while I danced on the bed shrieking that it was ‘there, no there, no there!’, who moved me in and out and in and out of the family home and who shared a love for early X Files in regular weekly Mulder-and-Scully watching sessions?
In that case, sorry dad. I made a promise to you then that I would never subject you to something like that again and from the day on, all-you-can-eat buffets have held a certain fascination/suspicion to me that I don’t allow myself to indulge in.
…I like my food. No, I really do like it. I am in fact Monica Geller – I like cleaning and there’s a chubby girl inside me who would just love to get out and gorge herself to diabetes. She’s not allowed. She gets ice-cream or Mexican or a burger the size of her head now and then but day to day, she’s told to pipe down and enjoy a kale salad. And when this girl sees ‘all-you-can-eat-buffet’, she can’t help but look. Such was the case when I found a deal on Groupon for this very thing at the Sushi Cafe in Wandsworth and so it was that my lovely sister and I found ourselves there and found ourselves unbelievably glad that we did…
Sushi Cafe is a 5 minute bus journey from Wandsworth Town station and it’s the kind of place you would walk past on the street and not even notice. Unlike other restaurants I’ve talked about that you may have known already, this one is the kind of place you need someone to tell you about, to recommend and, if needs be, to schedule time in your diary, to lead you there by the hand, to sit you down and to say ‘let’s get this oceanic feast on the road!’
First important point, this place is cute. No long tables crammed with hundreds of chairs where you’re likely to find yourself elbow-deep in the person next to you’s California Rolls. Black lacquered chairs and simple wooden tables are spread around a light and clean space.
Second important point, this is a made-to-order buffet. That’s right kids, it’s all-you-can-eat AND it’s made-to-order. You know what means? It means you can feed the greedy person inside you with as much as like AND you can satisfy the voice in your head that sound suspiciously like your mum that says ‘how long do you think THAT’S been sat out for?’
Smiling, softly-spoken staff welcomed us in. The place got busy later on but when T and I arrived at the woah-calm-down-you-big-party-animals time of 6.30pm, we were the first ones in. Not a problem at all – it’s good to start training early for your days of early bird suppers and blue rinse specials.
We were offered a menu and a pencil – a little like Argos but without the screaming babies, harassed looking staff or air of desperation when you realise your ticket is #78 and they just got to #6.
The menu itself was excellent with starters ranging from edamame beans which incidentally I could eat by the bucket load to satay chicken to spring rolls to sesame prawn toast to octopus balls to miso. Sashimi and sushi rolls ranged from clam, squid and prawn to salmon, avocado and fermented soya bean. There was also tempura, curry, rice and noodles on offer and although I have to be honest and say neither octopus or fermented soya really float my sushi boat, I was really impressed with the choice on offer, the fact that it wasn’t just your basic tuna and cucumber and that there was really something for every type of sushi lover be they adventurous or safe.
Crispy salmon skin sushi rolls, avocado sushi rolls, sticky and full of flavour chicken satay and salmon sashimi…
Clean tasting, soft and delicious salmon avocado sushi rolls, salmon ngiri and a generous serving of edamame…
Mixed tempura in batter that was lighter than air and thick, soft, udon noodles in warm, well seasoned broth…
…and the gorgeous T enjoying the miso soup…see? She’s at an all-you-can-eat-buffet and she’s smiling!
The Sushi Cafe is also considerate of not wasting food and you can be charged £5 for over ordering food you don’t eat so bear that in mind. The menu will make you want to come back at least once or twice as we did so there’s plenty of opportunity to try everything that appeals in manageable, non-Man-versus-Food portions.
If you like sushi but don’t always like the massive bill that appears with after you’ve had several goes round the revolving food at one of the large, chain sushi restaurants, I would sincerely urge you to give this place a go. Don’t let the location put you off if your normal habitat is north of the river…it can be surprising and gratifying when you venture outside of your comfort zone and are well rewarded for doing so.
Freshly made and prepared with attention to detail, the food is every bit as clean, simple and inviting as you’d hope for, the service is genuine, respectful and staff are quick to explain anything you’re unsure of and you’re never rushed, even when the tables are all full and a queue starts to form…ha ha! Early bird dining not seeming like such a silly option now is it people?!