Dish With A Difference

We’re talking about: chirashi rice bowls

A new grab-and-go concept called Omoide is specialising in the Japanese version of Buddha or poke bowls.

29 October 2018
  • The Dish: Chirashi rice bowls
  • The Place: Omoide, 126 Bermondsey St, London SE1 3HS
  • The Chef: Angelo Sato

What? Chirashi is a traditional Japanese dish, primarily made up of rice and fish, which has sweet, sour, salty and spicy flavours, crunchy and silky textures, plus a pop of colour. For those sick of sushi or looking for the flavours in a new format, the chirashi rice bowl could be a winning alternative. Chirashi means scattered, referring to the way toppings are distributed in the bowl, and the rice used contains more rice vinegar than in traditional sushi rolls.

At new restaurant Omoide, signature chirashi dishes include salmon spiked with yuzu, the Japanese citrus fruit that has invaded many an upmarket menu and even the Waitrose Cooks product range. The fish is layered atop sushi rice with avocado, cured cucumber, sushi ginger, goma wakame (seaweed salad), pickles and crispy shallots.

There’s also the Pride of Nation, consisting of tuna wasabi shoyu (soy sauce), sushi rice, edamame, sushi ginger, radish, cured cucumber, pickled carrot and wasabi peas, while the veggie lovers are looked after with the Gift from the Garden, made up of miso aubergine, tofu, yuzu avocado, salad and five-grain sushi mix, charred broccoli, edamame, pickles and crispy shallot.

For those who prefer poultry, the Humble Chicken is made with dashi chicken on five-grain sushi rice, with umami mushrooms, shichimi (seven spice mixture) mayo, spicy beansprouts, pickles and crispy shallots.

Diners can also create their own bowls with a base of rice, grains or salad, a choice of protein and dressing, and a range of vegetables.

The chirashi rice bowls sit alongside a selection of udon-filled dashi, a Japanese broth rich in umami. Ramen eggs optional.

Where? Omoide (pronounced o-moy-day) is opening on Bermondsey Street and specialising in shokuji, a popular meal consisting of rice, pickles and soup found in both the home and as an important course on kaiseki menus, a multi-course dining experience found across Japan.

Chef Angelo Sato cut his teeth in Michelin-starred kitchens alongside Adam Byatt at Trinity in London, RyuGin in Tokyo and Eleven Madison Park in New York. Most recently, he held the head chef position at Restaurant Story in London. With Omoide, Sato goes backs to his roots, bringing traditional Japanese flavours to his new restaurant.

Its design is contemporary and simple, inspired by a small alleyway Sato used to visit on his days off in the heart of Tokyo. This décor resembles yatai, the traditional small wooden carts and stalls renowned for selling fast food to locals.

Why? Sato’s passion for chirashi rice bowls started in his teens, back in Tokyo’s fish markets, where his first job was prepping fish fresh off the boats for takeaway bento boxes across the city.

Omoide’s food is best described as Japanese with a European accent, bringing together traditional flavours and Michelin-starred techniques. Sato will also utilise tried-and-tested recipes from the family homes in Japan to Omoide’s menu, while using fish caught and delivered fresh off the boats of Lyme Bay, which is situated on the south coast of England.

“Born and raised in Japan, shokuji is what I grew up on, and can be found everywhere in Tokyo from breakfast tables to three Michelin starred restaurants,” said Sato. “It’s a humble trio, and for me represents my heritage and memories of my childhood. I wanted to make this style of food accessible to everyone, and hope that my memories of growing up in Japan will translate to the flavours and textures on Omoide’s menu."

With the chirashi rice bowls, Sato is capitalising on consumer’s desire for convenience and the popularity of Japanese food by taking much-loved ingredients like sushi rice, salmon, avocado and miso aubergine and combining them into an easy to eat bowl.

Rice bowls aren’t a new idea – Japanese chain Wasabi offers several versions, as do Sushi Daily kiosks in Waitrose and Sainsbury’s. However, it’s fair to say that this alternative to the increasingly popular poke has yet to be capitalised on fully.

The fact that the chirashi bowls can be customised at Omoide adds an element of personalisation, while Sato’s Michelin background elevates the ingredient offering to more traditional fare yet at a reasonable price point: the chirashi are all under a tenner, while the udon dashi are currently topping out at a fiver.

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