Why? For a quick lunch meeting with a friend in the City. Described a ‘Japanese urban-casual’, Hai St Kitchen is a newcomer to London with a stateside branch already popular in Phildelphia. It offers an intriguing concept I was keen to try: the ‘sushi burrito’!
When? For lunch, and only lunch, as this restaurant is in Leadenhall Market, and open 11-4pm, Monday to Fridays. We arrived at about 2.45pm on a Wednesday and there were just a few other customers.
First Impression: The first impression is of the handsome and historical Leadenhall Market itself, which is a gorgeous Victorian structure on a site long used for markets. Now it hosts shops, pubs and eateries and is well worth a visit. Entering Hai St Kitchen, you’ll see it’s laid out like a burrito bar – a concept now very familiar to Londoners.
Ambience: There are seats outside, which are pleasant. The small seating area upstairs is mostly functional, with tall stool seating.
Clientele: City workers popping in for lunch – often to take back to the office. The occasional tourist who has stumbled upon the splendid market location.
Description of food and drink: The concept is clever. Sushi burritos: a healthy fast food. They make sense on quite a few levels.
Firstly, a regular burrito is carbs on carbs (rice on the tortilla wrap) but using a sheet of fresh nori seaweed as a wrap cuts out a layer – and means the meal can easily be gluten free.
Secondly, sushi is a lush lunchtime selection which is delicious and low fat… but it can be a pain to eat at your desk or even in the park, what with all the soy sauce spillage and fishy fingers risks. Neatly rolled up in brown paper, a sushi burrito is (mostly!) easier to scoff.
The ingredients behind the bar look fresh and appealing, but it is hard to know what combination to choose. I think after repeat visits you’d be able to put together your perfect taste sensation. We chickened out and choose a test-driven combo from the menu.
My friend chose a ‘Sumo Steak’ (flank steak, teriyaki sauce, romaine, sautéed onion, red cabbage and asparagus). She really liked the asparagus, but found the steak in her wrap a little difficult to chomp through. My ‘Slammin Salmon’ (lightly seared salmon sashimi, spicy gochujang sauce, romaine, cucumber, pickled mango, red onion) featured a generous portion of melt-in-the-mouth salmon. The Korean gochujang sauce was not too spicy.
With the burritos we had ‘Hai St Kitchen Chips w/ wasabi guacamole’ – made from renkon (lotus root). I liked the chips a lot, although the wasabi guacamole could have been more pungent, and didn’t set off any of that painful, but pleasant, nose-tingling. A very sweet and refreshing lemonade washed it down (they were all out of hibiscus tea).
Service: Friendly, quick. Thanks for inviting us in to try it out, guys!
Prices: At £5.99 – £6.99, while standard for a burrito, it could be a little steep for a lunch wrap, but it is certainly filling enough to take you through the afternoon – even without splurging on sides.
Come again? A perfect place for sushi fans to grab a quick lunchtime chat & virtuous wrap. This is a unique little lunchtime spot to know about! It’s a gem in an area of London which is full of the usual chains and which can seem a little soulless.
Hai St Kitchen & Co. http://www.haistreetkitchen.com/uk/
38 Leadenhall Market
London, EC3V 1LT
Tel 020 7283 1719