When? Lazy lunch on a Saturday. With white wine. Oh yes.
Ambience: Compact, with a minimal aesthetic. With a chain of popular sushi restaurants in the Middle East, Lebanese-Canadian restaurateur Oliver Zeitoun knows to keep it simple and focus firmly on the food.
Clientele: In the heart of Soho, the friendly, cosmopolitan and youthful manager Yara is positioned to attract a vibrant crowd looking to enjoy cocktails from the bar at the back of the restaurant, and an adventurous angle to Asian food.
Description of food and drink: Oliver Maki is ‘inspired by Japanese cuisine’ and boasts a wide range of sushi and sashimi, as well as starters with their own special twist. Fried kaki (oysters) come served in their own ceramic shells, with a dash of ponzu. Fried ebi (shrimps) come dunked into a shot glass of tasty sauce.
The signature dish of a kind of ‘sushi roulette’ contains a range of ingredients, meaning that no two pieces are the same. It’s a playful approach which is sure to stimulate conversation as you try to detect which of the over-30 ingredients was in your piece!
Rather than a simple soya sauce, a mix of olive oil, shoyu and shichimi togarashi (7-spice hot chilli) is served, which I enjoyed, but a purist might prefer to forego in favour of the traditional. The link to olives is evident throughout; the Zeitoun brothers come from a long family tradition of olive grove farmers (their last name means ‘olive’ in Arabic – hence the ‘Oliver’).
A bento box has long been a lunch option that promises something tasty, but traditional. Oliver Maki takes it to the next level with the £15 ’In the Box’ and £25 ‘Out of the Box’ bento boxes, served in (Muji-inspired?) clear boxes which put the ‘fun’ back into ‘functional’; they keep the menu items separate whilst offering tantalising glimpses. Opening mini drawers to find the miso quinoa salad and a gorgeous, unexpected ceviche was highly satisfying. And the drawers kept the salmon teriyaki on brown rice warm! On the top was a selection of delectable nigiri sushi and maki rolls.
Service: Friendly staff explained the dishes well. Yara explained that with several members of the family who don’t eat meat, they have been particularly careful to make sure that there are delicious vegetarian and vegan options available, and that the rice used is brown – a simple swap to make the sushi rolls an even healthier option.
Prices: Mid-range. The bento box is excellent value.
Toilets: Brand new loos in the basement are in keeping with the sleek, modern aesthetic.
Come again? Yes. I loved the bento box (only available at lunchtime), but I’d be very keen to catch the buzzy vibe in the evening.
Oliver Maki http://www.olivermaki.co.uk/
33 Dean Street, London, U.K. W1D 4PW
Tel 020 7734 0408