This is a second post in a row on the subject of sushi. In the previous one, I discussed how I discovered that I am not a sushi traditionalist. Does it mean that I am a sushi modernist? Yes, wholeheartedly! In this post I am reviewing Senshi sushibar, a modern sushi restaurant in Stockholm. As with all my posts, the experience is financed out of my own pocket, and the restaurant has neither requested the review nor compensated me for it. Nor did I visit the restaurant knowing that I will review it, the desire to do so came after dinner, when discussing the experience with my wife. A friendly warning, if you are disgusted at the very thought of using additional ingredients other than fish, sushi rice, wasabi (real wasabi) and soy sauce in sushi, this post will push your buttons. The chef at Senshi sushibar has a different philosophy – according to him, the point of sushi rules is to break them. And I agree. But please stay, read on, there is enough space in the world for lovers of all kinds of sushi, both traditional or modern.
After a recent visit to Soyokaze, one of the two currently most coveted sushi restaurants in Stockholm (the other being Sushi Sho), I felt somewhat lost when it came to sushi. It made me realize that I was not a big fan of the pure taste of raw fish. I liked sushi not for the raw fish, but despite of it. But that felt… wrong. However, Senshi sushibar helped me find my place again. It made me realize what I had known about myself all along – that I respect traditions but enjoy when they are given a modern twist. And that this also holds when it comes to sushi. Modern sushi does not mock traditional sushi. Modern sushi respects and recognizes traditional sushi, and then evolves and elevates it.
Upon entering Senshi sushibar on an early Saturday afternoon in January, not much was telling that we would be in for a dinner we would thoroughly enjoy. The restaurant had the vibe of a typical local sushi place, the kind there are hundreds of in Stockholm. Maybe with a slightly more tacky interior, though. In addition to serving an omakase menu called Chef’s table where the chef chooses the dishes, there is also an à la carte and take away menu. When we arrived, all the eight places at the bar were empty, which was not a good sign. We were worried that we were the only ones that booked the Chef’s table, which would not have come as a huge surprise as this was the earlier of two sittings. We would have preferred the later one, but it did not work for us on this particular day. We were off to a slow start, not much was going on and the staff did not say much. They simply went along with serving the à la carte and take out customers. We later realized that they were waiting for another couple that booked the Chef’s table. So we would not be alone for the ride, after all.
There was an option to pair the omakase menu with a drink set, but we did not feel like drinking much so we skipped it and ordered some green tea and water. The serving started with warm salted edamame beans, quickly followed by miso soup. The soup was the first hint to this being a journey through modern food – it contained a slice of lime which added a nice freshness. Seeing the chef opening up an oyster, I got slightly worried that we would again be exposed to pure fish / oyster / sea water flavors, but the oyster was served in a chili sauce and with a jalapeno pepper. Overpowering flavors for a delicate oyster, some would claim, but I appreciated the dish a lot. Then came a serving of sashimi, accompanied with gari, goma wakame, kimchi and pickled red onions. Scallops were next, served in a very refreshing citrusy ponzu soy sauce. After this we got four different pieces of sushi, one better than the other. One of them was served with a tomato salsa. Another with a truffle mayonnaise and sweet potato. Very unusual and bold choices! Much appreciated by both Aneta and me. After this we got what for me was the star of the night – a tuna tartare with avocado, roasted onions and lime juice. The next dish was seared salmon – the rice puffs were a nice touch, but the truffle mayonnaise did not work well this time around.
I had read that Senshi sushibar offered a low carb version of sushi, where the rice is substituted with cauliflower. I was curious if this was something that the customers actually order (they do) and the chef was very kind and offered a low carb sushi piece for us to try. The taste was ok, but the consistency was off as the cauliflower grains were much finer than rice. It is an interesting concept and I plan to order a set menu of low carb sushi during one of our future visits to give it more thorough tasting.
The last three sushi pieces were true to the philosophy – brave and innovative – and I commend the chef for this. The first was duck breast seared with foie gras, the second beef tenderloin served with quail egg, and the last a spectacularly looking “self-searing” salmon with shrimp mayonnaise (shown in the title image). However, these three pieces were too fatty and heavy, and as such slightly lowered the overall impression. They threw the otherwise well balanced dinner a bit of balance. Another complaint is that the view of the chef working is obstructed by the layout of the bar (this might not be a problem for taller people, though).
I loved the dessert which was a matcha pannacotta with a raspberry compote and fresh berries. I would have liked to pair it with a sweet wine, but did not find any in the drink menu.
After dinner the chef got a question from the other couple if he had a formal education in preparing food, and I was quite surprised by the answer – he has an education in IT. Impressive career change! We would have loved to stay longer and discuss more about his food philosophy, but we were running late and had to leave for our next arrangement. But we are bound to come back. Thank you Senshi sushibar for showing me where my place in the world of sushi is and for making me realize that it is ok to be a sushi modernist!