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Why Tom Parker Bowles is a fan of Itsu




You don’t go to Itsu, an ever-expanding chain serving ‘healthy, Asian-inspired food’, for a long boozy lunch. Nor do you visit to discover the quivering pinnacle of the sushi master’s art. Plus there’s too much mildly evangelical marketeering mumbo-jumbo about dishes that ‘don’t just look amazing and taste delicious, but are packed with important nutrients that can help you feel and look beautiful too’. Hmm.

That aside though, I love the place. Seriously, it’s quietly brilliant. Barely a week goes by without my dropping by, with the children or alone. My son adores the salmon sushi, made from ‘sashimi grade’, sustainably farmed Norwegian fish. Now the precision of the cut, as well as the quality of the sushi rice, won’t ever be troubling Mr Jiro and his ilk. But at under a fiver for six pieces, it’s pretty damned decent. The fish is clean-tasting and well-cut, with no errant scraps of skin or sinew. A dozen pieces, plus a pot of edamame, and he’s a happy man.

 My son adores the salmon sushi, made from ‘sashimi grade’, sustainably farmed Norwegian fish

 My son adores the salmon sushi, made from ‘sashimi grade’, sustainably farmed Norwegian fish

Their miso soup, made from paste, not powder, has true umami depth and heft, and is every bit the equal to all but the most high end of its kind. Decent silken tofu, fresh leek and good wakame too. It ain’t high art, but makes a pretty decent breakfast. 

And then there’s the chicken noodle soup, with its rich, resonant and well-spiced broth and chunks of free-range chargrilled chook, and whiff of ginger, and tangle of crystal noodles which, when gussied up with a fat jig of soy and great angry splodge of Sriracha sauce, makes a healthy lunch that I actually enjoy. In fact, forget the healthy bit – I crave this soup. And their posh pot noodle from the supermarkets too.


Salmon sashimi £4.59

Chicken noodle soup £4.79

Miso soup £2.29

Edamame £1.99

Not everything works. The pulled pork teriyaki rice bowl is dense, dreary and over-sweet, and, really, enough of the bloody pulled pork. Anywhere. Ever. And you sometimes get the feeling they’re following trends a little too slavishly. Poke? Tick. Spicy Korean chicken? Yup. Superseed and raw chocolate? Oh yeah.

But you don’t go to Itsu for culinary enlightenment, rather for well-flavoured, quickly scoffed favourites. Like that chicken soup. It may seem like fast food for the fickle and faddy, yet it’s far cleverer than that. Itsu cuts through the usual suburban smog like a fresh breath of spice-scented Eastern air. And shows that healthy and sustainable need not be smug, worthy and dull.

Lunch for two: £20