When I was 11 years old, I once went three whole days of eating nothing but breakfast cereal. Without probing into this memory of wheat-based obsession further – I distinctly remember my fledgling teeth feeling like they were shrinking from sugary erosion – it’s safe to say that it was caused by a deep-seated aversion to unusual textures.
What my pre-adolescent self would have made of sushi, a branch of cuisine entirely composed of challenging textures, isn’t too difficult to fathom. Times change, and although I’m still partial to the odd shame-faced late night bowl of Nonsense-O’s, a recent visit to K10 has confirmed that I’d quite happily go three days of eating nothing but sushi.
K10 – a modern twist on kaiten, which refers to the conveyer belt serving system encountered within – is a highly impressive, sophisticated and tranquil dining experience, not unlike eating on some mythical Swan Lake.
Miniature plates complete their graceful, hypnotic circuit around the understated wood panelled restaurant to gently purring melodies. Head chef Christopher Kemper presides over his team with a knowledgeable assurance that completes the calm.
This is a nice place to eat. It’s a world away from the insistent, demanding YoSushi!, whose Stansted Airport branch is guilty of blaring out the pre-recorded voices of overexcited actor-fans screaming the chain’s name as diners disinterestedly finish their portions; a scene reminiscent of some forlorn dining room in a distant monomaniacal dictatorship. One-nil, K10.
Chris insisted that we try some of the hot dishes; while we waited, we sampled a few of the colourful and intriguing sushi revolving beside us. Crab meat wrapped in soybean seaweed was hot and stimulating, duck salad with hoi sin offered the crunchiness of garden leaves as an effective counter to the sweetness of the sauce, and cutlets of salmon untarnished by seasoning or sauce add a welcome note of rustic simplicity. This commitment to uncomplicated design runs right through K10, from the tasteful and minimalist decor to the subtly pleasing presentation of the food.
Baby squid rings arrive with the chef’s confident assertion that it is this particular dish for which customers return. The batter is as fine-grained as muscovado sugar and shares its coffee coloured hue. Each ring is tender and soft to the tooth, and dusted with the spiciness of a green chilli, lending a bite to the batter. It is the best dish on the menu and surprisingly filling: the portions may be small but they are not insubstantial.
Chicken thighs with ginger, sesame and garlic, lightly battered and bite-size, are fragrant but somehow the flavours resist blending. The meatiness of the chicken thigh does not take to the acridity of ginger too lightly. Meanwhile pan-seared tuna slices, pepper-black on the rim but beautiful ruby red on the inside, exhibit a delicate, smooth fleshiness not unlike smoked salmon sliced to the thickness of a pound coin, and are a real treat. Empty plates begin to pile up beside us.
Dessert balances out the sharpness of the preceding dishes, bringing welcome notes of coolness. Coconut with passion fruit mousse is cleansing and effortless to eat – because who wants to arrive at pudding only to be faced with an enormous, dense behemoth? Yet I prefer my partner’s green tea mousse with mango sorbet with its neutralising acidity. Again the emphasis on precision, balance and display: everything is graced with an assured and measured touch. You know that the chefs take pride in their craft, making K10 most definitely worth a visit. Even if you’re 11 years old and addicted to Sugar Puffs.
3 Appold Street
Tel: 020 7539 9209
Image by Mike Saechang courtesy of Flickr