Sushi elevates the useful cliché of little things counting for a lot to raison d’être. Perfect little touches are the whole deal. Sticks n Sushi served us pretty damn good sushi, but they delighted us up front with the best edamame beans I’ve eaten. Lightly seasoned, and grilled to bring out the savoury, these were just everything you want from a sushi appetizer, and they set the tone for a meal of quality produce with considered touches.
Sticks n Sushi has been open for a little over a month, but scheduling shenanigans mean I’ve only just managed to get there. While they’re new in Cambridge, they’ve been going for twenty-two years, have twelve branches in Copenhagen, and another four in London. The deal is a slight sushi modernization, yakitori on the side, without recourse to overbearing fusion.
The menu describes itself as a “photo album”, which is just a little too self-consciously chic for me. It reminded my of my parents’ old copy of The Art of Anton Mosimann – a grandee of uncookable eighties nouvelle cuisine paperweights. That said, it’s one of the few times I’ve seen a picture-led menu not look tacky, and that’s handy for something like sushi which strays out of a fair few comfort zones.
It doesn’t help with the classic sushi decision paralysis, though. So we went with a predefined sharing platter: the “Table for 2 / Sushi”.
There’s also a “Sticks n Sushi” combo that mixes in yakitori; the “Greenkeeper” which looked like a cracking veg medley, and some more outlandish combo offerings. Like the cringingly ill-named “Man Food” (because all men but only men like fried animal on a spike? C’mon – it’s 2016), the bewilderingly-elaborate, gorgeous-looking £95 “Onassis”, and some more restrained single-dish and platter selections.
Ours had supple, fresh salmon, tuna, and sea bass nigiri, delicious maki rolls, and these wonderful, brimming inari. The Pink Alaska maki roll up salmon with a little avocado and roe, and a helping of richly savoury cream cheese. Part Breakfast bagel, all delight. I had to finish most of these because we didn’t bother looking them up on the a la carte, and missed the cream cheese. The boyfriend doesn’t do so well with the whole digesting-lactose thing and was sad to miss out. I did quite well out of our little blunder.
The other rolls were spicy tuna, which had a light kick with some miso savoury and this wonderful texture complement of crumbly katifi pastry shards, and “gypsy rolls” – large futomaki whitefish rolls with a spicy sweet glaze. It was all pretty great, but the spicy tuna were the pick of the bunch, really rocking the contrasts.
I’m always nervy around salmon nigiri. I’ve eaten just so many joyless, rubbery bad examples. I should not have been nervous. They weren’t as good as the tuna or sea bass, but they were fresh, tender, and flavoursome. The tuna and bass got me a bit more excited. Again, fresh – both really light flavours. They’d picked out decent pieces of fish with a clean crisp flavour, and the tenderness was a delight. The rice, too, was delicately prepared – not too crumbly, nothing over-dense. Satisfying without being heavy.
On the side – and arguably over the top – we added Ebi Bites, and a dish of bold, grill-seared edamame beans. The bites were tempura shrimp, battered slightly thicker than you might expect, giving them some really deep crunch and body. They’re drizzled with aioli, too, and present just beautifully.
There’s a lot more on the menu I’d like to go back and try. Sashimi – in particular – is something of a sushi yardstick, and I’d like to get my hands on the tuna and the mackerel. We didn’t touch the hot dishes, which makes me feel a bit of a fraud even reviewing the place. Crack open the menu and check out page 6. Yeah? Yeah.
The drinks offering is extensive, with a cocktail list I could do serious damage to. The beer selection’s solid – it’s good to see Wiper and True, and the Wild Beer Co represented, and they’ve sourced a nice malty dark pilsner to own-label. That said, like some of the soft drinks (but probably not the wine), I’d prefer to see the beers priced a little lower. Six fifty is an ask, at 330ml, even given the quality.
It’s a comfortable unfussy dining experience, and the staff were lovely. To nitpick: arguably a touch over-attentive, in that way that would evaporate naturally if they were a bit busier. We went on a Sunday afternoon, and I was surprised it wasn’t more lively. Not only does it deserve to be, but Cambridge isn’t exactly brimming with new restaurants, and there’s nowhere really decent to get sushi.
It could be the pricing, I guess. I’d call the food fairly priced for the quality, and the portioning is generous. But it may be out of a lot of folks’ casual or lunch range. Our sharing platter was £44, and we tacked on a couple of sides. For lunch, that would readily have fed three.
It’s perhaps not one for the casual dining roster. No, it’ll be for dinner with the intent to nibble my way around a lot more of the menu, but I’m definitely coming back to Sticks n Sushi.