Whenever I think of Japanese food, I think of thick, Japanese udon noodles. The kind of noodles that you can use to tie up your dining companions. Or use as a lasso to requisition more food. Or throw over a cliff to pull up a friend who is now hanging on for dear life because you “accidentally” pushed them over for saying that your belly seems bigger. Udon noodles are versatile noodles, and are, without a doubt, my favourite member of the noodles family. (Don’t tell the other noodles I said that).
Such is my enthusiasm for udon noodles, that when I caught wind of Sushinoen – a Japanese eatery with a number of halal items – I suddenly developed a manic craving for them. Given that it was only a matter of time before I tried to devour my own shoe laces, Steak and I promptly headed over to alleviate my symptoms. The beef and chicken here are halal. Alcohol and pork are served on the premises.
To begin, we ordered a portion of prawn dumplings, or “Shumai”. Unfortunately, the flavours weren’t substantial, and the dumpling casing was a little chewy and overcooked for our liking.
Shumai – prawn dumplings
For mains, I had of course, ordered a portion of udon noodles, along with a plate of “Gyu teriyaki”, comprised of sliced beef upon a bed of spring onions, all bathed in a teriyaki sauce. Unfortunately, the beef was of an average quality, and although it was just about tender enough to eat with ease, it was tough and chewy enough to detract from the dish. The accompanying udon noodles did well to satisfy my craving however, providing an incredibly thick, soft, and moist texture, which was uniform throughout. Both the beef and the udon noodles soaked up the mild flavours of the teriyaki sauce, and delivered a pleasant umami sensation to the tongue.
Plain udon noodles
Steak had opted for the “Yakiudon”, a stir-fried udon noodle dish comprised of chicken and vegetables. The chicken was soft, of a good quality, and full of flavour, and along with the udon noodles, contrasted well with the array of crunchy vegetables. It was the rich sweetness of the sauce however, which brought these components together.
Value For Money: 3/5
The shumai cost £4.50 and the gyu teriyaki cost £12.90, whilst the chicken yakiudon came in at £9.90, and my side of udon noodles cost £3.90. After a service charge of £3.90, this amounted to a final bill of £35.10. Generally, starters range from £2.50 to £14.50, mains range from £10 to £17, and desserts range from £4 to £6. Or, if you’re after a sushi platter, you can expect to pay between £17-£27. Whilst you won’t pay a great deal of money at Sushino En, you don’t really get a lot for what you do pay – given that the food isn’t overly impressive, and the portions aren’t overly generous. Suffice to say, if you do visit Sushinoen, you won’t be sumo-sized anytime soon. (Unless, like myself, you already are).
Service at Sushino En seems to be polite but reserved. There’s not a great deal of interaction to be expected with staff members, but they do work effectively and efficiently.
The building in which Sushino En resides is fairly aged, and no doubt, holds much history and character behind its worn facade. This character continues on inside, opening up into a dining area that is rustic, yet chic, whilst retaining an attractive touch of Japanese traditionalism. The dining areas are spread over three tiers, and provide a variety of seating styles – from glossy wooden chairs and tables, to fabric, bar-side seats. Those who wish to fully embrace the Japanese dining experience can also opt for one of the two sunken tables found within the second tier. (Just try not to get your food belly stuck in them). The restaurant can be found adjacent to Aftab Ali Park – a quick hop away from Aldgate East station. Parking spaces may be difficult to find nearby, but several residential roads can be found a short walk away.
As well boasting an attractive layout and decor, the restaurant hosts a charming evening ambience. Old, black and white Japanese films are projected upon a large, empty wall, and soft notes are played in the background, creating an atmosphere that is remarkably calm and gentle. Even if the food at Sushino En fails to dazzle you completely, you can, at the very least, expect to be soothed into a sense of ease and comfort.
Halal Japanese eateries are few and far between in London, and Sushino En’s halal menu is no doubt alluring in its own right. If one were to put this relative novelty aside however, it becomes evident that Sushino En doesn’t really offer anything substantial to captivate one’s loyalty, or warrant a return visit. Whilst the setting and the dining experience are amicable, the food itself isn’t particularly outstanding, and consequently, it becomes the kind of restaurant you’d visit once and only once – simply for the sake of trying it out. Indeed, if you were in the local area and really wanted something different, I would recommend giving Sushino En a go. Under any other circumstances however, I wouldn’t say there’s much reason to trip over yourself to pay them a visit.
Address: 2 White Church Lane, London E1 7QR
Telephone: 0203 645 6734