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Jason Atherton’s latest venture, which opened recently on Turnmill Street in Clerkenwell, London, is a new departure for him. Sosharu is a 75-cover izakaya-style Japanese restaurant with an accompanying 40-cover bar in the basement. It is the eighth venue in Atherton’s growing London portfolio, which includes City Social, Little Social and Social Wine and Tapas.
An izakaya is a Japanese informal dining and after-work drinking venue, the equivalent of a British local. Diners enjoy a varied menu along with a drink or two. A typical menu may include items such as hiyayakko (chilled tofu with various toppings) followed by more robust flavours of yakitori (seasoned grilled chicken skewers) and finishing with a rice or noodle dish of some kind, all washed down with Japanese beer or saki. The food in a typical izakaya is served at a leisurely pace and each dish is prepared fresh as it is ordered.
Sosharu was created by Jason and Irha Atherton in collaboration with executive head chef Alex Craciun. It takes the izakaya style into the realms of fine dining and serves refined Japanese cuisine using seasonal British ingredients. The venue also includes a second inner dining area with a taster menu for 10 covers – Kisetsu – and the Seven Tales cocktail bar. This basement bar is as close as guests can get to experiencing the neon-lit cool and bustle of Tokyo night life without leaving London.
Alex, who was sous chef at Atherton’s Pollen Street, has travelled and worked extensively in Japan and has a wide experience of Japanese cuisine. He spent time at culinary school in Kyoto and worked in Kikunoi in Kyoto and Ryugin in Tokyo. The Sosharu a la carte menu he has helped to create features sashimi, open temaki, salads, tempura, grilled meat, fish and vegetables and rice dishes as well as other Japanese classics.
Motivation for investment
Sosharu reflects the desire of Jason Atherton to broaden his culinary horizons into an area that he has not previously tried.
Alex Craciun was tasked with delivering a dining experience that reflects the style and feel of the izakaya while at the same time providing guests with a novel fine dining venue.
Located in the former Turnmills Nightclub, Sosharu is a minimalist space with big windows and high ceilings. It is neatly partitioned with wooden screens to create a feeling of intimacy and break up the expanse of the concrete interior.
The busy kitchen is open and can be viewed from the dining area.
As with other ventures by Jason Atherton the restaurant and kitchen spaces at Sosharu required complete re-design and re-fitting.
As a focal point of the Japanese-style dining experience the kitchen has to be both functional and visually appealing. And because the Japanese style requires a variety of cooking methods - including deep tempura frying, grilling and boiling using delicate ingredients - the space has to be versatile. There is a requirement for separate work stations for dealing with fish, meat and vegetables, as well as plating and preparing cooked dishes for service.
The new kitchen had to be installed quickly to meet tight opening deadlines, in common with the project at City Social that Grande Cuisine had previously worked on.
Developed in association with SHW and Salix kitchen design consultants, the Grande Cuisine solution features a bespoke Athanor suite. It is a 5.4 metre long by 1.1 metre wide peninsular suite which includes four double Plaque Athanor plancha/cook plates and two inset deep fat fryers.
In addition to the fryers there is an inset Vario pan for tempura-style frying. A chef’s prep sink is set into the worktop for dealing with the preparation of fish and vegetables.
Set above the suite is an over shelf with a CAPIC hi-light quick-therm salamander grill.
There are cut out voids below the work tops to accommodate mobile refrigerated units and a pass-through cast iron lined electric roasting oven.
Benefits for the customer
High performance cooking in a limited space is made possible by the Plaque Athanor cook plates/plancha.
Grande Cuisine were able to deliver a cook suite that allows the preparation of a variety of dishes, grilled, fried, roasted and fresh – all at the same time. As a focal point for the action and drama of the izakaya-style dining experience, the kitchen fulfils a front of house role which is fully realised by the Athanor suite’s polished stainless steel finish.
The Athanor cook suite offers the chef the ideal creative space. The primary top is constructed of a 3 mm thick one-piece stainless steel chrome titanium alloy top fitted over a 6 mm secondary top designed to dissipate heat evenly across the entire worktop, giving a uniquely flexible working environment.
The exterior panels are made of high-grade stainless steel and enhance the visual impact of the suite. They are also durable and hardwearing. Designed to takes the knocks and impacts of the busiest kitchens the suite can be restored to its glory as the centre piece of any kitchen with a wipe down at the end of service.
Controls are set back within the fascia of the suite to limit the risk of damage from knocks during busy periods. Each polished control is set within a polished panel mounted on front of main suite fascia. All electrical units have neon indicator lights.
The double-sided layout maximises the space available and helps to create a highly productive work flow at any time. Frying, boiling and grilling can be done quickly so that all the dishes arrive on the diners’ tables fresh and hot.