Underground restaurants you say? Currently a foodie phenomenon exploding all over the UK, it's as if everyone with a decent kitchen, lots of spare plates and some YouTube cookery tutelage has decided to play chef and open an underground restaurant or supperclub.
Now then, Ichi-Riki is actually a restaurant located underground. Near where I work is a lane called Strutton Ground but is lovingly known to its punters as Sandwich Street. So you can guess what is competitively sold there during lunchtime. And it gets very boring. As much as "Any sandwich filling fuh juzza pound noigh-ee-noine, larvf" is the economically wise choice in these frugal times, we all have to live a little and listen to our bodies. This day my body wanted sashimi.
So downwards from street level into the sweetest little Japanese restaurant. The waitress did her cutesy Japanese curtsy and giggle and showed me and and fellow foodie colleague in. The entire room could not have fitted more than 20 people and whilst underground, didn't have that bomb shelter effect. It even had the adorable sushi bar in the corner with paper curtains. The menu is not fancy, listing all your favourite Japanese comforts alongside specials of the day. We had to try the Soft Shell Crab Tempura special, which came with an unusual green sauce that made us think miso, with wasabi, perhaps some ponzu? A hint of chilli too, which complemented those crustaceans really well. Bits of leg, salty light batter and brittle shell fell apart in my mouth, as I thought "Why can't we have more??".
My own dish was salmon, tuna and trout sashimi over a mound of rice that lay on a solitary shiso leaf. Elegant, with excellent sashimi (I had Tsuru last week to compare with, you see!), I'm told by my colleague who's been to Japan numerous times that this quality of sashimi is all over Japan, though more elusive in London.
It's certainly elusive, and easy to miss amongst the baps and baguettes of haphazard Sandwich Street. If you're approaching from Victoria Street, walk along the left, until you see Crussh, Ichi-Riki is nestled in between that and a dodgy Everything-for-a-Fiver store.
For 1 special, 2 mains (including miso soup) and green tea each, it was £14 per person. It is sashimi and it is a great hidden gem with personal service, so my only gripe would be bigger portions. Other than that, give me underground sushi over sandwiches any day.