What role can a few cheap televisions and a motorcycle have in establishing of one of the most successful restaurant chains in the world? A pretty big one, actually – when setting up YO! Sushi with almost no financial backing or investment, Simon Woodroffe was able to negotiate extended payment terms with a supplier based on the fact that he had the support of Honda, Sony and All Nippon Airways. Years later he remarked that, actually, these brands had only provided him with some very limited sponsorship. To the tune of the items mentioned above, in fact.
Despite these humble beginnings, the chain is now sixteen years old and I can’t imagine that any of you haven’t been to one…which makes my task – reviewing the original YO! Sushi restaurant – a difficult one. So what’s the angle, I hear you ask? I was attempting to convert a sushi hater. In many respects, my girlfriend and I are a perfect match – we both love Americana, we both act as if we’re about sixty years old and we’re both total foodies. Except for sushi. Despite my efforts to get her enthused about sushi, she remains completely ambivalent about it. So, my mission was to show her that there’s more to YO! than just some cold fish.
The original Soho YO! is a little different to the average department store incarnation of the chain. While these tend to be open and airy, the original is darker and feels more tucked away – you definitely get more of a sense of Orientalism and ‘otherness’. I can’t think of a better example than this than the fact that you have to wave a fan to attract the attention of servers, rather than just pressing a big red button as in most YO!s.
I rolled out some of my longtime favourites, like Salt and Pepper Squid (‘Ok, I like this one.’) and a Katsu Selection (‘That bit tasted like a Chicken McNugget, but the rest is amazing.’). We also tried a couple of newer dishes like a Beef & Garlic Teriyaki dish that was out this world and Ramen, which is to Miso soup what Sheldon Cooper is to Ryan Gosling. The former did cause some trouble with chopsticks (‘You better not post that picture.’)…
but ultimately resulted in smiles all round.
We came away very content and very full – clearly, people who complain about being hungry ten minutes after eating sushi aren’t doin it rite. Either that, or they’re not dining on the dollar of the almighty YO!bot. Thanks very much to the team for inviting me down – I’m pretty sure we’ve managed to convert the little woman which means we’re now, if anything, TOO compatible. If you haven’t been down to the Soho YO!, I thoroughly recommend it – it is the original, after all, and original is always best.