Takeaway food does not need to mean unhealthy food. It’s the motto they swear by in Japan, and it is the aim for Brighton’s latest Japanese food venue, Zushi.
Megumi Evans is one of the managers at the place in Prince Albert Street and she says the sushi and skewer bar is as authentic as you’ll find in Brighton.
She moved to Brighton 14 years ago from Gifu near Nagoya to study at Brighton University but never lost links to her homeland.
Back in Japan she was a qualified chef and here she oversees all the food side of Zushi’s business.
She believes keeping standards high while working quickly is the secret to the long life expectancy in the Japanese big cities, where life is fast and the food is too.
“Quality control is the main focus for me,” she explains, when we meet in a lime-coloured Zen-like retreat downstairs.
“I want the four chefs to be able to produce the same high standard every time.
“Every time the customer tastes something, it should be as good as the time before.”
She admits she could race into the kitchen if necessary. But so far she has been more concerned with making sure the suppliers – another essential for healthy and affordable “grab and go” food – are trustworthy and sustainable.
Evans and the owners visited suppliers in Brighton and in London and decided on Atari-Ya to supply the tuna and salmon. They picked Natural Farms in Sevenoaks for the meat, Namayasai in Lewes for the seasonal vegetables and Fish in Hove for sustainable fish.
They chose farms where they could track the welfare and livelihood of the animals whose meat they use. And so confident are they in the supply chain that those suppliers’ names are displayed on the walls of the space downstairs which has room for 25 covers.
It might be tranquillity now but not so long ago the spot was a sweaty disco basement. There is a mock shouji wall with lattice and frames (usually covered with thin Japanese paper but wood here) and delicate wooden tables and soft lighting.
“Japanese people who have visited called it a home away from home,” says Evans, before revealing that the temaki zushi (from £2.55) and Japanese skewers (from £1.95) are popular with Japanese visitors and are her recommendation as quick bites for lunch.
The temaki zushi are cone-shaped hand rolls wrapped with the edible seaweed used for sushi called nori.
“They are quick to make and fresh and easy to eat.”
The skewers, or kushi, come on thick wooden lollipop sticks and can be chicken and spring onion, beef and pepper, salmon, prawn, asparagus and bacon or tofu and mushroom.
“It’s the sauce that makes these special,” says Evans, who is a regular at London’s Japan Centre in Piccadilly, goes back to Gufi once every two years and is hoping to import more speciality goods from the country for sale in the shop.
“They are great to eat at the bar with sake. It’s what people do in Japan.”
A big plus for Japanese food fans who like to make sushi at home are the large scales behind the counter, which runs the length of the narrow shop.
Sashimi grade fish is for sale and the scales mean they can sell it in bulk. When I visit, the salmon, tuna and scallops are on offer.
The selection will rotate, depending on suppliers, and it is priced and weighed before your eyes.
“It’s a real selling point because people often want to try sushi at home but often don’t know which fish is raw and which is edible and where to find it.
“We will of course advise people how to cook with it if they have never tried before.”
Evens says once demand grows they will start to stock more varieties sourced from other regional suppliers.
“You can buy it as you would other fish at a fishmongers and we’re hoping it is popular so we can offer a wider selection.”
Opposite the counter is something of a mini Japanese market. There is sushi paraphernalia – kits, makers, cookbooks, tableware, mats, utensils – as well Japanese snacks such as wasabi peas and kakinotane, which Evans says are best eaten with Japanese beer (and will be served as such once the licence has been granted).
There are bento boxes – double salmon, £4.75, nigiri, £4.95, and vegetarian, £3.95 – and don, boxes of rice with a fish or a meat or vegetables, spicy tuna, chicken teriyaki, which start at £4.75.
This might appear a small start but there are plans to expand to other cities, to ramp up the office lunch deliveries and to make a terrace at the back of the shop.
Zushi, Prince Albert Street, Brighton, is open Monday to Saturday from 11am to 8pm, and Sunday from noon to 7pm. Visit www.zushico.com or call 01273 234151