For 7 months this year, I was working a contract in central Watford. Since I last worked for the same client a couple of years ago, their business has expanded quite a bit and staff are now split across three different buildings along the same road; meaning I was no longer 30 seconds away from the staff canteen in the original office building. This proved to be a good thing, as it forced me out of the office every day (and the canteen was never very good in any case).
But although the office is right by the shopping centre, Watford isn’t blessed with many decent, quick and affordable lunch options. The addition of a branch of Pret a Manger helps – I went through a a phase of rotating between their meatball wrap and bang bang chicken baguette for weeks on end. But there’s little else that appealed and it didn’t take long for me to bore of their offerings.
A few weeks in, a colleague mentioned a “great sushi place” inside the Watford Market and insisted I should go. Aware of my interest in food and relatively recent obsession with Japan, he was confident I’d like it. I put it off for a few more weeks; my memories of Watford Market were anything but positive and I couldn’t imagine finding great food within its walls. But when I finally checked it out, I was immediately hooked and visited at least twice a week every week for the rest of my contract! (Keep in mind it’s only open 3 weekdays per week…)
Watford Market has changed over the last year or two; one end has been cleared out and space assigned to a mini-food court with three stalls – the Japanese plus an Indian and a Caribbean (which are looked over by a butcher, two fishmongers and a Turkish sweets and olives shop). The Japanese place has high stool-chairs at the counter and handful of regular tables just opposite; during the months I visited, this little business became more and more popular, and soon we made sure to head over at noon to be in with a hope of getting a seat. They are only open Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday lunch times and if you can’t get a seat, they do takeaway too from a small fridge next to the till area – the sushi selections are far tastier, more generous and much less expensive than supermarket or sandwich chain offerings.
The sign above the kitchen reads Sushi No Mai (“Sushi Dance”), which is expanded to Sushi-no-Mai Japanese Grandpa’s Sushi Takeaway Shop on their business cards.
Grandpa, in this case, is Chef N Shimo and a framed document proudly declares his recognition by Sanchokai, the Japan Sushi Association. I believe he used to be a chef at Harrods before launching his his own business here in Watford. Throughout service, he quietly mans the sushi counter, occasionally querying an order or nodding greetings to a customer. His daughter (I think) cooks and plates tempura and teriyaki orders behind him. Two or three additional staff look after customer orders, payments and service.
Not only is the food delicious, it’s also extremely good value.
Tempura don (£5) includes two or three prawns (depending on size), two or three pieces of fish (white fish and salmon), a slice of sweet potato, a fan of aubergine, slices of sweet pepper and a seasonal green vegetable such as courgette, green beans or asparagus. A generous dressed side salad is also included.
Pork teriyaki don (£5) comes with salad and a boiled egg and plenty of sauce. The pork is tender, fatty and full of flavour. Salmon teriyaki don is similarly good.
A sushi and sashimi platter called Scent of Scotland (£4.80) includes four pieces of salmon nigiri sushi and four of salmon sashimi. I’ve added a sweet omelette nigiri (£1) to my order, above. The fish is super fresh.
The Edomae Set (£5.80) is one of the best value dishes on the menu, containing several pieces of nigiri sushi (including eel, salmon, tuna, prawn and seabream) as well as four large rolls labelled as Watford sushi which include both tuna and salmon as well as a selection of crunchy vegetables. Again, a generous salad is included.
Chirashi Sushi is a couple of pounds more expensive but includes scallop sashimi and sweet omelette as well as the other types of fish already mentioned.
Sometimes, if feeling extra hungry, I’d add a tuna roll to my order, for less than £2 this is another bargain and, like the rest of the sushi, comes with wasabi and pickled ginger. Soy sauce is already on every table.
The only dish I don’t rate very highly is the ramen (£5), which I shied away from anyway, given my propensity to spill food all over myself and the need to go back to work looking half-way respectable! But when I did order it, it didn’t blow me away, perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the recent openings of great ramen restaurant in central London.
Green tea and soft drinks are £1 each.
Please note, a few of the prices have gone up (very marginally) since my last visit.
Sushi-No-Mai, Watford Market, Charter Place.
Please leave a comment - I love hearing from you!19 Comments to "Japanese Grandpa’s Sushi-no-Mai, Watford Market"
Yes, very nice.
Think I have to go again on Tuesday maybe.
Just make me jealous, why don’t you?! 🙂
I usually avoid Watford like the plague – this looks like enough to tempt me back over there!
For normal shopping, I prefer Watford to BrentCross or central London… So we usually go once every several weeks or so.
For normal shopping I have the internet!
I can’t do clothes/ shoes shopping on web as such small percentage of what I try on actually fits, even though it’s all labelled the same size!
I have been enjoying this place for a year. It is getting very busy now due to it’s well deserved reputation, so get there early to get a seat.
Completely agree, John, it’s popularity is definitely well deserved.
Literally the only decent Sushi in Watford and surrounding areas, the quality is great and such good value!! Not quite sure what i’d do at lunchtime without it!
I do miss it! Though I’ve just got back last night from 3 weeks in Japan so my need is less!
I absolutely loved this place when I visited recently. The Edomae set is slightly different to your post now though, containing a few more pieces and costing £8. Still an absolute bargain though!
I wrote about it here last week: http://www.eatingisntcheating.co.uk/2014/02/sushi-no-mai-aka-japanese-grandpas.html
After a friend recommended the place it was your blog post that gave me some idea of what the place looked like, so thanks for that!
Well I’ve ventured to this place at last, and it was well worth it. I couldn’t bring myself to have both the tempura and the teriyaki dishes at once, so I went for the Teriyaki this time as my introduction.
Everything about it was great, from the wafer thin belly pork with a tinge of scorching on the edges, garnished with fried seeweed, to the sushi-style rice which made a pleasant change to normal boiled rice, the salad which had bits and pieces in it which I couldn’t quite place but enough ingredients that each mouthful tasted different, the (perfectly) boiled egg which didn’t seem to make sense until you ate it with the pork and rice, and even the soy they chose as a separate dressing went perfectly with it. As good as anything I ever had at the late lamented Yaosin Plaza. All for £5.30. Looking forward to the tempura on another sunny day.
I see there is also a Vietnamese stall there too, but it was shut today so I am none the wiser as to what they have to offer 🙁
So pleased that this older review is still leading people to Grandpa’s and that it’s still great. Now I’m no longer working in the area, I’ve not been for ages but do miss it!
Just to let you know, the lady cooking the tempura is his wife not his daughter. Also in case a price update is needed here you go (im pretty sure this is right): Tempura Don £6, Edomae Set £6.80, Teriyaki £5.30, Katsu Curry £5.80, Pork/Chicken Ramen £5.30, Seafood Ramen £6, Scotland Scent £6.20, Oedo Set £10, Todays Sashimi/Sashimi Set (same thing) £10, Prawn Tempura Set £8, Drinks mostly £1.20 except bottled tea £1.30, 3 Small Roll set £4.80.
Thanks Alice. I don’t do price updates for past reviews, as they are snapshots in time. Glass it’s still going well, sadly I no longer work there, I’m in new malden now, so can’t visit for lunch!
I go there whenever I can and as far as I am concerned it’s the best value Japanese inside the M25 that I have ever found