2022 was the Year Of The Sushi Restaurant in Reading: you waited ages for somewhere to come along to challenge Sushimania and the bigger chains, and then three came along practically at once. The most upmarket, grown-up proposition was Intoku, which I reviewed last year (tl;dr – great food, everything else was problematic). But the other two – what are the chances? – opened a few doors and a few weeks apart on Friar Street last summer.
One, Iro Sushi, took the tiny site previously occupied by Raayo, which I reviewed last year (tl;dr – a nice pulled pork panini I was sorry to see the back of). The other, You Me Sushi, was bigger, the latest franchise in a chain previously confined to London. Before that, that site was home to the now defunct STA Travel, something I only know because I Googled it. It’s sad, I always think, when you can’t remember what something used to be.
Both Iro Sushi and You Me Sushi are far more aimed at the casual grab and go market, closer rivals to Itsu than to Yo!, I would say. I don’t think either sells alcohol and although both are open until the evening they feel more like lunch venues, somewhere you would eat without necessarily hanging about. Both are on delivery apps, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a reasonable amount of their custom comes through that channel. Size is a factor there: Iro only has about five stools, two facing the bar and three looking out of the window, while You Me has a smattering of tables and maybe twenty or so covers.
You nearly got a review of either of them this week. Zoë and I wandered in that direction ready to take our chances, but although my heart said Iro (besides, somebody told me they make everything to order whereas You Me has readymade sushi on display) there were people sitting up at the window there, whereas You Me was empty. So the choice was made, although I did wonder in the back of my mind whether You Me Sushi was empty for a reason.
It’s perfectly pleasant, if a tad sterile, inside. They have some of the same furniture, I think, as Kokoro and it’s very much reminiscent of the likes of Kokoro and ThaiGrr! – functional, utilitarian, lacking in any homeliness (unless your home resembles a dentist’s waiting room). It’s mostly black and white – one black wall, a white tiled kitchen at the back – although a bright graphic on one wall adds colour and character.
This might sound like a basic error, and I’m not sure if it’s mine or theirs, but there aren’t any menus on the table. A lot of premade sushi boxes are on display in the fridge – a very good range, in fact – but it wasn’t clear to me until later that there were menus up at the counter and you don’t have to limit yourself to what you can see. That was very much my mistake, but I still found it weird to not make the menus a little more visible.
Most of the stuff they had out were the more expensive sushi rolls or selection boxes, but even then prices weren’t eye-watering: nearly all the boxes on delay were under or at the ten pound mark, and they also had some reliable staples like avocado maki. Over the counter illuminated menus offered soups and hot dishes – the latter very reminiscent of the sort of thing you can get at Kokoro – along with poke bowls, something which always seems to be huge whenever I go to Europe but which hasn’t really caught on in this country. From my photo one of their screens was out – maybe that’s where the more conventional bits of the menu should have been.
When I did eventually get a look at the menu, I saw that you could get a decent range of maki, uramaki, temaki, nigiri and sashimi – along with something called the “crazy crunchy roll” – at reasonable prices. So you don’t have to take your pick from the fridge and, in most cases, they’ll make it there and then for you like Iro, their near neighbours. They also apparently offer free delivery for orders over twelve pounds – I have no idea what the small print on that is, or how on earth it’s viable, but it’s worth knowing.
Anyway, by then I had grabbed a bunch of stuff from the fridges, which along with a couple of soft drinks came to just over twenty-four pounds. I told myself that if we liked it, and we were still hungry, we could always go up and order some more stuff.
First up, something called the “salmon box” which, confusingly, wasn’t all salmon. Nigiri, never my favourite, were actually really nicely done and I loved the salmon and avocado maki, arguably the best entry-level sushi out there. But the real pick, for me, was the salmon free zone: the California roll, with crab stick and avocado, the pop of tobiko and the elevating factor, a smidge of wasabi. Just enough to lend an edge without shouting everything down. I really loved it. Just over ten pounds for this, although I think they’re meant to charge more if you eat in – looking at my bill, I think they forgot to do so.
Avocado maki are an absolute must-order for me and I liked You Me Sushi’s a great deal. Ever so slightly raggedly rolled – the nori didn’t join up on all of them – but at under two quid for a dozen I was very much not complaining. You could hit their twelve pound delivery threshold by just ordering a fuckton of these and you (well I, anyway) could have a very enjoyable meal.
Last but not least, we’d also chosen the crunchy salmon box. Now in hindsight I probably should have picked something with a little more variety – a lot of this review could basically be summed up as “textures of salmon” – but even so it was very enjoyable. The crunch here was partly supplied by some crispy onion, of the sort you used to get in plastic tubs and sprinkle over salad, glued on with something like Kewpie mayo, and by little batons of finely sliced cucumber, in the mix along with the ever-present avocado. Seven fifty for this and, again, very respectable at this price point.
Having eaten and enjoyed everything we had, sipping away on a rather nice ginger and lemon kombucha (unusually, You Me Sushi sells multiple kombuchas), I was seized with the thought that by picking from the stuff already in the fridge we may not have given the place a fair crack of the whip or tried enough of what they had to offer. So we conferred over the menu, and I went up and ordered a few more dishes at the total cost of another twenty-six pounds. I know, the lengths I go to for you lot. Looking beyond the counter I could see the kitchen behind, all precision knife work and efficiency, and it made me glad that I hadn’t left it there.
They offer salmon sashimi either as it comes or seared, and for scientific purposes we ordered one of each. It was a beautiful piece of salmon and although it was interesting to see how searing slightly changed the buttery texture of the fish I’m not sure it was worth the extra quid to have them do that and then scatter some sesame seeds over it. They weren’t the most generous cuts of salmon though – slightly thin slivers that draped limply over the chopsticks. It’s also worth mentioning that even if you order at the counter to eat in, everything comes in disposable plastic trays. That didn’t sit easily with me: I really hope they do plenty of recycling.
Last but not least we tried soft shell crab, one of my favourite things, in temaki, big conical hand rolls. The crab itself, still warm, was delicious with just enough crunch. But it had to carry the whole show. There was tobiko but not enough, a spiced mayo but not enough, avocado but not enough and so on. Just past the halfway mark there was nothing really left but rice, and it was time to give up.
Short and sweet this week, then, a little like You Me Sushi itself. By my reckoning we can’t have been there much longer than forty-five minutes – and that’s ordering two rounds of dishes, so you can probably see why I think this is definitely a quick lunch spot more than anything else. And this is where I do slightly worry about the place, because I’m not sure that people in a hurry want to drop fifty quid on sushi, even when it’s decent value and surprisingly good.
That second bit, the “surprisingly good” part, bears repeating. You Me Sushi had the misfortune that I visited it the day after eating sushi from Misugo, possibly my favourite Japanese restaurant in the world. And I’ll say this for the place – if their sushi wasn’t quite as good at Misugo’s, it was far, far closer to it in quality than I was expecting. Add in a pleasant, if functional, room to eat in and very friendly, polite and efficient staff and you have something of a surprise package.
When you also factor in their free delivery for orders over twelve quid – an offer that, even as I type it out, still seems too good to be true – You Me Sushi may have a viable business on its hands. I very much hope so, because it definitely adds to Reading’s food scene, especially in the town centre. It isn’t really a competitor to Intoku or Sushimania, nor a like for like comparison either. But I would choose it over drab old Itsu eleven times out of ten. Fingers crossed enough people do likewise.
You Me Sushi – 7.4
150 Friar Street, RG1 1HE