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JAPANESE RESTAURANT SUMOSAN BECAME FAMOUS FOR ITS SASHIMI AND SUSHI ROLLS WHEN IT OPENED ON ALBEMARLE STREET IN 2002, AND IT IS STILL OWNER JANINA WOLKOW’S ULTIMATE PASSION. JUST DON’T MENTION CERTAIN FOOD CRITICS


On a roll for ten years


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umosan, the contemporary Japanese restaurant, was first launched in Moscow in 1997 by restaurateur Alexander Wolkow, but it was his daughter, Janina, who brought the concept to London in 2002. Since its opening, the Albemarle Street restaurant has attracted an A-list clientele and won many culinary awards along the way. Janina looks back at the past ten years.


Does it seem like ten years since you opened Sumosan? Not at all – it feels more like yesterday than ten years ago. I find it hard to believe it’s been that long.


Why did you choose Albemarle Street – were you looking to open in Mayfair specifically? I was looking for a good location somewhere in Mayfair or Chelsea. When the old Coast site was offered to me I remembered it well and knew right away it would be perfect for London’s first Sumosan.


What do you like about Mayfair? What’s not to like about Mayfair? It’s so well-balanced, offering everything from good restaurants, to boutiques and art galleries, as well as having many affluent residents and businesses.


How would you describe the style of food at Sumosan? Modern Japanese fusion.


Has the food evolved over that time? Definitely. We never stop looking for ways to improve ourselves and come up with new dishes. I just spent a month in Japan with my group chef Bubker Belkhit and we will be changing some of the menu to mark the tenth anniversary at the end of this year. We’ll keep the classics, of course.


How has Japanese food changed in general in London? Japanese food – or fusion as we are more used to in London – hasn’t changed much in itself in the past ten years. However, it is far more readily available. It is very popular and is not just being offered at the high-end level but also at places like Pret, where it is available to all.


How has your clientele changed over the years? Our clientele has increased in terms of volume but I am very proud to say that overall it hasn't changed – we still have guests that became loyal Sumosan followers when we first opened. We have an amazing mix of locals and visitors to London.


What has been the secret of your success? When we first opened my father said: “Don't try to be trendy – fashion comes and goes. Sumosan is here to stay and should be for people who appreciate good food and a relaxing, sophisticated atmosphere.” Also, I adore what I do and the team at Sumosan is like a family – it might sound corny but we love what we do and it shows.


Was it a given that you would go into the restaurant business because of your background? I was given a choice, but I love food and the restaurant business is my greatest passion – apart from love, of course.


What’s the best thing about your job and the worst? The best thing about my job is seeing your guests enjoying what we the Sumosan team have created. The worst thing is certain food critics who try to be entertaining by writing bad reviews to appeal to the reader rather than guiding the consumer accurately.


food & drink


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