SUNDAY night I was subject to a real treat. They're never great (Sunday nights, not treats) and so to receive a belated birthday present of dinner at Dotori in Finsbury Park was a welcome distraction from the Monday morning looming ahead.
For my diner and I it used to be Monday nights that, whenever possible, were our guilty pleasure: splashing our limited student budget on half price sushi at Brighton's Moshi Moshi. It never failed to amaze us how indulgently we could dine on sushi for only £10 a head.
Now in London though, I think we may have found our substitute. And it is most definitely an upgrade.
Dotori is a Korean/Japanese restaurant, whose one small room I discovered full to the brim with diners and overflowing with take-away custom too. Considering that it was a Sunday night I took this as a very good sign. Hurrying in to this haven of warmth on a bitterly cold night I was relieved to find that my friend - having been there before - had had the foresight to book.
The aroma of Asian spices that hit the senses upon entry wrought havoc on my already rumbling stomach. And the steaming earthenware dishes that were being served up all around me were almost too much to handle.
We opted for a couple of our sushi favourites to begin with. The crunch roll - tempura prawns and avocado - was amazing value for money and delicious too, with an unusual crunchy coating alongside the usual envelopment of sesame seeds. Following this we ordered a spicy seafood broth and kimchi pork stew.
But it was the crispy salmon skin maki that stole the show. Upon ordering the waiter warned us that this dish may take a short while to arrive; yet another very good sign. And it was worth the wait. For £2.80 - yes, that's all - 8 pieces of the crispiest skin wrapped in rice and seaweed arrived at our table. The value was unbelievable. And the taste divine.
So, the food was a winner. And the price a steal, especially considering we were filled to bursting point with the freshest of dishes. It's not claiming to be a 5 star destination, simply great homemade food in a relaxed environment. And I already know what I will be ordering on my next visit: the couple next to us were served a mouthwatering plate of beef to be eaten wrapped in lettuce leaves, and the sushi platters looked generous to say the least.
I only wish I lived closer to Dotori. I envy the locals. Though perhaps that would be dangerous as I can see myself thinking of any excuse to pop in, even just for a quick take-away...