The One Who Keeps the Book London
How To Get Into Kurisu Omakase
Named after his Japanese name, Kurisu Omakase offers a sensorial omakase experience drawing from the Thai-Colombian heritage of Tokyo-trained chef Chris Restrepo and his mother, Suwannee. Having grown up in a restaurant, Restrepo credits the years of seeing the work, dedication and details that go into his parents’ food as what inspired him to start serving his own take on edomae-style sushi.
Set inside his parents’ Brixton sushi restaurant, Kurisu Omakase has become a must-visit for the city’s best sushi chefs and aficionados, who come for Chris’s unique approach to sushi omakase, from the chef’s subtle tweaks to delicate nigiri that draw from his dual heritage, to the duo’s (his mother runs front of house) legendary back-and-forth with guests.
Each 18-course sushi dinner is inspired by the period it’s in, changing every three months – promising guests a new experience with each new season. We spoke to Restrepo on how to secure a seat at one of London’s most exclusive omakase sushi restaurants.
How long has it been since you opened Kurisu Omakase?
How many seats does the restaurant have?
We’ve always been adamant to keep it at 8 to ensure that we could just really control the quality, portions, and pacing of the dinner. So we do two seatings — the first is at 6pm, and the second one afterwards is 8.30pm.
When do reservations drop on Resy?
So how we do it over here, is we drop our dates four times a year for every upcoming season.
Do you keep aside tables for walk-ins? If so, what’s the best time to try on a busy night?
I’m afraid not. Because we seat just eight people, we prepare everything a few days in advance. There has been a rare occasion where two people cancel just before dinner so we had two seats available and some people will just walk in to ask if we have space.
For someone who’s never been to the restaurant, what are the must-try dishes?
So we tend to change our menu every three months to go along with the seasons. And during that three month period, we just make the adjustments to the seasonal menu to our goal here to continuously improve. So, if you were to come at the beginning of the new season, and hopefully at the end of the same season, you’ll notice a lot of the elements have either gotten better, improved, or they’re switched out for other seasonal things in between.
My favourite at the moment is the chutoro chop chop which is basically our medium fatty tuna torched with small tartare which was kind of inspired by my mother. It’s basically a snack she used to give me when I was a child — we just call it a chop chop for a kind of cute name rather than a traditional name. So carrying that story, carrying that memory, being able to tell guests about chop chop, and making it quite unique to us as a part of our personal story. And also having my mother that works with me on the service just really makes it feel very homey.
Being able to showcase your uniqueness in whichever vessel you can such as food, art, music — I think it’s incredibly important.— Chris Restrepo
How long is your Notify list on any given night?
What tends to happen is naturally, when I drop the entire season three months in advance, they’ll get booked up incredibly quickly. And then I do recommend a lot of guests to add themselves to the Notify list in case some cancellations occur. Now, you know, when you make a booking and three months down the line with life, you never know what happens – work responsibilities, or family responsibilities can occur. So we do normally have quite regular switch outs where I look at one week and I know half of the guests, then I look at it again a few days later, and a lot of them have changed. So the Notify list has been probably the most helpful feature to allow me to continuously ensure that our seatings are fully booked. So as soon as someone cancels, I believe it is within like five or 10 minutes, everyone on my Notify list for that specific day and time frame, gets an email or notification.
What do you think keeps the restaurant packed each night?
I guess to some degree what we do here is a little bit different, where a lot of our flavours and seasonings are reflected off my heritage or my team’s heritage as well.
As much as we focus on traditional Japanese cuisine, a lot of the flavours we do and things we put on top of it make it a bit more unique to us. And I have a philosophy — when it comes down to the one thing we all have in common being humans is the fact that we’re unique. So being able to showcase your uniqueness in whichever vessel you can, such as food, art, music — I think it’s incredibly important. So because of that, that’s just kind of what we do here. We just tried to give the very best of us in food and hospitality in our style and I think that’s what makes it a little bit unique.
And when guests come down and they have a good time, naturally they tell their friends and it’s the word of mouth that keeps people coming in.
What’s the vibe like on a Friday night? What music is playing? What’s the crowd like?
One thing we kind of pride ourselves in is that our style of service is a bit more relaxed and more casual. I want people to feel like they just left their friend’s house showing off, rather than a restaurant. So when people come in, you know, we tell jokes, we make them feel comfortable, we’ll share stories about our journey to becoming Kurisu Omakase, some stories from my mum’s restaurant previously. I think, for us, every day is just trying to really give that experience to guests and have fun with it and make something that is memorable for them.
Which is your favourite table? Can people request specific tables?
I guess the best seats in the house would be the two seats that are directly in front of my counter, where I do the chopping board. Just because you’re directly in front of it, you witness all of that. And you get the best view from there, and then we smoke some of the sushi, so you really get the first few of those aromas and everything else as well.
Requesting specific seats is not really a thing. It’s kind of like, first in, first service. The first ones who get here ask me where the best seats are. And of course, I tell them the truth. Though sometimes I tell people, these are the best seats. And a lot of the guests actually choose to sit around it. That’s a funny one sometimes.
Finally, any tips or tricks for getting a table during the busiest periods?
Every day is a busy period. In terms of the tip for bookings, something that a guest did share with me the other day, which was really funny is when the dates go live, they’ll actually go to the furthest month because obviously everyone’s going for the earliest dates that you can write, there’s going to be let’s say 10 people fighting for, let’s say the first day, whereas if you go straight to the furthest month then you can you add yourself to notify lists for the earlier months and you know, cancellations occur. It’s very strategic. When the guest told me that, I thought, ‘you are a genius’. But now I said it, I think that trick is out the window now.
Chris and Suwannee will be offering two extended omakase menus on June 11th and 18th as part of Resy Drop Week. More info on Resy Drop Week here.
Juli Suazo is a freelance writer based in London.