Thank goodness then that the three or so readers I had back in 2009 either didn't notice or knew even less than I thought I did about restaurant premises, because blow me down if I didn't realise, upon arriving for a dinner date at Sumosan, that it in fact occupies 'the site of Oliver Peyton's late, unlamented Coast' and that Automat was, and always had been, on the next street along. Whoops.
Sumosan opened on said vacated site in 2002, a London outpost of a small chain with established branches in Moscow and Kiev. Despite never attracting nearby Nobu's level of fame (or notoriety - to the best of my knowledge no love-children have been conceived on the stairs) Sumosan has obviously been doing something right, as on the evidence of my visit business would appear to be booming. It will come as no surprise, given the Russian backing and super-prime Mayfair location, that Sumosan is aimed squarely at the kind of customer for whom recession only affects the hairline, and on a freezing winter night the huge main dining room and smaller downstairs bar were packed.
To anyone acquainted with London's (or indeed Moscow's) higher-end Japanese restaurants, the menu at Sumosan will be familiar fare; superior sushi and sashimi are offered alongside a lengthy selection of mostly fish dishes, all using only the finest produce at prices to match. I was fortunate to be dining as a guest of the restaurant so was able to order just about everything that appealed; had I not been, prices starting at a fiver for a simple bowl of miso soup would have had me fluttering my eyelashes at the nearest thick-necked, expensively-suited Russkie in the hope of his picking up the bill.
Lobster salad was as beautiful to eat as to look at; chunks of claw meat in a sweet citrusy dressing came encased in frilly green leaves, the whole assemblage forming a pretty green sphere like a 1950s swimming cap.
Kaiso (seaweed) salad with peanut was fabulous, a rich, nutty palate cleanser to prepare us for silken scallop and sublime toro sashimi. Tuna and truffle California rolls were a decadent take on perhaps the most ubiquitous of sushi dishes. The night's revelation came in the form of red sea urchin roe served in the shell, the top sliced off like an aquatic boiled egg. Quite unlike anything I can remember tasting - smooth, creamy, slightly nutty but with a definite whack of the sea, for once I could see why this particular delicacy is so highly prized.
We finished with a trio of hot dishes which delivered two hits and the night's only miss. Black cod in miso - street food in Japan but the pricy signature of any western restaurant with an eye to the Rising Sun - was amazingly good: sticky and rich, texturally firm enough to pick up with chopsticks but then collapsing almost to syrup in the mouth. Sweet shrimp, served in cute little nuggets just begging to be picked up by fingers and popped in the mouth, was like delicious savoury popcorn. The one slightly duff dish was vegetable tempura; it was fine, with good crunch to both batter and veg, but bland in comparison to everything else and not even enlivened by the accompanying dipping sauce.
I'd also love to be able to tell you what this all cost, but in a move perhaps intended to not put people off coming, or simply in recognition of the fact that Sumosan's core customer isn't all that worried about money, there are no prices on the rather clunky corporate website. My guess would be about £100-a-head; four dishes less than we greedily had and just the one bottle of wine would halve that, and you'd still be in for a treat.
The decor's rather dated - I'm not sure it's had more than an occasional lick of paint since 2002 - but everything else about Sumosan is excellent and I highly recommend a visit. When it opened - on, let's not forget, the site of Oliver Peyton's late, unlamented Coast - one critic wondered if Sumosan would last 'a couple of years'. Well pass the chopsticks someone, because nearly ten years later, she needs to eat her words.
Sumosan, 26B Albemarle Street, London W1S 4HY Tel: 020 7495 5999 http://www.sumosan.com