Itsu, the pan-Asian chain best known for lunchtime takeout, has launched a fully fledged restaurant concept that forgoes its famous sushi. The 96-cover newcomer has taken over the existing Itsu on Hampstead Road and focuses entirely on steamed hot food, rather than the sushi boxes that have made Itsu a staple for office workers lunching at their desk.
“Although sushi has been the bedrock on which Itsu was built,” founder Julian Metcalfe says, “in order to provide healthy fast-food that will challenge the McDonalds’ of this world, we need to build on our success in hot food innovation.”
Bao buns make up more of the menu, as do dumpling dishes and broths. A new £3.99 chicken bao — dubbed the “big’bao” — comes with spring onion, woodear and shiitake mushrooms. Menu items start from as little as £2.79 with an overall aim to keep the average spend per head in line with existing Itsus: under £7.
Itsu’s expansion into more dine-in experiences comes as the demand for fast food shows no sign of slowing, with post-pandemic growth buoyant — particularly compared with the wider hospitality industry — and strongest in the so-called QSR (quick service restaurant) sector.
The restaurant opened on Monday March 27. Commenting on the launch, Charles Way, Itsu’s head of food, said: “We know that the process of steaming offers us the ability to reduce waste and make dishes even more affordable, while keeping the nutrients and minerals locked in. Using our new steamers, we’re further progressing our vision in showing the world that healthy fast food, on a global scale, is possible.”
The restaurant is offering an Easter “happy hour” of 50% off food orders from 3pm till 9pm until April 9.
The latest Itsu opening is one of 18 new sites the brand has planned for 2023, adding to the existing 40 Itsus in central London and 79 globally.