I wasn’t sure what I was in the mood for…

Sometimes having too much choice can be a bad thing. I was up in Sheffield for an event and aiming for a quick meal I popped to the dining quarter of Meadowhall within there are a range of eating options.

The lower level is mainly fast food chains, but I was intrigued by Yangtze, a Chinese takeaway, but the queue was quite long and I really fancied taking my time being waited upon. On the upper level I did like the idea of the Spanish Tapas place, but felt it was quite expensive for what was on offer. There was also Las Iguanas which I don’t think I’ve been to, but looked tempting.

In the end I decided to go with Wagamama. I wanted to try out the Tama Squid, crispy fried squid balls, drizzled with okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. finished with aonori and bonito flakes. I thought to myself I wouldn’t also mind trying Wagamama’s hirata steam buns to see if they are as good as the ones from She Sells Sushi. For the main course I thought Yakisoba would be a good choice.

As I queued for Wagamama, which seemed to be taking a long time, I thought about it, well of the three dishes I wanted, I could get the same three , well three similar, dishes at YO! Sushi as part of their blue plate Monday offer. So reflecting, I turned away and headed off to YO! Sushi.

As I arrived I could see how busy YO! Sushi was, but was given a warm welcome and they found me a seat very quickly (which was simplified because I was on my own).

The thing about YO! Sushi is you can look at the menu or just take things from the conveyor belt.

While I perused the menu I took a plate of avocado maki.

I then ordered some hot dishes, which took a little time to arrive, but I was expecting that so didn’t mind.

The maki were nice and fresh and was a great start to my meal.

Whilst the ordered dishes arrived I took another dish from the belt, the Beef Tataki Sashimi, which is pepper-seared rare beef and a tangy coriander pesto.

Beef Tataki Sashimi

I’ve wanted to try this dish for a while and it matched my expectations. The beef was nice and tender and I did like the tangy coriander pesto which enhanced both the beef and the grated mooli on the dish.

The next dish was the Vegetable Yakisoba, described as yakisoba noodles in a tangy sauce served with crunchy, fresh vegetables.

Vegetable Yakisoba

I wasn’t impressed with this dish, the tangy sauce wasn’t to my taste and I didn’t like the texture of the noodles so much. I think I should have gone with a rice dish instead. I did wonder if the Wagamama version would be better?

I really like the Spicy Pepper Squid from YO! Sushi.

Spicy Pepper Squid

The spicy marinated squid, fried until crisp was garnished with red chilli and spring onions. I really like the texture and taste of this dish and it did not fail to impress.

When I was placing my order, the server recommended the Cod Nanbanzuke, which though not on the blue plate menu was part of the blue plate deal. The menu describes it as “Japan’s answer to sweet and sour! Crispy fried cod bites in a sweet and sour sauce.”

Cod Nanbanzuke

Though I did think it could have been a little more crispier than it was, I really did enjoy this dish. The cod was tasty and the sweet and sour sauce didn’t overpower the taste of the fish. This was quite a big portion as well.

A little later the final of my four hot dishes I had ordered arrived, a portion of Takoyaki.

Takoyaki

The menu says that this is Osaka’s number one street food! Lightly battered dough balls with octopus, topped with mayo, bonito and lots more.

I thought this was a really nice concept, but wasn’t too hot on the execution of it. It was too much dough and to little octopus.

My final dish was fish. Salmon Sashimi Our freshest cuts of thick-sliced Scottish salmon, with mooli and lemon.

I hadn’t planned to take this dish, but seeing the chef preparing them and thought if there’s any left on the conveyor belt then I will have one. It was a nice clean refreshing dish to finish the meal off with.

Overall I had a really nice meal and the blue plate offer made a difference to the value for money.

Going back to itsu

I haven’t been to itsu for a while now, since I stopped working in Oxford, I made quite a few visits there for sushi and pots of noodles. I haven’t been to the branch in London (too many other choices) however in December a new branch opened in Bristol.

As on my previous visit, there was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. I found it difficult to decide on what to have.

There is a big choice of salad and sushi in the fridges and then there are the hot options, pots of soup, rice, noodles or dumplings.

In the end I went with the Vietnam beef salad. This was roasted beef, hard boiled egg, spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning.

Vietnam beef (roasted), hard boiled egg (free range), spicy sauce, sushi rice, greens & ginger, roasted seeds, chives, red ginger, `no lettuce´ salad and salad seasoning

It looked really nice and was well presented. I found the beef tender and actually quite tasty. The salad and rice was also really nice. The overall combination was delicious and I really enjoyed the salad.

Eat beautiful?

itsu Oxford

I hadn’t heard or seen an itsu restaurant or shop before, but I was out in Oxford and found their branch on Cornmarket Street. They have been in London for a while, since 1999 according to the website.

The blurb says

The early pioneers of Pret are the creative force behind itsu.

Years of listening and reacting to customers encouraged us to build a new type of food place dedicated to skinny but delicious food; sixty two dishes- light, green and good for you.

Apparently the secret to Pink Floyd’s breathtaking music is as much about what they left out as what they put in; a bit like itsu, less fat, more bounce.

There was a lot of choice and within the different types of food on offer lots of variation. It was quite difficult to decide on what to choose.

The salads looked great, well presented, as did the sushi. The food looked fresh and inviting. The shelves were well stocked and there was a lot of choice.

itsu salad boxes in Oxford

I was tempted by a box of sushi, but as the weather outside was cold and wet, I went with the chicken and rice “potsu”. It is described as chargrilled chicken, ithai sauce, kombu relish, brown + wild rice & seven veg.

itsu Chargrilled Chicken Potsu

It was rather nice, filling and tasty. The chargrilled chicken was full of flavour, and the vegetables were fresh and had a nice crunch. The sauce was very spicy and in some ways I could see how some people might find it overpowering, but I did like it. It was nice to eat something very different for lunch, something that wasn’t a sandwich or the ubiquitous panini.

It was an interesting environment in which to eat, there were raised communal tables with high stools. It certainly is a good place to go if you are in a group, and I am sure in a place like Oxford with lots of students they are trying to attract that market. The decor and colours are best described as bright and colourful, very different from the dark and wood you find in coffee shops.

I enjoyed the food, quite liked the environment and was inspired by the menu. I will certainly go again.

Yo! more takeaway

Salmon and Tuna Box

I do like sushi and if possible I prefer to eat at Yo! Sushi, but sometimes needs must and I get a takeaway. Yes you can buy sushi from Marks and Spencers or Tesco, but this isn’t the same. For one they use smoked or cooked fish over raw fish, secondly the sushi from Yo! Sushi is much fresher and as a result much tastier.

I bought three boxes (for the two of us) and it came to £20. Obviously this is more expensive than buying takeaway from a fish and chips shop, but about the same if I was going to a Chinese takeaway.

The Mixed Box contains 3 sashimi: salmon, tuna, coriander seared tuna.3 nigiri: salmon, prawn, tamago. 2 iso: crunchy prawn & avocado, YO! roll. 2 cucumber maki

This is a nice selection and if I was eating on my own, say I wanted sushi for lunch then I probably would go for a mixed box. I enjoyed the sashimi.

The Maki box 3 salmon maki, 3 cucumber maki, 3 tuna maki,
3 avocado maki, 3 prawn & chive maki. This is simple sushi in many respects, but the simplicity is what makes it really nice.

The Meaty Box doesn’t contain fish, but has 2 crispy duck futomaki. 2 spicy chicken katsu iso. 2 seared beef nigiri. 1 spicy chicken salad. I actually was quite looking forward to it, but was a little disappointed. The spicy chicken salad was good, but in a takeaway box though there was a fair bit of chicken, but lacked enough salad for me. I thought the seared beef nigiri would be tasty, but the beef lacked flavour and was a lot tougher than I thought it was going to be. The futomaki and iso were nice, but the duck and the chicken was a little dry. Overall this box was a disappointment and I don’t think I will get it again. Maybe I should read my own blog now and again, I actually thought this was the first time I had a Meaty Box, but according to my own blog I had one in March 2012 and back then I said:

I don’t usually have meat when I have sushi, favouring the fish, so this was a first for me. I though the seared beef nigiri was interesting, but lacked the depth of flavour I was expecting. Whereas the spicy chicken katsu iso was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. There was also a lot of flavour in the crispy duck futomaki. Though I enjoyed the spicy chicken salad I do think we needed more of it.

A very similar experience…

I want a quick lunch

When shopping in Bath recently, my wife said to me, so where are we going to go for lunch and I am hungry now! So I did decide that we would go to the French place where we had our first lunch date when we were courting… love that word so Edwardian. However she did then add she was really hungry, so when I saw the sign for Yo! Sushi I detoured, as I knew she would then be able to lift a dish straight from the conveyor belt.

So once we were sat down, she lifted a Spicy Chicken salad off the belt and we shared it and started to eat. This is a nice simple dish of cold spicy chicken on a bed of leaves and dressed with a ginger and garlic dressing.

I also ordered three more hot dishes, partly as I like them, mainly as it was cold and having some hot food is better than just cold food.

We went with one of our regular dishes, the Spicy Pepper Squid. This was cooked well, crunchy outside and soft tender squid on the inside. The chilli was hot and spicy, maybe a little too hot!

Spicy Pepper Squid

Our server recommended one of the specials, Beef & Garlic Teriyaki. This is crispy coated slices of premium beef glazed in a garlic teriyaki sauce. This was a nice dish, full of flavour. As it is one of their “yellow dish” specials it was the most expensive dish at £6. Not sure if it was value for money, but still a very nice dish.

I had, had the Chicken Firecracker Rice before, this time though I went for the Vegetable Firecracker Rice, it is cheaper and I don’t think the chicken adds anything to the dish. It is described as spicy sushi rice with Asian vegetables.

We did consider having another dish, but in the end didn’t see anything we felt like eating, which probably meant we had eaten enough.

The only complaint I had was with paying the bill, as they charged me for a water that I hadn’t had. Now, what I don’t understand, is why Yo! Sushi charge for water in the first place? Why? They say it is filtered spring water, but it comes out of a tap on the table! Anyhow they did refund me the cost of the water.

So four dishes and two drinks for £19.70 which I didn’t think was too bad.

I just like Mondays

Every Monday at Yo! Sushi is Blue Plate Monday. What this offer does, is they take fifty of their dishes, put them on blue plates and charge just £2.40 per plate. As a result you can have a nice meal and not spend too much money. There is a really wide and good choice of dishes, including traditional sushi, sashimi as well as salads and hot dishes.

My only criticism is that the conveyor belt appears to be full of sweet dishes and fruit. There was quite a limited choice of cold sushi dishes. So rather than take dishes from the conveyor belt, I decided to order some hot dishes. You can of course order cold dishes too.

I went with one of my favourite dishes the Spicy Pepper Squid. Hot coils of spicy pepper squid topped with red chilli.

Spicy Pepper Squid

I would warn you that the chilli was quite hot and if you aren’t use to that kind of heat avoid it. I do like this dish, the crunch of the coating, the softness and smoothness of the squid, combined with the heat of pepper and chilli. I did very nearly another dish of the squid.

I also had Chicken Katsu this is chicken breast covered in Japanese breadcrumbs and served with a spicy fruity katsu curry sauce.

Chicken Katsu

Sometimes I should read my own blog as I previously wrote.

The best way I can describe it is as a breaded chicken burger, fried, sliced, placed on rice and then covered in curry gravy! It wasn’t a horrible dish, but certainly wasn’t one I would order again or would recommend.

I will say this time I was in the mood for some crunchy spicy chicken, so that’s why I ordered it!

The third dish was Hairy Prawns. You get two prawns wrapped in kadaifi pastry with wasabi mayonnaise.

Hairy Prawns

This was something I hadn’t seen or tried before, also these were really quite messy to eat There was an incredible crunchy sensation as bit into the prawns, finished off with the soft prawn itself. The prawns tasted of prawns (which is not always the case) and the wasabi mayonnaise complemented the dish perfectly.

My final and fourth dish was Chicken Firecracker Rice.

Chicken Firecracker Rice

This was a nice dish of stir fried chicken and sushi rice, sticky, savoury, slightly spicy and delicious.

To drink I went with the Green Tea, which is hot and refreshing. You can also have unlimited refills.

Overall for £11.10 I thought this was very good value for money.

Airport Sushi

Wanting more than just a snack, but not wanting a huge plate of food, on a recent fleeting visit to Edinburgh Airport, I decided to take a seat at Yo! Sushi.

One of the disadvantages of this branch of Yo! Sushi is the limited menu compared to a typical branch on the high street or in the shopping mall. However once you’ve gone through security, not much you can do about that. In many ways though, Yo! Sushi is perfect airport food, no need to wait for the food, eat as much or as little as you want and paying the bill was quick and easy.

I went with three dishes, chicken teriyaki, a vegetable noodle dish, yakisoba, and later went with a mixed salmon dish. I had to order the noodles and chicken as hot dishes.

I’ve had chicken teriyaki before, and this version was similar, but certainly not the same dish. Previously when I’ve had this dish, the chicken was griddled and then covered with teriyaki sauce.

Chicken Teriyaki Grilled chicken in a sweet, sticky soy based sauce.

Here at the airport, the chicken was taken from a hot plate and covered in sauce. It was very nice though, and was full of flavour.

Similarly the noodle dish, pan fried Japanese noodles in a mildly spiced tangy sauce with vegetables, was from the hot plate, but again was tasty, full of flavour.

Vegetable Yakisoba Pan fried Japanese noodles in a mildly spiced tangy sauce with vegetables.

The vegetables were crisp and the noodles were certainly not sticky. I liked this dish, and added the remains of the teriyaki sauce towards the end of the dish.

Having finished those two dishes off, I still felt hungry, so took from the conveyor a mixed dish of salmon, comprising three slices of premium Scottish salmon sashimi, two salmon nigiri and two salmon maki.

Salmon Selection Three slices of premium Scottish salmon sashimi, two salmon nigiri and two salmon maki.

This was delicious, the salmon was fresh and full of flavour and I really enjoyed it.

Overall I really enjoyed my quick meal and I thought (for an airport) it was pretty good value for money.

Yo! Sushi Takeaway

There is a huge difference between the sushi you can buy from the supermarket and the fresh stuff that you can buy at Yo Sushi!

Needing a quick meal I decided to get some Yo! Sushi takeout. I went for a Mixed Box and a Meaty Box.

In the Mixed Box, you get 3 sashimi: salmon, tuna, coriander seared tuna. 3 nigiri: salmon, prawn, tamago. 2 iso: crunchy prawn & avocado, YO! roll. 2 cucumber maki.

What I do like about Yo! Sushi is they use fresh raw fish. I really enjoyed the sashimi, fresh succulent and tasty. I sometimes add the pickled ginger and soy sauce. The nigiri were good, solid sticky rice with tasty toppings. Less confident about the tamago sweet omelette but the salmon was very good. I also quite like the small cucumber maki, when accompanied with the ginger and soy is a very tasty treat. Overall there is a really nice selection in the box and probably about right for one.

However as there were two of us we got two boxes, as well as the mixed box, I also picked up the Meaty Box. In this box, you get 2 crispy duck futomaki. 2 spicy chicken katsu iso. 2 seared beef nigiri. 1 spicy chicken salad.

I don’t usually have meat when I have sushi, favouring the fish, so this was a first for me. I though the seared beef nigiri was interesting, but lacked the depth of flavour I was expecting. Whereas the spicy chicken katsu iso was a wonderful combination of tastes and textures. There was also a lot of flavour in the crispy duck futomaki. Though I enjoyed the spicy chicken salad I do think we needed more of it.

Next time I think I might need to add more bulk, maybe some an extra rice or noodle dish. Possibly more salad too.

Overall, though not too expensive at £14 for two, it’s not the cheapest takeaway you can buy, it was delicious, fresh and tasty.

Another visit for Yo Sushi

Don’t go to Yo Sushi for two years and then I go twice in a week! After we enjoyed our meal last week, we decided to go again.

The first dish we grabbed from the conveyor belt this time was Crispy Salmon Skin ISO, classic Japanese made with crispy fried salmon skin. This was a mix of three textures, the crispy skin, the soft rice and the chewy seaweed. Very nice even if it was a challenge to eat.

I ordered the Salmon & Tuna sashimi, three slices of premium Yellowfin tuna and three slices of premium Scottish salmon. I had anticipated that both my wife and I would eat this dish, but in the end I ate it all, as she didn’t feel like eating raw fish that evening.

We then went for some hot dishes. Once more we ordered the Soft Shell Crab Tempura, which was described as soft, tasty and tender soft shell blue crab fried in a crispy and light batter with tempura sauce. I do like crab but this dish is mainly about texture, there wasn’t a strong crab flavour, but is quite nice. We also ordered the Chicken Teriyaki, grilled chicken in a sweet, sticky soy based sauce was very good, delicious and the sauce was just right.

Still feeling peckish we then ordered a couple more dishes, the hot pepper squid we had the week before and also tried the Chicken Katsu Curry, chicken katsu with rice, a mild curry sauce and Japanese pickle. This reminded me of a dish I had in bento box in Auckland in New Zealand.

The best way I can describe it is as a breaded chicken burger, fried, sliced, placed on rice and then covered in curry gravy! It wasn’t a horrible dish, but certainly wasn’t one I would order again or would recommend.

Overall we did enjoy the meal, the service was good and it’s an interesting environment in which to eat as well as interesting food.

Time for Yo Sushi

I haven’t been to Yo Sushi for a while now, even though I enjoyed the meal I had there the last time I was there in 2009. I didn’t think it was that long ago!

Out on a evening shopping trip out with my wife, we decided that we wanted to get a quick bite to eat and as both like sushi, decided that we would go to Yo Sushi.

The first dish we grabbed from the conveyor belt was Assorted Fish Maki, two each of salmon, tuna and prawn and chive maki. These were very nice. I then picked up a plate of Avocado Maki, alas these were quite bland, but did have a nice texture.

We then ordered some hot dishes, which means as we could see into the kitchen we knew were freshly cooked. As might be guessed by regular readers of the blog, I went with squid, well I like squid. The Spicy Pepper Squid, is described as hot coils of spicy pepper squid topped with red chilli. I personally thought it was overcooked and a little chewy, but really enjoyed the dish, the chilli was a nice touch and added some heat to the squid.

The Chicken Teriyaki, grilled chicken in a sweet, sticky soy based sauce was very good, delicious and the sauce was just right. We could have probably eaten three of this dish, but in the end had just one. The grilled chicken was tender and there is something I have alway enjoyed about grilled chicken. This was well complemented by the sticky teriyaki sauce and dressed with sesame seeds.

As I was intrigued and had never had it before, I ordered the Soft Shell Crab Tempura, which was described as soft, tasty and tender soft shell blue crab fried in a crispy and light batter with tempura sauce. I do like crab but had not had soft shell crab before. This dish was mainly about texture, there wasn’t a strong crab flavour, but was quite nice.

Overall it was a really nice meal, though we preferred the hot dishes. We thought it was quite reasonable for the price we were charged.