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New Samsi, Spinningfields

Ruth Allan finds the most expensive drink in Manchester so far this year and chills out literally with some eels and a friend

Published on January 12th 2009.

New Samsi, Spinningfields

Samsi, the local Japanese restaurant chain, has taken over the space that was occupied by Yo! Sushi in Spinningfields. With seating for about 70 in booths and on benches, the space has still got Yo!’s trademark conveyor belt swishing around it’s centre, there are still taps serving water on demand and the same little holes in the tables are there too, filled with jars of pickled ginger, soy sauce and dried chilis. A collage of things Japanese even remains, greeting customers with pink geishas and such like as they walk in.

As you’ll gather then, it’s basically Yo! Sushi with better food, but whether grub alone can keep a venture solvent in 2009 remains to be seen. I hope it can because unlike the identikit chain restaurants that choke the city Samsi is a proper, local business that’s worth backing. It’s run by Darren Yates and he and his team have built up three outlets over the last 15 years as well as a healthy import business.

When visitors want to know where to find good sushi (what is it with Londoners and sushi, eh?) it’s his 100-seater restaurant, New Samsi, on Whitworth Street that I recommend - and not just because he’s from round here. Over many dinners, the sashimi (raw fish) has never been anything but just carved, the rice has been cloud-like and the waiting team are nearly perfect too.

It was with a light step then that my friend Matt and I took a stroll through Spinningfields’ last Tuesday night in search of the latest Samsi.

First impressions weren’t promising. With no one eating inside we spent a while debating whether it was even open. Finallly, the manager waved us in. Rubbing his hands together, he seated us in a booth towards the back of the room. ‘It’s a very cold night’ he said, a statement which applied to the atmosphere as well.

Being something of a veteran diner, I chose a selection of dishes for us to tuck into, including some I’d not tried before. First up was a tiny pot of miso soup (£1.95) and a plate of sea bass sashimi (£7.50) called suzuki. I suspected that raw fish might pose something of an obstacle for vegetarian Matt but he chowed through half the platter with fervour, proclaiming the fresh white fish to be ‘ light and fragrant’. It was that all right and a fine companion to the wasabi, soy sauce and soft, snow-like curls of mooli that decorated the plate.

The vegetable croquettes (£2.95) on the side weren’t quite a hit. In search of those gooey fried cubes you get as tapas in Spain, I was disappointed with what turned out to be standard veggie-burgers. Obviously, Samsi is a Japanese restaurant not a Spanish one but I’d love to know what they really serve as a croquette in Tokyo. Their saving grace was a stripe of tonkatsu sauce on top - this tasty stuff is a bit like brown and Worcestershire sauce mixed together, and it could lift cardboard out of the bland category.

I’d talked Matt into driving, so he ordered a small bottle of Sapporo Ebbisu (£3.95) to drink. Described by the manager as ‘more bitter’ than normal Sapporo lager, Matt thought it was a little pricey. I went for broke with a glass of sparkling sake for £12.95. Coming at you old-fashioned lemonade and champagne mixed together, it’s going to be my wedding reception drink if I ever find someone to marry.

“This is great,” Matt said, as we waited for our mains. ‘Although we are the only people in here, aren’t we?’ Sure enough, there was no one else’s dinner to inspect, which was a pity. Still, the décor was good fun and on a screen behind Matt’s head they were showing the Japanese animated movie, Spirited Away. It was a distraction from the fact that the room wasn’t getting any warmer.

Confidential’s editor Jonathan Schofield convinced me to try eels at Malmaison a couple of years back. I liked them then and I still like them now, even if they do bring to mind the Mighty Boosh lyric ‘eels up inside ya, finding an entrance where they can’.

Surpressing thoughts of orifices and such like, I picked a teriyaki take on this rare fish (£7.95) as my main course. With the little bones still in, I found the sticky flesh a bit taxing, a feeling which was accentuated by the arrival of Matt’s deluxe bento selection (£8.50) across the table. Carried by one person - just about - the half-metre-square lacquered bento box was filled with light aubergine and salmon tempura, chicken in spicy batter, coleslaw and sticky rice. It was very good, and very good value too.

We rounded the meal off with a Japanese pudding. Unable to explain what yukimi daifuku (£4.95) was, the manager nipped off mid-conversation, returning with a box from the freezer. Decorated with white objects floating on a pink ocean, the illustration didn’t help much, but I enjoyed the trio of snow-coloured rice shells filled with ice cream that turned up anyway.

Despite the dull croquettes, lack of custom and lack of degrees Celsius, our dinner at Samsi was a success. Whether the new restaurant can weather out this winter is the big question but the stock, the staff, and the menu are all in place. All they need now are some customers.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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15 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Property manJanuary 12th 2009.

Avo yes they are,although that is propbably the best way forward for a lot of businesses requireing office space right now,the likes of Regus MWb and Abbey Business centres are rubbing their hands together in the knowledge that as the commercial long term leases cannot be funded anymore due to the non-relaease of bank loans and medium term funding they can have you moved in within 24hrs at a set monthly cost including everything even the internet connections...commercially let tennants will realise this soon and need to get a move on before these serviced offices fill up !

AnonymousJanuary 12th 2009.

You do not have to travel to Spinningfields; you can have Samsi's delicious food delivered to you by Nosh-up.com!!

ChickJanuary 12th 2009.

I love the Samsi restaurants but I fear this location is not the best - in fact the whole of Spinningfields does not seem to be working as far as eateries are concerned. No matter how the council try to encourage people down there - MFDF, the ice rink - it's like the Marie Celeste day and night. If the chains can't entice anyone, I doubt a great independent like the Samsi can.

cping500January 12th 2009.

Anyone who thinks that Spinningfields will be a retail success is silly. These commercial towers are at best going to attract secondary retailing and clone food outlets. There is only one primary retailer on the west side of Deansgate now. There are some specialists. On the model of the City of London and Canary Wharf (where the retailing is underground)trying to do create a primary shaopping attraction is a waste of capital. Samis is good though.

'ow much forabeer!?January 12th 2009.

Most expensive beer in town? That's got to be Gourmet Burger Kitchen that sells bottles at 4.95!Spinningfields is still becoming and a lot of the eateries and forthcoming retailers will have excellent, even free, introductary rates. The Avenue shopping street will help footfall and you can park on the surrounding streets after 6pm for free. No worse, or better than elsewhere in the city.

johnthebriefJanuary 12th 2009.

No Chris, I wouldn't got to Samsi in Spinningfields (in the evening anyway) because I have another Samsi much nearer to home. I wouldn't got to Spinningfields generally because there's nothing to entice me there other than sterile chain outlets with no atmosphere. Samsi is a step forward for the area and I'd hope other people (who don't already live next door to a Samsi) might be tempted there, but the lack of parking won't help. Does that spell it out simply enough for you? I tried not to use any words with too many syllables....

johnthebriefJanuary 12th 2009.

I'm not judging the restaurant Flo, I'm judging the council for their vindictive persecution of motorists, and its consequences for local businesses.I'm a great fan of Samsi but unlikely to visit the Spinningfields branch (which I didn't know existed till I read this article) because the Whitworth Street one is only 50 yards from my front door. I may call in for lunch sometime, maybe.

ChrisJanuary 12th 2009.

Johnthebrief - you live on Whitworth St, but it would take improved parking to entice you to go to Spinningfields? I'm surprised anyone ever eats outside their own kitchen on that basis.

AvoJanuary 12th 2009.

Aren't they stuck with the Brown St offices too? They're desperately trying to shift those on by the desk as well.

AvoJanuary 12th 2009.

For their own security of tenure, I hope they have a long long lease with no break clause so that they are tied into such prestigious offices for as long as possible.

property manJanuary 12th 2009.

they have a 15 year lease and are desperately trying to shift one of the 22,000 sft floors for just 28psft! ouch

Clark of KentJanuary 12th 2009.

Property Man are you a bit like Superman, Spiderman and Batman?

johnthebriefJanuary 12th 2009.

Well the council don't help Spinningfields to atract people, with their usual vendetta against anyone driving there. Zero parking options unless you want to pay NCP's outrageous ransom demands.

FloJanuary 12th 2009.

Can't believe you judge a restaurant on it's parking options! Get the bus!

johnthebriefJanuary 12th 2009.

Do I detect a note of irony in your sympathy for Halliwells, Avo?

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