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Yuzu Restaurant Reviewed

Ruth Allan loves the simple virtues in Chinatown

Published on November 8th 2012.


Yuzu Restaurant Reviewed

JET-setting friends tell me that Yuzu Japanese restaurant in Chinatown is pretty traditional. Staples of the menu include sashimi (raw fish – the fish bit, if you like, in sushi), easy-to-pincer sticky rice, cucumber pickles, finely shredded white daikon radish and miso soup. You get all that for £7.95 (Salmon Sashimi Don) and it’s typical of a menu that serves simple ingredients, cooked with care. 

I enjoyed the breezy tones of fish and fire-bright squash tempura so much that I was happy without the offered chilli salt or soy. 

The prawn gyoza (£3.50) were a fine example. Lunching with food fan and Big Issue editor, Kevin Gopal, I ordered these pockets of joy after everything else had been laid out and they took a full 15 minutes to arrive because, I suspect, that’s just how long it takes to make them. To seal the seared prawn, ginger and shallot in the soft pastry case and pan-fry each to steaming perfection. To complain would be like asking why there are 60 minutes in an hour. There just are, silly. 

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The flavours marked a change from the chops Kevin and I usually share at Kabana curry house. Our palates are used to more salt than dishes like Tempura Kishimen, a ramen-style bowl of broad wheat flour noodle served in seaweed broth, with king prawns and vegetable tempura batter (£12.50) provide. To my amazement though, I enjoyed the breezy tones of fish and fire-bright squash tempura so much that I was happy without the offered chilli salt or soy. As Kevin noted, we were getting more zen by the minute. 

Img_2845Yuzu

Under normal circumstances, I’d rather clean my bathroom with tofu than eat it but a Japanese ex-pat recently turned me onto Yuzu’s Agedashi tofu (£3.20). To make this side dish, silken cubes are coated in flour and fried to create a savoury shell that’s both jelly-ish and crispy. Sounds weird, but it tastes like nutrition made by God’s hand. Plucking a cube from grated ginger broth flavoured with wisps of spring onion, even chop-loving Kevin emitted a sigh of delight. 

The only thing I can think of to complain about is the atmosphere. Having eaten here many times, it can feel a little stiff and starchy. Staff are not chatty; this is a “deliver and hide” kind of place. But there’s little else to fault in the high, wood-lined restaurant. In fact, presentation is a particular highlight. 

A knarly ceramic dish played host to tuna, and salmon, roe and prawn sashimi (£19.90) while the waitress piled two pretty wooden bowls beside the ramen bowl.

If you come at lunch for the special menu (much the same as that of an evening, only a whole lot cheaper - from £5.95) you’ll be presented with a fan-shaped black wooden tray, goblet of miso, black and brown wooden spoon, embossed bowl of sticky rice, and layers of tempura or sashimi glistening on top. Quite simply, it’s a dream take on airplane food, all clever compartments and sweetie shades.   

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Desserts are just parfait (choc, strawberry or mocha coffee beans, £4.95-£5.50) so I don’t think we missed out by abstaining. Kevin drank an Asahi beer, I had green tea. Stronger than most, it was almost grassy green and came with free refills. Yuzu are famous for sake with pretty bottles to prove it lined up along the windows. The house special is a blend with Yuzu juice (a bitter Japanese citrus) for £5.50. 

Img_2853Yuzu

Its fair to say that nothing is quite as you expect at Yuzu. Wooden tables and natural light serve up sensory sustainence and healthy food comes your way. But the overriding impression I have is of care – and that care is what makes this the only place in town for fragrant Japanese dishes, cooked with love and respect. 

Follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthAllan

ALL SCORED CONFIDENTIAL REVIEWS ARE IMPARTIAL. 

Yuzu Manchester, 39 Faulkner Street, Chinatown, M1 4EE. 0161 236 4159

Rating: 14/20

Food: 8/10
Service: 3/5 
Ambience: 3/5

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: we've got carried away.

 

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

AnonymousNovember 8th 2012.

At the risk of sounding silly, what's the hammer and wooden block for?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousNovember 8th 2012.

The "hammer" is a spoon (upside down) and the wooden block contains chilli flakes.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2012.

Brilliant! It looks like a hammer.

AnonymousNovember 9th 2012.

It's always closed when I want to go!

Full BobNovember 23rd 2012.

Have eaten lunch here a couple of times and it's very good. Exactly as Ruth describes it. Atmosphere needs a bit of work, but I love the fact you can see the (husband and wife?) team cook and serve good, fresh fish dishes from a simple menu.

An excellent introduction to Japanese food in town.

shabob1September 15th 2013.

Went last night. Food very good, but failed to mention in the review above that you are either placed in a long row facing a wall or seated squashed in with 2 other couples on a piece of wood for a table, as the photo above shows. Service was very hit and miss and I felt quite challenged on attempting to eat a large bowl of soup with chopsticks. I did ask for a bowl each and a spoon but the waitress came back with one fork for 2 people??? The tofu was indeed amazing but everything was very difficult to eat and I felt like I was in an 'Emperors' new clothes' situation, where no-one dared to say anything but were all struggling to eat anything or if they did they splashed it all over their clothes.

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