Saturday, 25 September 2010

Tang's, Candlemaker Row

As a dedicated carb-swerver, I love but don’t generally eat very much Japanese food. However, a recent Saturday night found my sister Ali and I both massively craving sushi, I decided to stick a middle chopstick up at the diet and set course for Tang’s on Candlemaker Row. Japanese restaurants have been popping up like gophers all over Edinburgh of late (Hay Sushi in Haymarket and Yes Sushi on Hanover Street are the newest) but off the back of several positive reviews, the more established Tang’s seemed like a safer option for a night of throwing weight-watching caution to the wind. It was totally worth it – we emerged onto the cobbled street two hours later in a zen-like state of gastronomic satisfaction.

After some deliberation over the extensive menu, Ali and I decided to kick things off with a shared starter of some pork gyoza (Japanese fried dumplings) and the Aburi sushi platter, which features flame-torched salmon, tuna, sea bass, eel and prawn nigiri, and a prawn tempura maki. I certainly can’t claim to be an expert on sushi, but IMHO, Tang’s sets the bar pretty high, deftly avoiding palate-clogging starch overload with noticeably light rice that provides a perfectly chewy, not-too-sticky base for the fresh, delicate fish topping. The gyoza were generously stuffed, savoury and meaty, and I could have happily snaffled up, popcorn-style, a much larger portion.

Food envy of our neighbours’ heaving plates of noodles prompted both myself and Ali to opt for phad Thai for main course - rice noodles fried with peanuts, egg, bean sprouts and either chicken, prawn or tofu (I went for chicken, Ali for prawn). There was a rich, almost-sweetness to the noodles – not as strange as it sounds, and very tasty – and make sure you sprinkle over the supplied toasted peanuts as these take the dish from good to great in one bite. I think the dish would have benefited from a little more garlic – although the absence of garlic in Japanese cooking is widely noted, this was after all technically a Thai dish – nonetheless it was thoroughly enjoyable and I wouldn’t hesitate to order it again, although next time I would be keen to give the lunchbox-esque bento boxes a whirl. In an unheralded display of willpower, both Ali and I gave dessert a miss, sadly only to get our big feathery angel wings in a right old tangle.

With two glasses of wine and a soft drink, our bill came in at £52 for two, including tip. Very reasonable for the quality of the food, with good service and a pleasantly buzzy atmosphere. Dr Atkins may turn in his grave, but I can defiantly confirm that I most definitely will be back.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Miso and Sushi, Haymarket Terrace

At first glance, Miso and Sushi seems to epitomise all the woeful stereotypes of your greasily mediocre local takeaway-cum-restaurant – a dinky hole-in-the-wall tucked away on the corner of Haymarket Terrace featuring some highly dubious décor (case in point – one of those moving waterfall pictures – although they have a much niftier website which you can see here). However, as the majority of cookie-cutter bar-restos on George Street demonstrate with robotic panache, it’s not the packaging but the present inside that really counts. Pause a little longer outside Miso’s uninspiring façade and a gem starts to wink out at you. I’ve ordered takeaway from here a number of times and always been very pleased, and my meal tonight was no exception.

As the name implies, the restaurant specialises in sushi but also offers Chinese food, and it is only in this latter capacity that I can comment, possessing as I do a manic lust for hot and sour soup (although I believe the sushi – in particular the dragon roll - is also meant to be excellent Note: Since writing the above have tried Dragon Roll. Can confirm it is totally sublime, and charmingly shaped into a little dragon as well). First points awarded here – despite offering two types of cuisine, the menu is in fact relatively short - often an indicator of considered and good-quality cooking.

Today, I ordered modestly, just some of the aforementioned soup and a portion of spare ribs for a speedy post-work dinner. I’ve had the soup before and today’s helping was reliably (tom) yummy as always, side-stepping the neon goo industry standard with a dish of reassuringly natural hue that was packed with lots of spice and heat. Flavour rather than chunk dominates, so it’s a lighter version than others I’ve tried, but there was still plenty of sizeable hot n sour confetti (chicken, pork, mushroom, tofu and those teeny tiny prawns) to make it a satisfying opener to my lazy supper.

And then to the ribs. Oh, themz ribs - I ate most of them standing in the kitchen with my coat still on. Located under the bluntly-named “salt and chilli” section of the menu, they were bone-suckingly moreish and did exactly what it said on the tin, red-cooked with lashings of salt, garlic and lip-tingling chilli. It wasn’t a saucy dish, as I had expected, but the pork was nonetheless soft, generously meaty and moist. You get a good number of them as well, so with a heap of plain rice you’d have more than enough for tea plus extra for leftovers.

A rather long review for such a hastily-snatched dinner, perhaps, but Miso and Sushi is such a rough diamond – emphasis firmly placed on the diamond rather than the rough – and it’s become my personal cause to get as many people through its unprepossessing doors as possible. If the autumn’s television double-whammy of X-Factor/Strictly has you glued to your sofa, you can also support from afar, for they deliver a wide selection of their sit-in menu dishes for your Saturday-night delectation as well. I’ll be at the front of the queue - not least to see what magic Miso can work on the Chinese takeaway's greatest blight and challenge: the Sweet and Sour chicken.

Long live The Other M&S!