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Restaurant review: Harajuku Kitchen, Edinburgh

Harajuku Kitchen, at Gillespie Place, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

Harajuku Kitchen, at Gillespie Place, Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna

  • by GABY SOUTAR
 

THE Harajuku area of Tokyo is known for its wacky street style. The fashion tribes include Gothic Lolita, punk, cosplay (when you dress as your favourite anime character), kawaii (ultra cute) and wamono (Japanese attire with a Western twist).

Harajuku Kitchen, 10 Gillespie Place, Edinburgh

FOOD 7/10

AMBIENCE 7/10

TOTAL 14/20

Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £34.05

The closest you’ll get to that in Edinburgh is Grant Stott’s Peter Pan costume, at this year’s panto at the King’s Theatre, just down the road from this new Japanese restaurant.

When I visited, this place had only been open for a couple of weeks. Before then, they’d existed as a popular street stall at the capital’s various foodie markets.

Dressed in my uniform of black and grey, I was going for the Gothic geriatric look.

I thought this place’s decor might be funky. But, aside from a groovy cartoony mural, which features a jolly-looking sumo wrestler, it’s more like someone’s living room, with magnolia walls and what must be the tiniest loo in the city (with a sink on top of the cistern).

The official menus are still in production. On my visit, they were roughly typed take-away ones, with a few amendments pencilled in or scribbled out.

From a choice of four starters, we went for the korokke (£1.30 for one piece) and the gyoza (£4 for five). The latter were pretty good – steamed, with a roughly hewn porky filling and a bowl of soy on the side. Sadly, the korokke was slightly bland, though for the price this was a whoppingly generous patty of mashed potato and minced beef, with a panko crumb crust and a chevron of katsu sauce on the side.

It’s kawaii that they offer Japanese Ramune sodas (£2), which are a fiddle to open (use the lid to pierce the top and release the marble, which keeps the pop fizzing, into the drink) but fun.

When it came to mains, the sushi box set was the winner (£9.50).

The nigiri were some of the best I’ve eaten, with tongue-sized slivers of salmon, tuna and prawn, all of which tasted as if their gills had only recently ceased flapping, on bricks of mirin-spiked rice.

This option also came with four hosomaki (Rolo-sized sushi rolls) with surprise centres which, in this case, turned out to be zippy struts of yellow daikon radish. There was also four futomaki (Walnut-Whip-sized sushi rolls), which were laced with salmon and avocado. All very clean-tasting and vibrant.

The tempura mix (£6) wasn’t quite as impressive: slices of lotus root, asparagus, aubergine, red pepper and two fat prawns, all encased in a rather under-seasoned, under-crispy tempura batter.

I’m not usually a fan of tonkatsu (£5.95), but this was a decent example, with a neatly sliced pork cutlet clad with crunchy and stoat-coloured panko crumbs. Slightly oily, but compulsively snacky.

What had been billed on the menu as sweet potato tempura (£5.50) turned out to be half a dozen sweet potato tempura rolls. We were both rather smitten by their crispy sugary hearts.

There’s only one dessert on the food list – chocolate mochi (£1.80), and these were dreamy, with oozingly squashy ganache hearts and cool, powdery and doughy outers.

I think it’s early days for this place’s make-over from street food stand to fully functioning restaurant, but they’ll get there. As a Gothic geriatric, I understand that developing your personal style takes time.

• Harajuku Kitchen, 10 Gillespie Place, Edinburgh (0131-281 0526, www.harajukukitchen.co.uk)

 

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