I’M BANNED from a Japanese restaurant called Tang’s.
Dinner for two, excluding drinks, £66.45
A few years ago, I witnessed the chef’s Falling Down moment. It was Edinburgh Festival time and the place was stacked out. Chef kept getting orders wrong – not just our table’s, but almost everyone’s. Vegetarians were presented with meat and things were cold that should have been hot.
Diners kept complaining, dishes kept getting exchanged. Tempers were more frayed than the hem of an Oompa Loompa’s kimono.
Suddenly, the chef clattered down the stairs and screeched; “Get out, get out, you’re all banned”.
We stalked out. My sister – ever the drama queen – ripped down my review from inside the window (it was her birthday, and she was in a mega huff).
It was a shame, as I liked Tang’s and had said so in the piece that they’d displayed.
We are all, however, allowed one Total Flip Out in our lives. This was that chef’s Primal Scream.
Now he’s opened Hakataya, down a little side street in Edinburgh city centre. It looks a bit dubious on their website. But, in the flesh, this small restaurant is stylish and not as out-of-focus.
There are artichoke-shaped copper lights, funky seating and good feng shui. It’s off the main thoroughfare, so won’t get a lot of passing trade, but it’s an ideal date night venue and sidesteps the stag parties of boozy Rose Street.
You can get a set bento box for £8.95, but we went à la carte.
We’d heard that they make their own noodles, so ordered the hell ramen. Although £14.50 seemed expensive for a homely dish, there was more to this option than we had anticipated. A wet knit of fine yet meaty noodles came in a terracotta-coloured spicy stock that was cloudy with miso. This was topped with fine leaves of fatty char sui pork, spring onions, slippery bamboo sprouts, a hot green chutney and steamed bok choy, with squares of dried nori slipped into the side of the bowl like secret love notes, and half a salty tea-stained egg.
It was the kind of stuff that Wagamama would cry itself to sleep about every night.
The vegetable gyoza (£5.95) were also good, with five pods with burnished bottoms, as doughy and plump as the cheeks of Cabbage Patch Kids, and stuffed with an oniony soy bean mixture.
We liked the artful rainbow rolls (£13.50), presented in a half crescent on a black plate that had been spritzed with a Cy Twombly-esque swirl of butter coloured mayo. As is traditional, each of the six discs of rice was topped with overlapping leaves of pristine salmon, tuna, sea bass, prawn and mackerel. The rice was suitably sticky, with sparkling centres of lush avocado, nori and roe.
The pearlescent interiors of our scallop and tobiko makis (£6.50 for six) had a spick and span flavour of the sea, as did the nigiri with amebi (or sweet shrimp, pronounced “ah-meh-bi”, not “ah-mee-bee”, corrected our waiter, £3.95 for two). These were so fresh that we were sure we could still hear the fluttering of their tiny oceanic hearts.
Eel nigiri (£4.20 for two) was rich and dark, with fish that had been cut to accentuate its grain, like a piece of Chippendale mahogany.
Our vegetable tempura (£8.95) was supposed to feature “five mixed veg”. We counted red pepper, green pepper, aubergine, carrot and mushroom.
We’re not sure if an independent adjudicator would allow mushroom to be classed as veg, and red and green pepper have more similarities than differences. Still, nitpicker here enjoyed the crispy light batter.
For pudding, the daifuku mochi ice (£4.15) was OK, though these ice-cream filled dumpling segments needed a bit longer to defrost. We’d gone for two flavours – green tea and coconut – though there’s also yuzu and raspberry. We preferred the maccha crème brûlée (£4.75), which came with two lickable wooden spoons and featured a non-sweet green tea paste with a murky-coloured caramelised sugar lid.
Good, but I do think this place has pitched its prices slightly too high – perhaps because of the central location and the rates that incurs.
Despite this, I really like it here, and I’m not just saying that because I’m scared the chef will freak out and ban me.
Hopefully this time, they’ll stick this review in the window and we won’t have to rip it down in a huff.
120/122 Rose Street South Lane,
(0131-629 3320, www.hakatayauk.com)