I’m not sure if there’s a Japanese equivalent to the nursery rhyme Jack Sprat (“would eat no fat, his wife would eat no lean”).
91 West George Street,
Dinner for two, excluding drinks,
But, if there was, it would apply to me and my other half. I’d be Sprat-san, as I prefer the sushi and sashimi, while he’d be the portly wife, since he likes to gorge on the battered and noodley stuff.
Thankfully, there’s something for everyone at Nippon Kitchen – the newly-opened sister restaurant to the popular hang-out that is six-year-old Nanakusa, on nearby Sauchiehall Street. This venture is situated in a high-ceilinged and bank-like corner building, which is like a two-fingered salute to its smaller neighbour – Japanese chain, Wagamama.
On a Thursday evening, it was heaving with a young-ish late-night shopping crowd (we see your bags, beneath the wooden tables). Service was enthusiastic, if rather slow and stilted, as waiting staff are working the whole room, rather than each being assigned to a couple of tables.
As well as gyoza and tempura, the starters include a selection of kushiyaki (£4.50). We went for the chicken version, which featured two skewers of marshmallowy soft chicken and red pepper, all drizzled with a pleasingly gluey and sweet teriyaki sauce.
The pair of armour-less crustaceans that arrived as part of the soft shell crab karaage (£6) were good too, with creamy soft meat under a feathery and sand-coloured tempura. Three breeze-blocks of agedashi tofu (£3.50) – each with a veil of batter that was as fine as a spider’s web – were smooth and slippery islands in a little pool of gingery tentsuyu broth.
I’d felt bamboozled by the lengthy list of mains, so I’d gone for the Bento Box D Special Combo (£16) – aka a bit of just about everything. First up was a soul-warming miso soup containing sheets of wakame, spring onion and tiny cubes of tofu; then there were three glistening tongue-shaped slivers of sashimi (salmon, tuna and mackerel), as well as a trio of California maki, with nuggets of avocado and crab tightly rolled into perfect starchy rice and topped with an orange puff of sparkling tobiko.
I was already almost replete, but then the ACTUAL box – like an architectural maquette for a two bedroom flat – arrived.
In each separate compartment were more of the crab karaage, a mound of steamed rice, tempura (aubergine, sweet potato and prawns, all in a good clean and light batter) and two teriyaki skewers of chicken and mushroom. Good stuff.
Sadly, the Scottish sirloin beef yakimono (£15), was a bit of a disappointment, as each petal of rare meat had a rubber-bandy bit of sinew along its width. A pity, as the accompanying yaki miku sauce, with soy, ginger, garlic and chilli, would have worked well alongside a nice bit of beef. Oh well, at least this dish came with some rice to nibble on.
We’d already got through a lot of food, so I’m ashamed to admit we’d also ordered a portion of the intriguing-sounding ochazuke (£11), which we ended up taking away in a doggy bag. It was a hug in a sake mug, with rice doused in a green tea and dashi broth, gratings of salmon and seaweed on the top, and a knob of wasabi on the side. Eat your heart out Wagamama.
To put a full-stop to our our feast, we went for yaki mochi (£3.50) – a rice dumpling that was as plump and warm as a baby’s cheek, with an oozy middle of red bean paste, as well as three scoops of soot-coloured black sesame ice-cream (£3.50).
And I’m happy to say that, together, Sprat-san and the plus one, managed to lick almost all of the plates clean.