Restaurant review: Saiko Kitchen, Edinburgh

Saiko Kitchen, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Saiko Kitchen, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Rutherford

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BEFORE they settled on their name, did anyone at this new pan-Asian eatery say it out loud?

How much?

Lunch for two, excluding drinks

£40.65

Food

7/10

Ambience

7/10

Total

14/20

Even my taxi driver, once I’d told him where I was going, replied “Qu’est-ce que c’est?” (before telling me he’d like to be my boyfriend so he could eat out for free).

But, no, it has nothing to do with the Talking Heads song Psycho Killer, which was, apparently, inspired by Norman Bates in the Hitchcock film, Psycho.

It could be something to do with the Saiko era (854-857) in Japan, or perhaps they simply thought the written word was pretty, with its seductive S, enthusiastic K and hungry looking O.

Rather than blood spatters and Mrs Bates propped in her rocking chair, they’ve gone for a very stripped back and clean vibe inside this former deli, which is on the same strip as Sweet Melinda’s and Eddie’s Seafood Market.

The walls are covered in chewing gum white metro tiles and there are shelves of knick-knacks including lucky cats hewn from recycled kimono fabric and those twirly rods of bamboo that Ikea likes to sell.

There’s a cafe vibe, which suits the fact that they’re currently only open until 6pm.

We’d seen a saucy come hither photo of their BBQ chicken buns (£5.50) on their Facebook page, so we ordered them, as well as duck and plum gyoza (£5.50), both from their selection of dim sum.

Both were cracking. The chicken buns, packed into a bamboo steamer, were fluffy and fleshy, with loads of meat in their centre and, on the top, a varnish of sweet BBQ sauce, like the glossy toffee on a Halloween apple, plus spring onions and coriander.

The half a dozen gyoza, with crimped ridges like the edge of a cockle shell, were slippery, packed with shredded meat and scaly with poppy seeds. On the side, was a matte plum sauce.

We skipped the banh mi (a Vietnamese sarnie) and tried a version of the pho with agedashi tofu (£5.75).

This was pretty unexciting, with a few squares of flattened crispy tofu at the bottom of a bowl of vaguely ginger and chilli flavoured water, with spring onion and coriander leaves floating on its surface.

It was a bit ascetic and too much like a herbal tea. As my dining partner said: “My mouth wants something else to chew on.”

Same goes for the pad Thai (£6.95), with just three king prawns, knotted into a bundle of crushed peanut-sprinkled flat noodles and bean sprouts.

I enjoyed this dish, though it was slightly lacking in va-va-voom or many of the anticipated “sweet, salty, hot and sour flavours”. Still, £6.95 is a steal.

The green papaya rice paper roll (£6.50) consisted of fruit matchsticks, noodles, coriander and bean sprouts, all wrapped into four rather thick rice paper bundles.

Sadly, these were somewhat bland, chewy and dry, though, for lubrication, there was some sweet chilli sauce on the side.

A fiery cucumber side dish (£2.95) featured half-moons of papaya, in a hoisin-meets-satay like spicy sauce, laden with more spring onions and sesame seeds. This cucumber had escaped its potential twee sandwich fate, in order to go rock ‘n’ roll.

My pudding – lime jelly and coconut cream (£3.50) – was barely sweet, with a rather artificial eau de cleaning product flavour. Still, it looked appealing, with cream on top of an emerald-green wobbler.

Much more fun was the banana and peanut butter ice cream cake (£4) and its biscuity bottom, layer of beige nutty ice cream and chocolate drizzled nana slices.

A shame that we had to wash it down with a ridiculously watery coffee (£2) and an equally diluted spiced chai tea (£2.50).

Saiko Kitchen, qu’est-ce que c’est? Well, it’s an affordable and trendy little cafe, with excellent dim sum, but other stuff that could easily be more exciting and vibrant (maybe that’ll come with time). Nothing to do with psycho killers, thankfully.

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