Restaurant Review - Umai Sushi and Ramen Kitchen

The VerdictHow much? Lunch for three, excluding drinks, £64.60Food 7.5/10Ambience 7.5/1015/20

Umai, in 6 Queensferry Street, serves ramen and sushi along with other delicious classic dishes inspired by Japan's dining scene. It opened mid-September despite coronairus restrictions holding a grip on the city's hospitality industry. Staff pride themselves on the fact that all the ingredients are fresh, including the ramen broths and noodles, which are homemade with rye.

If covid particles were rendered in animation form, they might look a bit like a susuwatari.

This is the soot gremlin, soot sprite or dust bunny (depending on the translation) - a harbinger of doom in Japanese folklore, but something cuter as a character in the Studio Ghibli anime productions, My Neighbour Totoro and Spirited Away.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Along with anthropomorphised nigiri, their effigies are painted onto the window of this new sushi joint.

Tempura scampi and UMAI rolls

Anyway, perhaps these fluffy balls aren’t the best metaphor for a virus, since they resemble a cute version of Gnasher and conveniently turn to dust when crushed.

This new sushi joint (not to be confused with Umi in Stockbridge) is in the former premises of Patisserie Maxime, which is right beside where my old bus stop to the office is.

I didn’t think I’d ever reminisce over this landmark, but here I was, unexpectedly wistful.

I’m not sure I even know which number goes where anymore, this far into the pandemic.

Still, despite quieter days for public transport, there’s often still a queue at this stop, and people sheltering in the doorway, as they always did when this place was a bakery.

Inside the restaurant, they've gone for an unusual and homely theme for sushi, where the decor might more traditionally be slick and modern, or pared back and traditional.

As well as house plants, there are other Studio Ghibli characters on the shelves, including the pear-shaped rabbit-like creature, Totoro.

The staff, all face-masked up, are super charming, and there’s a huge menu across two sides of A3, with ramen, sushi, donburi and even tartar and the Hawaiian speciality, poke.

We chose a couple of bits off the special’s blackboard - prawn gyoza (£5.95) and squid tempura (£5.95), which were chalked on underneath the enthusiastic newbie “Hello Edinburgh!” message.

Our set of five pansy-topped steamed dumplings were pale and pleasingly pasty, with their doll pink minced shellfish middles, and a splash of sweet teriyaki sauce across the top.

We enjoyed the squid, which came with a sort of hibachi mayo, though the cladding was more of a katsu crumb than the pale tempura batter we were expecting.

I’d also gone for the chalked up special of the Asian negroni (£7.50), which featured the usual ingredients - gin, Campari, vermouth - but also a shot of umeshu, for a bit of extra fruity oomph.

The Umai rolls (£9.95) were what we’d been hoping for. This line up of eight featured nori-clad innards of tuna, and all of the rice whorls were topped by beads of masago, seared salmon, bonito flakes, teriyaki and a single hoop of red chilli.

Alongside these were our sesame seed scattered tempura scampi rolls (£7.95), with each of the bookends featuring a whole prawn tail, sticking out like a half cut mermaid.

After all the busy stuff, our tuna combo (£11.95) was just a simple tribute to every cat’s favourite fish, with cool slivers on the four nigiri, a stack of sashimi, and an assortment of tuna rolls - four hosomaki and two pairs of inside out (one topped with sesame seeds, and the other bonito).

As always happens in sushi restaurants, when presented with a menu that’s the size of a hardback edition of the Silver Spoon, we’d ordered too much, and probably didn’t need the portion of salmon ramen (£10.95). Alongside the sheet of nori, this soup featured a concentrated salty broth, seared salmon, earthy shiitakes, a sticky centred soy egg, broccoli and noodles with bite. It was richer than the usual, so we were prematurely scunnered.

Still, we couldn’t ignore it when the waitress passed our table with a tray of glossy cakes, which looked like a throwback to this venue’s former resident. They were, it turns out. We had a Patisserie Maxime (now relocated to Morningside) squashy centred and hazelnut speckled bomb choc (£5.95) and a lemon tartlet (£5.95 each) with a coconut sponge base.

I used to stare at these, while waiting for my bus.

Anyway, by the time you read this, Umai will be temporarily closed, as part of the fight against the susuwatari, or whatever it’s called.

If only it would turn to dust when crushed, we’d be straight back along there.

6 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh (0131 225 6066, www.umai-restaurant.co.uk)

Other Places to try Nearby

Soderberg Bakery Shop, 31 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh (www.soderberg.co.uk)

For a post sushi coffee, this takeaway does a perfect flat white. We also love their suitably autumnal cakes, like cinnamon buns and the almondy mazarins, as well as the more unpronounceable Scandi treats, like the kladdkaka. They’re also currently offering delivery on Fridays, if you order online the day before.

@pizza, 4 Charlotte Lane, Edinburgh (www.atpizza.com)

The concept at this place is that you design your own pizza, though if you can’t be bothered with that, there are plenty of off-the-peg versions - like the extra spicy Heartbreaker, with Sriracha sauce and Jalapenos, among other things - instead. They’re currently offering takeaway, delivery and collection.

Vesta Bar & Kitchen, 7-8 Queensferry Street, Edinburgh (www.vestaedinburgh.co.uk)

Opening every Monday to serve a two course meal to people experiencing homelessness, visit this restaurant and you can also choose to Pay Forward the cost of a coffee, lunch or dinner. The menu mainly focuses on comfort food, so expect macaroni cheese, fish and chips and club sandwiches.

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers – and consequently the revenue we receive – we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://bit.ly/3f6QqqM now to sign up.