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Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Restaurant Review - Harajuku Kitchen, Gillespie Place, Edinburgh

Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Until fairly recently, my only venture into Japanese food was those little sushi sets that you can pick up for a couple of quid in the supermarkets however I am well aware that it would be unfair to judge the cuisine from the 'Land of the Rising Sun' based on six pieces of California Roll and a spattering of fiery wasabi.
In all fairness though, over the last few years myself and Nicola have enjoyed some pretty decent meals at various branches of Wagamama and had a fantastic experience on a recent visit to Shoryu Ramen in London so when we were kindly invited to check out 2 AA Rosette Awarded Harajuku Kitchen in Edinburgh, we started making plans for another trip to the capital.
Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri

Chef Patron Kaori Simpson has a rich history of cooking in her bloodstream from her Samurai great grandfather who established one of Japan's first fine dining restaurants to her mother who ran a number of Japanese restaurants across Hong Kong and the Philippines and after moving to the UK where she met her husband, Kaori settled in Edinburgh and honed her cooking skills.

After stints in several restaurants, including time at Michelin starred The Kitchin, before taking on the role of private chef at the Consulate General of Japan, Kaori set up Harajuku Kitchen in 2013 and hasn't looked back.

Harajuku Kitchen specialises in authentic Japanese cuisine from small dishes, ideal for sharing, such as classics like Beef Tataki and Chicken Karaage to more unusual delicacies such as Salmon Nanban – fried salmon dipped in soy and vinegar glaze, sake, chilli, onion and carrots, Gomadare salad with seaweed, lettuce, glass noodles, sesame, miso dressing, cucumber, carrot and edamame or Takoyaki – dough balls with octopus and cabbage in katsu sauce. They also offer a range of noodle and Japanese curry dishes and a wide variety of freshly made sushi, sashimi and maki.

Located on the edges of Edinburgh's trendy Bruntsfield area, Harajuku Kitchen is a leisurely 10-15 minute walk from the west end side of Princes Street although myself and Nicola took the bus from George Square after taking in a show at the Edinburgh Festival. The weather wasn't great outside but once we settled down at our table next to the shoji styled window, we could easily have been transported to urban Japan.

Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Pork Rafute - Okinawa style pork belly slow cooked in sake, soy, ginger and spices - £6.95
The menu at Harajuku Kitchen is split into four main sections with a mix of hot and cold dishes, speciality sishi rice bowls and traditional sushi available at reasonable prices. We decided to share a selection of dishes from across the menu which were served as and when they were ready.
Slow cooked pork belly is one of life's wonderful things so when we spied this on the menu,it quickly become one of our choices. Okinawa style cuisine is heavily influenced by the food of the China and Southeast Asia due to the centuries of trading that have taken place between the countries of this area. This was plain to see in this dish with soy and ginger dominating the rich sauce that the pork belly was served in whilst the addition of sake ensured that the slow cooked meat was soft and tender. An umami sweetness was matched with salt from the soy and the resulting cooking sauce was very moreish. I'm not completely up to speed with my Japanese etiquette but I think I was well within my rights to bring the bowl to my lips to finish off the sauce?
Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Tuna Tataki - Carpaccio of seared tuna drizzled in a ginger ponzu sauce - £5.50
We've had Tuna Tataki a few times and know that simplicity is the key ingredient to making this dish sing and we weren't disappointed tonight. The tuna was seasoned well and seared evenly all the way round before being expertly sliced and served with a clever ginger & ponzu sauce.
The first taste in the mouth was the flavours of warming ginger before the tart ponzu acts as a palate cleanser leaving the mouth ready for the delicate flavours of the tuna. Soft and tender with a texture not dissimilar to beef, the fresh tuna was delightful and not 'fishy' at all. I love fresh tuna and can't believe that the tuna that we get in tins comes from the same animal!
Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Chicken Yakitori - 3 chicken & spring onion skewers with yakitori sauce - £6.95
Yakitori is actually the term used for a Japanese type of skewered chicken so it's more about the technique rather than what it actually is. Traditionally, the chicken meat is skewered on steel or bamboo before cooking over a charcoal fire. As time has progressed, the skewers are now often cooked over a gas or electric grill although the charcoal method is still preferred as it adds additional flavour to the finished dish.
The Yakitori is usually seasoned with either a salty or sweet-salty liquor with Harajuku Kitchen opting for the more traditional 'tare', a sticky blend of mirin, sake, soy and sugar and spices that resulted in three skewers of perfectly cooked chicken.
Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Pork Gyoza Dumplings - Scottish free range pork, lettuce, nira and chilli soy sauce - £5.95
In our short history of eating Japanese food, one dish has quickly become a firm favourite of nicola and myself - the pork gyoza, so much so that I recently made my own at home. (Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for a recipe)
Gyoza, like lots of differently named dumplings, take their name fro the Chinese word Jiaozi which is typically ground meat and/or vegetables that are rolled in a thinly rolled piece of dough which is then cooked by boiling, steaming or frying.
The main difference between Gyoza and Jiaozi is the rich addition of garlic, an ingredient not traditionally used by the Chinese in their dumplings. The Harajuku Kitchen filling was a well balanced mix of seasoned pork, shredded lettuce (for texture) and shredded nira which is better known as garlic chives. Pork mince is used as it has a a high fat content which keeps the filling moist through the cooking process which in this case was to pan fry two sides of the triangular gyoza before adding cold water to the hot pan and finishing the cooking with steam. This results in a finished gyoza that has two colder crisp sides and one side that is still soft to the bite.
The balance of taste and texture was perfect - strong garlic notes were balanced by the natural sweetness from the pork. The spicy chilli dipping sauce which was served on the side packed just enough heat to stand up to the garlic in the gyoza.
Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Chef's Special Sushi Set - Mixed Seafood - Nigiri, tuna hosomaki, and salmon & cucumber maki - £12.45
Last up was the Chef's Special Sushi Set, a pretty collection of traditional looking Sushi and maki. For those that don't know the difference between Nigiri and Sashimi, it's quite simple really. Nigiri is thinly sliced raw flesh that is pressed over vinegared rice whilst Sashimi is thinly sliced meat (usually fish) which is served without rice. Google is a wonderful thing!
We were served two Nigiri, one with sea bass and one with squid. Both Nigiri were delicious. The fish was super fresh and sliced thin enough that we could eat it easily enough although we both struggled with etiquette again. Do you stuff all the rice and fish in your mouth or bite in two? Either way, my chopstick skills let me down and I ended up with Sushi rice swimming in the soy sauce dipping bowl.
The accompanying morsels of tuna hosomaki, perfect rectangles of fresh tuna wrapped in rice and seaweed, and the salmon and cucumber maki, delicate cuboid of fresh salmon and perfectly uniform cucumber slices wrapped in rice and toasted sesame seeds were both fantastic. Every piece was a perfect replica of eqch other nad were wrapped tight enough that we could easily lift these bitesize treats from the plate to our mouths. When fish is as fresh as this, it really is a joy to eat.
Harajuku Kitchen, edinburgh restaurants, Japanese restaurants, sushi. Sashimi, Nigiri
Japanese food, such in particular, is rarely cheap. How could it be when the sushi chef is working with the freshest quality of produc possible? When you take into consideration all of the preparation and technique involved in order to create such beautifully presented food, you wouldn't expect it to be cheap either. Very dish that we were served was a showstopper in their own right and as a collective, the perfect way to enjoy an education into the food of Japan. If that isn't enough, the prices at Harajuku Kitchen are actually very good with most of the hot or cold dishes priced between £5-£7.
I would have no hesitate in recommending Harajuku Kitchen to anyone although it might be advisable to book ahead as the Bruntsfield locals have take the cosy restaurant to their hearts.
Our meal at Harajuku Kitchen was complimentary but my review above is an honest account of our experiences on the night. I would like to thank the staff and management for their hospitality and generosity and wish the them continued success for the future.
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