Sushi

OKO at Nuvo Bar, Brindley Place

If part of my role as blogger de rigueur is to make you, Dear Readers, aware of places you may not have known existed, then I think that I’ve cracked it. The subject matter for the post is a restaurant that I fell upon by coincidence, in a building that I know very well, but for all reasons which are not food. It takes a special kind of person to know Nuvo. Those who do generally either work in Brindley Place or are the kind who enjoy sportswear as outerwear, bottle table packages, and dancing to Fat Man Scoop. All of this is fine; I was once that person. My mate used to regularly DJ there when my body was sculpted enough to wear a cardigan with nothing underneath and my jeans deliberately showed off those fresh Calvin Klein y-fronts. I’m sorry if you’re reading this whilst eating. Or planning on eating. Or have eaten at some point today. But it’s the truth. I even worked for RBS at the time in Brindley Place. I was Nuvo personified.

I thought it had gone in all honesty. Lost to the same oceans that swept away 52 Degrees North and Poppy Red and Mechu. But no, it’s still there, and they even do food now. I know this because I went to get dinner nearby and when that was closed went into Nuvo. I’m inquisitive like that. It hasn’t changed.

The food is Japanese, a sushi heavy trip around the more familar dishes of the Far East. There are edamame beans in a perky chilli and garlic mush that required the right amount of pressure to drag from the surface whilst popping the innards into the mouth. There are very good gyozas and less good fried squid that lacks seasoning and is on the chewy side.

Tempura vegetables are greaseless and still crunchy, which is an achievement that eludes some other versions in Birmingham. These are good, which is more than be said for duck filled rolls that are greasy and a little bit unpleasant. The inconsistencies by this point are noticable.

The sushi comes on elaborate platters complete with plumes of dry ice. I imagine that this goes down a storm in a throbbing club, but here, with only around eight people in the room, it feels a little cheap. The sushi is okay; sure the rice is not at body temperature, nor has it been properly seasoned with vinegar, but the cutting of the fish shows solid technique and the quality of the produce is high. Dragon rolls, salmon nigiri, little mounds of rice with spliced tempura prawns. It’s not groundbreaking but it is more than acceptable, which will do for this part of town.

All of this leaves me split on my opinion: there was good and bad, and I imagine that if you went to the right places you could find the good things done a lot better. But for all of this, I liked it, at least I think I did. Service is brilliant, the sake menu is extensive and kindly marked-up, and the food won’t break the bank. Order right and you’ll do okay here. I’m personally just not sure I’d want to do so when it’s a heaving club, memories or otherwise.

6/10

You know who you won’t find in da club? A2B

Yakinori, Selly Oak

Yakinori sits on a section of the Bristol Road not noted for its culinary excellence. It’s student central; a stone’s throw from Birmingham University, where cheap beer and average Indian restaurants walk hand-in-hand together, whilst pissed-up students cavort or do whatever pissed-up students do these days.  I like this part of Brum because I can come with low expectation and not go home disappointed or broke.  But good food?  No, that’s a myth.  Or at least it was until Yakinori arrived.

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We visit on a Saturday afternoon when the place is thriving.  We take the last remaining seats at the counter overlooking the open kitchen and look to the parts of the menu we find familiarity  at.  Its as authentic a Japenese as you could wish to find in Birmingham, from the lucid cartoon décor, to the menu that broadly strokes the length of the cuisine with varying takes on sushi, noodles and curries.

We start with duck gyoza, five fat dumplings steamed and then shown a little direct heat.  The filling of minced meat is well seasoned, the thick plum sauce both sweet and savoury.  These were a fiver.  And here is me stating the obvious before it becomes apparent shortly; Yakinori is outstanding value.

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A bento box is a meal in itself, with everything (bar one mishap which I will get on to) spot on.  The beef in black bean sauce was meltingly tender, the sauce full of deep umami notes.  We love the little pumpkin croquettes that give way to a sweet mush and the pickles that are full of zing.  The fish sushi is clean tasting with the rice served correctly at room temperature. Its just the chicken katsu sushi that is a poorly concieved idea, but this matters little as all of this cost under £15.00.  Served with this was a miso soup, which was alright, if a tad on the thin side. Chicken Katsu curry is a monster portion for a tenner.  Its a dish that lives or dies on the quality of the sauce and this was stellar stuff, all vibrant and spice and depth.  I started off thinking that I was never going to finish it, and quickly found myself staring at an empty plate.

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And that was it for that particular lunch – a bill at under twenty quid each and a genuine surprise at just how good it was.  We’ve been back since where we had the fish bento box that had beautiful chunks of salmon and vegetable tempura with the lightest of batter.  And we may have driven there to pick up the katsu curry as a takeaway.  I hope you get the idea.  We like it.  A lot.  It single handily destroys the notion that food can’t be quick, cheap and good.  And its in Selly Oak of all places.  Yakinori has quickly become one of my favourite places in the city for quick, affordable and tasty food

8/10

Yakinori Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato