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.
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.
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.
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