There are few things I like more than a bowl of steamed rice and a pot of green tea so imagine my delight at discovering Umai, a deli renowned for fresh, handmade Japanese food.
It is interesting how some experiences are long forgotten but others stay with you for years and possibly forever. I still recall the first time I tried tempura; it was at a little restaurant in Higashinakano (Tokyo) where I lived. Biting into that piece of pumpkin, swiftly followed by a piece of ebi (prawn) is a memory I simply cannot forget. How could something fried taste so light and oil-less? Delicious! That brings me to Umai, where last week my taste buds were transported back to Japan without the need of a costly plane ticket.
When it comes to Japanese food, I can be a wee bit particular. Authenticity is vital and Umai did not disappoint. Naturally, I had to try a bit of everything just to give a fair review, of course. We ate tendon (steamed rice topped with tempura) presented as one would find it in Japan, fresh sashimi (raw fish) including sea bass, tuna, salmon, octopus and my personal favourite, mackerel served with real wasabi (and not that hideous stuff that comes in packets), chicken yakitori, (the most amazing) seaweed salad and finished off with sweet inari (tofu covered rice balls) and a sake tasting, all whilst sitting at the sake bar. Surrounded by Japanese speaking staff, Japanese produce and the countless Japanese customers (a testament to authenticity), one could be forgiven for forgetting that you’re in Stratford, not Japan!
Umai has two locations: Westfield Stratford and the Japan Centre (in Piccadilly). You may just see me grabbing a few things to take-out and enjoy in the sun.
Do you eat Japanese food often? Are there many Japanese restaurants/delis where you live? I’d love to know what your favourite dishes are.