As a new parent I spent many long days wandering about in a state of half-consciousness craving Wagamama noodle soup. I don’t know if it’s the name, or that the bowls are large, the benches are long, and there is enough room to swing a pram, but I found myself going to Wagamama Brighton again, and again, and again. I always order soup.
This year I have regained some sleep, sanity, and space, and while I have fewer opportunities to ‘soup out,’ I find that I can be more discerning when I do, so yesterday, I had soup at Oki-Nami, Brighton. Co-owned by Masao Mitsuishi and DJ Norman Cook, Oki-Nami was based in Hove for 13 years before it took up prime premises next to the Theatre Royal on New Road. The restaurant sells Japanese ingredients and offers sushi-making workshops and event catering as well as lunch, dinner, pre-theatre and take-away menus. My lunch order of Tempura Udon is therefore only representative of a fraction of what Oki-Nami offers, but for what it is worth, it is a fine bowl of soup.
The soup is of course, quite unlike the ones I am used to slurping down, bleary-eyed at Wagamama. It has a strong-yet-subtle and multi-dimensional flavour and texture. Topped with tempura king prawns and mixed vegetables in a featherlike batter, the tempura have a concentrated and distinctive sweetness. The thick, slippery udon noodles are hard to catch but full of bite and the soy broth, laced with wakami seaweed, spring onion and vanishing tempura batter, is hot and satisfying. The bill of £8.95 for the soup and £2.40 for jasmine tea is slightly less than I would spend at Wagamama.
My understanding of Japanese cuisine starts and ends with my amusement at the overuse of the word ‘umami’ by foodie types on my Twitter feed, but lunch at Oki-Nami helps me understand the fascination that this ‘fifth taste’ inspires. Real Japanese food makes for elegant and exceptionally good eating, and therefore it is much better suited to the new, uh-hum, sophisticated me.
Oki-Nami, 6 New Road, Brighton, BN1 1UF. 01273 773777
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About Chloe King
I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.
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