Eclipse, at 164m in length is currently the world’s largest private yacht. Built by Blohm + Voss, it’s the pride of the ‘Abramovich Navy’ belonging Chelsea’s oligarch owner. Leander (according to my reliable source, Wikipedia) is the 60th largest super yacht in the world - I mention this because ‘she’ is owned by NCP millionaire Sir Donald Gosling.
What’s this, I hear you ask, got to do with food?
Well, nothing really, apart from the fact that whenever we drive into Manchester, for some reason unbeknown to me we usually park at the NCP in Chinatown, which I am certain has the city centre’s most expensive parking. (This, in a city that was named in a 2011 study by consumer watchdog ‘Which?’ as having UK's most expensive car-parking outside of London.) So surely over the years I must have paid close to the £300,000 pounds it costs to charter the Leander for a week? A day? Hour? (You’ll see further down the level of my sums.)
Having, with mixed success, tried pretty much all of the restaurants in the immediate area (with opinions mostly ranging from ‘nah’ to ‘meh’) when Yuzu opened last year we were hopeful it would be an one of the better ones. Tending to go in Manchester on Sunday, the one day they are closed, it’s taken us a while - but all good things come to those who wait, and this Valentine’s day, all good things certainly came!
Edamame, the first dish to arrive, was the one expectation and also the one thing on the menu we deemed to be over priced (at £2.00 i.e. 30p more than the ‘green plate’ of them at YO! Sushi). The, menu stated that they came ‘seasoned with sea salt’ but ours were not seasoned at all and upon asking, we were given table salt.
Edamame gripe aside, the second dish to arrive was received much more positively. A salad of Daikon & Wakame (£2.50) made up of beautifully crisp and refreshing finely shredded daikon (white radish / mooli) and wakame (seaweed) with yuzu dressing. This, as most dishes were, was served on elegant satin glazed black Japanese pottery.
Preferable than arriving together, each dish came out as and when it had been prepared by the chef. Service throughout the meal was fluid, gracious and respectful without ever being overly deferential.
Simply but prettily presented and prepared, the Homemade Pickles (£2.00) arrived next – perfectly pickled (not too harshly acidic) cucumber and daikon topped with sesame seeds. Even at £2, I’d take these over a 99p sesame seed topped Mackey-D's burger any day of the week.
Décor wise there is a distinctly Japanese feel: wood panelling on the walls is reminiscent of shoji (the Japanese sliding doors and screens); the pictures are of samurai, sakua and green tea (with one oddly placed impressionist); an impressive collection of sake bottles surrounds and there's also delightful origami paper cranes, (which I assumed had been placed for diners to play with). Along with the dragon, the crane is one of Japan’s most spiritual creatures – legend states that anyone who folds a thousand origami canes will be granted a wish (based on my sums, they have 997 to go).
Next to arrive, a favourite Japanese dish of mine - Agedashi Tofu (£3.00). On the other end of Faulkner Street, in the belted sushi joint ‘Wasabi’ the Agedashi tofu is served in a much more pungent and flavoursome dashi broth, topped with dried bonito flakes; here served with grated ginger and negi (spring onion), the flavour is subtler but no less delicious.
The Gyoza (£3.30) were delicious with an accompanying soy dipping sauce, pleasingly enriched with Japanese chilli oil. Too many Japanese places these days serve frozen ones, or, at least use the frozen wrappers (as I do, when making them at home) but these were freshly made and filled with generous bites of king prawn – excellent. To be honest, the frozen wrappers would have made them slightly less ‘stodgy’ but definite kudos for making their own.
Despite offering a number of sashimi options, Yuzu do not serve sushi. In Japan it takes years of on-the-job training and work as a ‘wakiita’ before the apprentice can finally be considered an ‘itamae’ (This is only conjecture on my part, but perhaps the chef at Yuzu had not trained as an itamae and has too much integrity in his produce to serve sushi just because customers in the UK expect it from a Japanese eatery?) Anyway, our small Sashimi Mori platter (£8.50) of scallop, tuna and organic salmon, served with wasabi, daikon and sashimi soy sauce could not be faulted.
Not to be confused with the fibrous connective tissue that connects muscles to bones, my wife ordered Tendon (£5.95 as part of the lunch deal with miso soup). ‘Don’ refers to the ‘donburi’ rice bowl; ‘ten’ to the tempura king prawn and vegetables. In good food, attention to detail is important and it was pleasing to see that the prawns had been deveined and placed on skewers to straighten them before being fried in top-notch tempura batter. The sushi rice was exemplary.
My ‘main’ was a Wild Mushroom Zosui (£5.95) described on the menu as ‘Japanese style risotto cooked with wild mushrooms’ - made with cooked rice and a dashi stock, Zosui is often referred to as ’rice gruel’ and is traditionally ‘bland’ but these descriptions do not do it justice. Like Cock-a-leekie, chicken noodle or tomato soup in Britain, in Japan this dish is often served as a comfort food when people are poorly.
Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in the UK and the third largest in Europe – it’s about time there were more top quality eateries befitting of its size. With Yuzu, it’s great to have found an authentic Japanese joint, which along with the likes of Phetpailin, Red Chilli and Handmade Noodle King should continue to encourage excellence to the area.
We will certainly be going back and I recommend that you too should head to Yuzu!