Oishi Q (see here) is a new casual restaurant specialising in ‘kushiyaki’ (skewer grilled foods) with a particular emphasis on ‘yakitori’.
In recent times, yakitori, which translates as ‘grilled-bird’, usually refers to chicken but is often used to describe any food grilled on bamboo skewers. Back in the day (c. 17th century) people were more likely to skewer pigeons, quails and sparrows.
Yakitori-ya (ya in this case referring to bar or shop) are typically signposted by small red lanterns out front, with the character for ‘tori’ (or bird, 鳥), or the kanji spelling of 'yakitori' (やきとり).
Once inside a traditional Yakitori-ya, diners are customarily welcomed by cry of ‘Irasshaimase’ followed by the aromatic waft of smoke from the food being cooked over binchōtan charcoal sadly lacking from Oishi Q as their yakitori are cooked over an electric grill.
My ‘welcome’ was conducted by a surly East European, who looked at me as though I had just pissed on his kids; fortunately, the girl who took my order was much more convivial.
The menu is simple (Perhaps too simple? Which I’ll get to later.) All skewers were priced at £1.55 (with the exception of the scallop ‘special’) but if you buy four (which is the minimum you’d probably want unless you had the appetite of a once speared sparrow) you get one free!
I ordered a total of eight skewers and gohan (steamed rice, topped with soy an shredded nori, £1.50)
2 x chicken thigh (momo)
1 x chicken skin (kawa)
1 x chicken & leek (negima)
1 x chicken livers (rebā)
1 x shiitake mushroom
1 x cherry tomato & bacon (bēkon-maki)
1 x scallop (hotate - a ‘special’, not listed on the printed menu)
Although they were tasty enough (the exceptions being mushroom that were a little watery and bland and rubbery, overcooked livers), having been cooked over electric they obviously lacked that unique smoky barbeque flavour.
Each had been basted with the same ‘tare’ (a sweet soy based sauce, similar to teriyaki). It would be nice to have been given the choice of tare (Tare ni shimasu ka? ) or ‘shio’ / salt (Shio ni shimasu ka?).
Other options usually available include: chicken breast (sasami), chicken meatballs (tsukune), quail egg (uzura tamago) and asparagus (asupara) but they had their ‘Grand Opening’ the night before some ingredients were unavailable.
It’s important to remember that Oishi Q is a new business owned by a young Singaporean entrepreneur, that at the time of my visit had only been trading for a one of day. Whilst the concept is a proven success in London (most notably with Bincho), it needs to work for the Manchester.
In the hope of offering ‘constructive criticism’, I’d like to think that they’ll continue to offer a range specials – I believe there is a market for more offal and the use of authentic and seasonal ingredients.
Common ‘kushiyaki’ include sunagimo (kidneys), heart (hatsu), pork belly (butabara), ginkgo nuts (ginnan), ninniku (garklic), shishito (peppers), rice cake (yakimochi) and atsuage tofu. Condiments such as ‘shichimi tōgarashi’, ‘Ichimi tōgarashi’ and ‘yuzugoshō’ would also go down well.
The food was cheap and tasty enough and should go down well with the local student populous (their website has details of money off vouchers, competitions & a loyalty card), but for a fan of Japanese food like myself, I hoped for greater things. It’s early days so I’ll be sure to return soon.