Harajuku Kitchen - "My heart belongs to umami!" (Heston Blumenthal)
By Sharon Wilson
Harajuku Kitchen is a neighbourhood bistro run by award-winning chef Kaori Simpson. Authentic Japanese cuisine is served here based on family recipes passed down to Kaori by her grandparents. When I arrive I note the many Japanese folk dipping at their food with chopsticks; always a good sign. Expertly conceived and crafted, sushi is a tasty art form but there is more to this Asian cuisine. So I invited fellow foody Kerry to join me for dinner. Kerry is allergic to fish and seafood so I was keen to see if she would rate Harajuku as highly as a fish lover like me does. Pork Gyoza Dumplings were her starter of choice made from free-range Scottish pork and served with a chilli soy sauce. She described them as being ‘a firm favourite, which have queues around the block at the Stockbridge Market’ and she called this evening’s offerings ‘little dumplings of pure pleasure that oozed flavour’. Cucumber Kimchi on the side was refreshing and piquant. Fermentation is a great way to preserve veg and it also has the bonus of producing umami; the taste receptor discovered by chemistry professor, Kikunae Ikeda at Tokyo University 1908. The kimchi was from the daily specials board as were my scallops, presented in their natural shell and sweetly caramelised. I demolished them as swiftly as the swipe of a Geisha’s fan. I ordered the ‘Californian’ Futomaki Roll with pink salmon and creamy jade avocado for my main and a coating of day-glo green fish roe sparkled and popped in my mouth like old fashioned space dust. Kerry had some pure comfort food in the shape of Tonkatsu Curry, panko breaded free-range chicken breast served with rice and miso soup. She gave the miso a swerve but described the chicken as just perfect. We both had the chef's special of fried bao bun. Served with coconut sorbet for Kerry she thought it ‘delicious but just a tad too naughty after curry’ so she left half the bun, but ‘did justice to the coconut sorbet’, which was ‘very refreshing and palate- cleansing’. My bun came with green tea ice cream and I had no issue shamelessly polishing off the lot. Harajuku has one AA Rosette from Michelin but is very reasonably priced and I concluded from our visit that is can indeed be recommended for sushi lovers and meat eaters alike.
Harajuku Kitchen 10 Gillespie Place 0131 281 05 26 Mon-Fri 12 noon- 3pm, 5pm-10pm; Sat & Sun 12 noon-11pm www.harajukukitchen.co.uk