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 There are two things that make Japanese cuisine irresistible.


First umami; the taste receptor discovered by chemistry professor, Kikunae Ikeda at Tokyo University 1908.  Umami has been identified in various glutamate-rich foods and is predominant in konbu, miso soup and shitake mushrooms. Also fermentation results in umami. The process breaks down proteins turning them into tasty amino acids, think sake, miso, soy and of course rice vinegar which adds tang to sushi. Secondly, Japanese food is good for you, so a greedy- guts like me can stuff myself, guilt-free.


Both of these things may contribute towards the current popularity of sushi and of new restaurant, Kanpai  where Mr Bite and I settled in one night last month to see what all the fuss was about.


In no particular order we eat seared tuna, ruby flesh the colour of aged meat,  it is coated in sesame seeds and comes with a fruity, home-made miso dressing (£7.90); definitely one to order again. Pan-fried vegetable and chicken dumplings (£4.25) are soft on one side browned on the flip. Grilled scallop nigiri (£5.90), plump white bivalves from Eddie's Seafood Market. Nigiri by the way means to squeeze and refers to the vinegary rice squeezed into blocks. The star of the meal, Mr Bite and I agree, is the mackerel nigiri (£4.20); silver slivers of bright-skinned fish, opaque flesh, sparks of syboe. I spy a sumo-sized bowl of fish at the next table and resolve to return for the Kanpai's special of 20 pieces of sashimi, (£20.90). The dragon roll (£13.90) is whorl of jade avocado and pink king prawns presented on a wooden board. I love the panko salmon maki (£5.50), which is dusted rather than coated in light tempura; more finesse.  


Mr Bite drinks warmed sake and I have green tea. Both complement the food as the warm drinks dissolve the flavours throughout our mouths.


During our meal the staff are forgetful, wasabi, pickled ginger, drinks, various dishes; this is something that should be addressed but the food is beautiful. As Heston Blumenthal has said "my heart belongs to umami!"





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