Our resident restaurant reviewer, Laura Hudspeth, pays a visit to Hale’s new Japanese restaurant, which opened in the unit vacated by Gastronomy earlier this year.
I have a thing about texture. Gastronomically speaking, that is.
My patient plus-one in life has been privy to my oft rolled out line, ‘I’m funny with texture, you see’, during any discussion about food preferences.
This basically causes me issues with egg white, mayonnaise, ‘foam’ and tuna. To be honest, the texture of tuna isn’t the issue, I just don’t like it, to the extent that no discussion about food dislikes could ever be complete without reference to it.
It was texture that was the issue when I first had oysters. I know it’s not a niche thing to be troubled when consuming oysters, but that didn’t stop me swanning round waiting to be awarded the Victoria Cross when having defeated not one but two of the tinkers.
And so to sushi. And to the newly opened Zumu in Hale.
Serving modern Japanese food, the headline acts are sushi, sashimi and robatayaki (the latter referring to foods cooked over coal).
The word I wish to highlight here is ‘cooked’, which often means ‘hot’.
My texture issue is often exacerbated by the food being cold. Example, I will eat traditionally hot pasta dishes until I can no longer move, but a pasta salad dish leaves me… well, cold.
And so, with a slight nod to the Fast Show’s legendary cheesy peas skit, I like fish! I like rice! I like vegetables! BUT, until last Thursday I didn’t really like sushi…
I’ve tried, oh how I’ve tried to like sushi, no less than two whole packs of supermarket pre-packaged sushi over a 10-year period, but it didn’t do it for me.
Then I went to Zumu and saw the light. Chopsticks in hand (albeit clumsily).
A modern, stylish restaurant in the heart of Hale village, Zumu presents a dining experience which feels authentic, yet relaxed. Deceptively large, downstairs hosts a small selection of tables, upstairs opening up into a light and spacious extended dining area.
The staff are warm and friendly and once seated in our booth near the bar (two of my favourite ‘b’ words – the third being bottleofwineplease), we were taken through the menu by our lovely host Tam; a description of various sections amidst a sea of helpful suggestions and recommendations.
As we awaited our 24-piece sushi and sashimi sharing starter (my lisp thanks me for this being a written review rather than after dinner speech), we enjoyed a bowl each of miso soup – a literal warm up to our starter.
And what a sight to behold.
The attractive aesthetics alone told me that I hadn’t really had sushi before (sorry unspecified supermarkets). Beautifully cooked where appropriate, unashamedly raw yet delicious where required, I ‘got it’ and, in that instance joined the sushi revolution (albeit a million years behind everyone else – I was the same with The Sopranos).
This, the Omakase, was chef’s selection of pieces which included tuna, cod and salmon sashimi, served with Japanese horseradish, oba leaf and radish, and sushi including variations on sushi classics Nigiri, Hosomaki and Uramaki. With fish including mackerel, prawn and cod, fluffy rice and vegetables including cucumber, avocado and mango, all ingredients were incredibly fresh and of quality
A hard act to follow, our mains arrived after a suitable interval, giving us time to discuss our varying chopstick styles (I say ‘styles’, but mine is more a form of attack. I can’t deny the occasional stabbing motion. My plus one’s approach is decidedly more refined and, I might say, holds a certain level of panache).
We ordered the Seabass Tempura from the specials menu, a recommendation from Tam, and, from the grill, the Hitsujiniku – lamb chops marinated in a spicy miso. Once again, we took our host’s recommendations when it came to side dishes; fried rice with the seabass and Zukkini – lightly ‘tempura’d’ courgette with truffle mayo sauce.
The seabass, with head and tail, was a spectacle and came without the added toil of deboning (a task we’d spent some time pondering in between courses, given the chopstick situation). We needn’t have worried. The beautifully light white fish was already removed and ‘tempura’d’ (I’m going to copyright that verb), the body of the fish serving as a platter, if you like. We liked.
The lamb chops were succulent, with a little heat that wasn’t overpowering, and the courgette was the perfect, light accompaniment. No upselling in sight – all recommendations clearly made from an informed gastronomic standpoint.
There was just room for dessert, albeit one with two spoons (farewell beautifully crafted wooden chopsticks, you authentic, fiddly friends, you), and we went classic. We couldn’t resist the chocolate fondant with vanilla ice cream. That classic Japanese dish (red faces). Sorry, the fondant swayed us and we regret nothing.
Again, the presentation was on point and the fondant a little piece of indulgent heaven on a plate.
Along with an extensive yet select wine list, Zumu provides an eclectic range of dining opportunities; from a light midweek sushi lunch with friends, a dinner where you can take the time to explore all areas of the menu, to even taking a little piece of Japanese heaven into your home with its takeaway service.
There is a Japanese food proverb (or Kotowaza) that, in English, translates to ‘Eat it raw before all else, then grill it, and boil it last of all’. The deeper translation is that one should consider everything: flavours, textures, colours, composition and presentation.
Put simply, if you want to see this proverb come to life, visit Zumu, Hale.
4.5 out of 5
Zumu Hale, 191 Ashley Rd, Hale, Altrincham WA15 9SQ. Visit zumuhale.co.uk to book