Approximate cost: £50 for 3 small dishes, 1 main, a pudding and a tasting trio of sake
Who loves tripe?
Apparently I do, although let me caveat that statement heavily by saying that I love a particular Japanese-style tripe dish called Horumon yaki, dreamed up by the one and only Masterchef 2011 winner Tim Anderson.
I wouldn’t usually opt for offal but a certain Telegraph review labelled this as the “hero of the small plates” so I thought it folly not to try it.
One of 3 smaller dishes that we ordered (plus a main to share), the tripe is served with onions, bean sprouts, cabbage and carrots, so you can easily bide your time nibbling around it if, like me, you’re a little unsure of whether you should actually be putting this in your mouth.
When I did plunge in (boldly opting for a large piece the size of an adult’s small finger), I was expecting a spongy texture similar to liver with a flavour to match. (Not a food I can say I love). But no, this was much more similar to a cut of pork than offal and had a deep smokey BBQ flavour that wouldn’t have been out of place alongside a rack of ribs or stack of burnt ends.
This tasted so more-ish that I actually complained the little dish was overfilled with veg and lacking in tripe, to which my husband (genuinely aghast) admitted that he’d had 6 or so pieces not realising that I hadn’t been digging in at the same speed as he.
Having followed the Telegraph’s lead on the tripe, I took it upon myself to recite the remainder of the article and we ended up ordering the same set of dishes; the good, the bad and the ugly.
The saltfish and ackee croquettes (another small dish) didn’t receive an amazing rating but I’m a massive fan of anything with saltfish soI ordered this regardless hoping to prove the reviewer wrong.
Sadly, I was disappointed – these did taste nice but in comparison to the other dishes the flavour was very muted. I was hoping for larger shards of salt fish or a more prominent ackee flavour but the croquettes tasted simply of nicely mashed potato with a crunchy coating – not unpleasant but you wouldn’t rub your belly and say “mmm”.
The third and last small dish was the aptly named Electric Eel (the restaurant is very close to the famous Electric Avenue) – this did did not fail on flavour; I don’t think I’ve knowingly had eel before and I enjoyed the strong fish taste that was not in any way “fishy” (well done if you can decipher the meaning behind that sentence).
Topped with pickled cucumber, slices of daikon (which you also find shredded and served with sashimi in Yo Sushi restaurants) and tiny crunchy noodles that resemble bits of Bombay mix; all components tasted great together – you can definitely fine tune your Greg “dramatically devour a massive forkful” Wallace impressions here.
Last but definitely not least our sasebo burger arrived. Although this has undoubtedly been given an Asian twist, this appeared to be the least fusion-style dish on the menu.
Served with bog standard crinkle cut chips (the Telegraph called them “anaemic”, I thought they resembled McCain oven chips), the burger looks pretty ordinary, especially with the American style plastic cheese poking out the side. (I should add that on our second visit, the chips had been replaced with a much improved skin-on fat chips.)
Inside however sat a beautifully cooked burger patty (no obvious Japanese influence here) which was only just outdone by a delicious charred sliver of pork belly.
Already this was proving to be one tasty burger, but icing on the cake was the the mayo; the online menu refers to this as “tea egg mayo”, whereas our menu said “burnt garlic mayo”, either way, it’s the perfect accompaniment to the beef patty, pork belly, American cheese and lettuce filling (the bun’s okay too).
I really should mention the sake trio, which was fun to try, the local beer and the pudding; suitably glutinous. You won’t be bowled over by the decor, but the waiting staff were friendly and attentive and surely it’s all about the food anyway.
Definitely worth a visit.