Restaurant review: Kamakura Sushi lives up to the hype
69 Donegall Pass, Belfast Kamakurasushi.co.uk
The internet is having a huge impact on our eating habits. Twenty years ago, if you had nerves of steel or knew a friendly driver, you could phone a Belfast taxi and ask for half a stone of potatoes, a pound of butter and 20 Regal to be delivered. It wasn't a popular service because a lot of drivers would chase you for even asking.
But now, delivery companies with bikes, scooters, vans and cars are queueing up for your business. Tesco, Sainsbury's, pizza companies and Chinese takeaways will drop anything you want to your door. Deliveroo and Just Eat will cover a few miles' radius to make sure your Singapore noodles arrive hot and your Al Gelato dark chocolate sorbet is still frozen hard.
But is the online order and delivery system in danger of eating itself? Last weekend I noticed a relatively new Japanese restaurant in Belfast's Donegall Pass being talked about on Twitter in the most complimentary way. Kamakura Sushi had a grip on a few tweeters so I thought I'd pass by on my way home from dropping off daughter No 1 to the airport on a bleak Sunday night.
A cosy, brightly lit interior lies behind a mood enhancing sliding door. Loads of bright colours and a couple of Japanese kimonos attached to the back wall leave you in no doubt as to the part of the world you have entered.
I ask for the take away menu. "There is no takeaway menu. You have to order online." I explain that I'm here now and couldn't I just order from the regular menu and they could put it in takeaway boxes? "No. you have to order online for takeaways. If you're sitting in, you can order from the menu." Something at the back of my mind stirs. It's a memory of Falling Down with Michael Douglas. Google it.
I shrug and drive back to the house. The advisor goes online to see what Kamakura has to offer and very gently suggests that it looks really good. There's gyosa, shichimi, udon noodles and rice dishes. It's all there. And plenty of vegetarian stuff too, she adds, nodding to the younger teen.
I really didn't want to have to go back out and certainly not to the order-online-only place, but in the name of food journalism and to check it out for your erudition, we start ordering. Soon we are at nearly £60. But the advisor points to the 20% discount for a first order. I key in the time I'd like to pick it up (how does "never" sound?) and head back out into the night grumbling.
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A few minutes later I'm staring at those kimonos again and a cartoon-like rendition of the famous Japanese painting, The great wave off Kanagawa.
A charming woman pops out from the back clutching three large parcels, apologising for the delay (two minutes). I melt, I thank her, we have a chat about the place and then I take the parcels and drive home. What lies within is quickly revealed and soon we can see why the prices are elevated.
Noodles are as good as Paul Rankin's in the Roscoff golden years; pork gyoza steamed dumplings have been lightly grilled to produce a tasty little char which works beautifully with the minced, spiced pork. The katsu chicken comes in proper modern TV dinner compartmentalised tray with rice and salad and a separate pot of curry sauce. Sushi is fresh, the small tuna rolls spiced and hot. It's all excellent and heart-warming.
Highlight of the lot is the house mixed tempura which features a prawn, a squid ring, a piece of white fish and softshell crab as well as large, thinly sliced rings of courgettes, aubergines and asparagus in a transparent tempura batter.
Kamakura Sushi is worth a dip. It's expensive but the quality is there. There are a few gripes about what certain things mean on the online menu ("hosomaki sushi tuna rolls (8)" would indicate eight pieces but only six are there) but by and large, it all appears fresh, its tasty and you can order it to pick up at a time that suits you. Thankfully, the computer-says-no thing is a temporary aberration.
Hosomaki tuna roll £6
Pork gyoza £5.50
House mix tempura £9.80
Yasai tempura (veg) £6.80
Norimaki salmon avocado £7.30
Chicken katsu curry £12.80
Steamed rice £2
Fried noodles x 2 £6