Yo! Sushi - A Review by Liz Allen
|Author: Liz Allen||Published: 17th May 2010 21:22|
Restaurant chains seemed to have realised that Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth is the place to be, and hot on the heels of Wagamama came Yo! Sushi at the end of April. Situated opposite Marks and Spencer and next door to Cotton Traders, Yo! Sushi doesn't have the advantage of views from the waterfront, but it makes up for this in other ways.
Having visited Wagamama in Bristol as well as Sakura in Southsea, I wasn't totally unfamiliar with Japanese food, but I was quite unprepared for the conveyor belt experience. I also wasn't sure I would be comfortable sitting on a high chair with a low backrest at a counter, but here I was wrong. The back rest gave good support, and there was at least enough room under the counter for bags. The English waitress who had welcomed us brought menus and asked if we had visited Yo! Sushi before. When we said we hadn't, she explained we could help ourselves to the sushi and desserts that were going round on the double conveyor belt in front of us but that we could call her if we wanted to order hot food. She showed us in the menu that all dishes are priced according to a colour code: they are served on small plates or little shallow bowls with a coloured rim. They go from pale green rims at £1.70 through orange rims at £3.30 up to grey rims at £5 with a couple of others in between. When you finish your meal, the waitress counts how many plates you have of each colour and gives you a slip with details of your drinks as well to take to the till.
The waitress showed us that on the counter there were taps for both fizzy and still water; you can drink as much water as you like for £1. You can also order limitless Japanese green tea for £1.25. My son decided to stick with water, but I ordered a Frobisher's orange juice for £2.30. Yo! Sushi does also offer several wines, sake, Japanese beer, and one or two other soft drinks.
Also on the counter in front of us were a large supply of wooden chopsticks, some wooden teaspoons, glasses for water, a bottle of soya sauce, a pot of wasabi, a container of very thinly sliced fresh ginger, and some very small white dishes for the ginger. The waitress had also shown us that there was a help button you could press to call her. When you do this, the nearest vertical plastic tube, several of which are placed at intervals along the counter, turns from blue to red. Much more fun than having to catch someone's eye!
The waitress left us and we started to look at our menus, which are square booklets with sushi at one end and everything else at the other. There are illustrations of all the items, circled in the appropriate colour so that you can check the price code. I soon decided that I would try the salmon teriyaki, and started to watch the two rows of food passing by on the conveyor belts. They are all covered in transparent plastic domes. I tried to work out what some of the dishes were, but by the time I'd found them on my menu they had gone past! I wondered where the salmon teriyaki was, having already forgotten that hot food had to be ordered from the waitress. My facial expression must have been one of utter confusion, as my son asked me if I wanted to leave. I didn't, but I did feel rather flummoxed. The waitress came back so I ordered my salmon teriyaki and my son asked for a chicken katsu curry. He had already chosen a dish of assorted fish maki (filled rice rolls wrapped in seaweed) from the belt; there were six very small ones, two each of salmon, tuna and prawn with chives. I realised that I was going to have to pick something, but much as I love fish I cannot bring myself to try raw fish. I decided to play safe and grabbed a plate of tamago nigiri - two pieces of rice topped with sweet omelette. The omelette is bound to the rice with a thin strip of seaweed. It was very bland, but I didn't mind this as I had it with some gorgeous fresh ginger and soya sauce. If you aren't keen on ginger, though, stay away - it is a very strong flavour. I passed on the wasabi, which is very spicy.
My son had by that time enthusiastically taken some spicy chicken with grated Asian radish, assorted sprouts and green beans. He also chose a plate of two vegetable futomaki - rice rolls wrapped in seaweed and filled with cucumber, pickled radish, tamago (omelette), carrot and avocado. I tried a tiny piece of the chicken but didn't like the soft consistency, so I agreed to have one of the futomaki rolls. Although I don't normally like either cucumber or radish, I actually enjoyed this. The only problem was actually eating it; I couldn't cut it with the chopsticks so I picked the whole thing up and tried to bite a piece off. Let's just say I'm glad there were no cameras around at that point.
Our hot food was handed to us by a member of the kitchen staff, who work in a central area and are therefore in full view of the customers all the time. The teriyaki salmon was grilled and consisted of three small but quite thick slices, garnished with ginger, cress and a slice of lemon. It was perfectly cooked and absolutely delicious; I can't say I've had better salmon anywhere. My son was impressed by his chicken katsu curry, which is fried chicken on rice with a mild curry sauce and Japanese pickles.
I decided not to overdo the savoury food as the desserts chugging along in front of me were just too tempting. The fresh fruit salad, with slices of pineapple and melon as well as green and purple grapes and a strawberry, looked enticing and healthy, but we decided to try something new with a Japanese slant. My son reached for a plate of mochi - glutinous rice cakes with sweet fillings which are described in the menu as nutritious. I had no hesitation in going for the chocolate mochi, which have a dark chocolate ganache filling and are dusted with cocoa powder. There were two of each, mostly cut in half, so we decided to share them. The ordinary ones were pleasant enough and reminded me a little of marshmallows. The chocolate mochi were absolutely gorgeous, especially the cocoa powder, which had a strong but irresistible flavour. We ate the mochi with chopsticks, except for one that was whole which I cut with a spoon.
When you are ready for the bill, all you have to do is ring the bell and the waitress appears quite promptly. She counted our dishes and gave us a slip of paper with numbers against the colours of the plates, as well as details of the orange juice and water. When we checked, however, it looked as though she hadn't included our desserts, perhaps because the plates were still in front of us rather than stacked in the pile. The waitress came back and adjusted the numbers. Her mistake had been in our favour, but it would always be worth checking in case you are being overcharged.
The bill came to just over £28 to which we added a tip. We paid by card at the till, beside which is a takeaway counter. There were various boxes of sushi available here for around £7 or £8, but it was not fully stocked.
The ladies' toilet was very clean and well appointed. I should perhaps emphasise that the restaurant had only been open for just over forty-eight hours, so I hope the standards of cleanliness will be maintained.
When I went along to the toilets at the back of Yo! Sushi, I noticed that there were a couple of tables with comfortable sofas either side which are presumably intended for larger groups of people. There were a few children around that day, but I didn't see any babies or any sign of high chairs. The restaurant is accessible by wheelchairs.
I have no idea how close the food at Yo! Sushi comes to authentic Japanese food, but I can only say how much I enjoyed it. After my initial confusion, I felt that it was a refreshing change from the usual restaurant experience. Next time I go I will have much more of an idea of what the dishes travelling before me are and what has to be ordered separately. If you have a liking for Oriental food and enjoy variety, I would definitely recommend a visit.
Monday - Saturday: 12 noon until 11pm
Sunday: 12 noon until 10.30pm
Yo! Sushi, 79 Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1 3TZ, Tel. 023 9280 8110