We hit up Oxford’s favourite authentic Japanese eatery for its first Sushi Thursday of term. Put off by college’s stodgy-sounding offering of beef bourguignon, we found a delightfully fresh alternative in Holywell Street’s Edamame. The early evening sushi night on a Thursday seems, from the size of the queues, to have become an Oxford institution, and rightly so.
On arrival at Edamame – the restaurant takes no bookings and has limited space so an early arrival is advised (we arrived at 17:30 and by 17:45 there were queues out the door) – we were promptly given a menu of the evening’s fare.Thursday night’s menu is restricted to sushi or sashimi, yet there is an impressive variety of styles to be tried. As a party of three, we decided to share a selection of the sushi on offer and picked five sushi dishes and three sides.
We began our feast with the eponymous edamame beans and went on to choose a Gunkan set (mixed fish sushi wrapped in seaweed), a more classic nigiri set, a tuna and salmon sashimi dish, and a Makizushi special set. This selection gave us the chance to try different sushi styles, as well as a variety of fish–the Gunkan set included salmon eggs and the nigiri featured octopus for the more intrepid gastronomes.
The sushi itself was excellent, and the freshness of the fish, particularly the tuna and salmon sashimi, was evident. Edamame makes all its sushi on site and this certainly comes through in the food; this said, the homemade nature of the nigiri resulted in a lack of cohesion between the rice and salmon, causing some crumbling issues. The Makizushi set was a special – be sure to check the walls for these, they are not made obvious on the menus – and the strongly flavoured seaweed wrapping, as well as the crunchy pickled radish in this dish, provided an interesting taste not to be found in high-street sushi chains.
As well as the edamame beans, we had side dishes of spinach and sushi rice. While satisfying and delicious, these dishes were a little overpriced at £3 each, given their size. Those seeking a more authentic experience should try fish flakes on the spinach, something we were too cowardly to do. The sushi rice had the perfect sticky texture and tones of vinegar and it provided a good dose of carbs to thicken out the otherwise light meal.
To kick off Hilary in style we ordered a tokkura (150ml jug) of sake, which is served in small, traditionally painted ceramic cups, as well as cups of green tea and an oolong cha. While sake is most probably not to everyone’s liking, it once again made our experience more authentic and was a nice touch.
Overall, Edamame offers a great eating experience conveniently located in the heart of Oxford. While there are cheaper restaurants to be found, Edamame does not compromise on quality or freshness for what is essentially a well-priced meal. A great find for sushi lovers and ‘shinnichi’, but be prepared to queue.