It’s that time of term: the clocks have gone back, so there seems to be about 3 hours of daylight each day. You’ve got an unthinkable number of deadlines left, you’re hungover, and about to develop late onset freshers flu. At times like this, I highly value the importance of good food. Nothing soothes the body and soul better than a good meal, and Edamame is my haven of choice.
Edamame is a gem amongst the Oxford chains. The city’s authentic restaurants leave much to be desired, and unless you trek into deepest Cowley, you’re unlikely to find anything beyond your standard Pret and Mission Burrito. Walking off Holywell Street on a dark Saturday evening, the restaurant’s warmth and lively chatter welcomes you in. It’s small, and they don’t take bookings – your best bet is to get there at the beginning or end of service, and not in a group more than 4, or risk a significant queue. We arrived a little before 6, and were sitting down with a glass of sake within 10 minutes in a cosy corner by the kitchen.
Ask anyone living in Oxford who claims to enjoy good Japanese food, and they’ll surely point out Edamame. Sushi restau- rants in England often fall into two types: you’ve got the standard sushi chains: Itsu, Wasabi, Sushimania. Then you have the overpriced big names: Nobu, Araki, Tetsu – just some of London’s more than £100 a head restaurants.
What’s far harder to find (and I’ve found to be one of the more endless searches) is a middle ground; affordable, but still authen- tic, convenient, but still quality. Edamame is perhaps the first place I’ve found that ticks every box, and it could not do it better. It’s been open in the same premises since 1998, and its charming location perfectly suits its homely atmosphere.
We read the menus while waiting in the queue; as we’re there on a Saturday, it’s the standard menu (sushi night is Thursday, and equally absolutely worth the huge queue). We start with the restaurant’s namesake, steamed edamame beans, as well as some sparkling sake and green tea. They also bring the bata horenso, some beautifully seasoned pan fried spinach, and jaga batu, fried potato chunks which are perhaps one of the restaurant’s blander offering. The food comes quickly – their table turning is pretty frequent, as befits a restaurant that, by eye, doesn’t sit more than 25 people at a time. In quick succession follows the samon furai, a salmon fillet deep fried in bread- crumbs – the salmon remains tender, and falls apart nicely ; the chikin katsu – edamame’s take on the now eponymous Japanese fried chicken; and finally the samon teri, a salmon fillet poached in teriyaki sauce which was universally agreed to be the restaurant’s strongest offering – sweet, but not overpoweringly so.
I can very much attest to Edamame’s claim of home cooked style Japanese food, and it certainly revived our group. The bill came out at around £16 each – incredibly reasonable for food of this quality. If you’re suffering from mid-term woes, and you need some comfort food to make better your essay crisis: Edamame is the place to go, and it’s worth the wait.