A mind-boggling selection of sushi, ramen and Japanese delights await at Benotya.
Just around the corner from the bustle of Lothian Road, the entrance to Bentoya on Bread Street is modest, but we were warmly welcomed on arrival and quickly shown to our horigotatsu table.
Once we climbed in and got settled on the cushions we were perfectly comfy despite both being fairly leggy. The interior is casual, with wire-caged lanterns and strung lights providing a warm glow as the restaurant bustled with diners and delivery orders.
We began to flick through the tome of a menu, excited at the prospect of some fabulous Scottish ingredients being fused with traditional Japanese cuisine. There’s much more than just the sushi and ramen promised in the restaurant’s tag-line, but we had come for the sushi and ramen, so sushi and ramen we were determined to have.
The food comes as it’s ready at Bentoya, so rather than starters we ordered a few small plates which provided conundrums aplenty as we decided on what we’d like to share.
Decisions eventually made we plumped for the aubergine goma (£4.90), which was sweet with honey and savoury with miso and deliciously moreish. The vegetable gyoza (£5.20) filling was perfectly tender, surrounded by a delicate, lightly fried dough. The dipping sauce was both spicy and tart and as we ran out of gyoza I’m sure I caught a glimpse of hubby dipping a finger in it. A claim he will undoubtedly attempt to refute. The spicy squid (£5.90) was perfectly crisp with a fiery kick of chilli and disappeared at lightning speed.
The chef kindly sent us a wee extra to enjoy in the form of a salmon tatiki. I believe this may be the first time I’ve tried a combination of salmon and mango, and despite a subtly raised eyebrow, I loved the freshness of the lightly seared fish along with the sweetness and sharpness of the fruit. The ponzu sauce adding an extra layer of sweet and savoury pleasure.
By this stage my lack of aptitude with the chopsticks had seen me spill soy sauce all over my shoes and my napkin looked like an extra from an episode of The Walking Dead, but I was having the time of my life as I rejoiced in the fact that the ramen could be eaten with the aid of a spoon.
The Crazy Tonkotsu Ramen with Prawn Katsu (£12.90) was rich and flavoursome. I could have eaten the boiled egg all day long and the crispy spicy prawns were a joy dipped in the spicy pork broth.
I’m a sucker for soft shell crab and couldn’t resist the beautifully presented spider roll (£12.50), a cornucopia of colours, textures and flavours incorporating avocado and sesame and topped with flying fish roe and crisp tempura flakes. Maki came in the form of Negi Toro Futomaki (£9.50), tender and outrageously-fresh bluefin tuna tartare with spring onions, shiso and shallots.
The food all came quickly and we enjoyed watching the chefs at work in the kitchen as we ate. The staff at Bentoya were incredibly charming and attentive and knowledgeable about the dishes. They were also far too polite to comment on the fact that the table looked like the set of a horror movie, thoroughly splattered with various sauces and generously peppered with sesame seeds, by the time we left.
On my return I’ll smuggle in a pack of anti-bac wipes and be sure to clean up after my next frenzied chopstick assault.
Bentoya, 13 Bread Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AL
Tel: 0131 629 3993