Restaurant review: Edo, Christchurch
"Should you be ingesting a heavy metal?" The query came from the other side of the table. The daughter of two scientists talks like that sometimes.
It didn't put me off in the slightest. I cupped the shiny red lacquer box the sake had been served in, gave it a swirl to get the gold flecks up off the bottom, and drank from the corner edge as instructed. The "on special" Takara Sho Chiku Bai had a lovely mouthfilling refined fruitiness.
Our excellent waiter said gold leaf sake was usually drunk for celebrations. We didn't have anything in particular to celebrate, but the fact it was $9 instead of the usual $15 was good enough. Hooray!
This was our first visit to Edo and I really enjoyed it. The heart of this Japanese restaurant is the experience of chef Toshi Uenosono, whose resume includes ex-Sala Sala, ex-Yamagen, re-branded Cookai Gold Fusion, ex-Park Royal. When it comes to Japanese food, there's nothing like a good dollop of been-there done-that knowledge in the kitchen.
Quality ingredients will take anyone a long way, but good restaurants win in the margins with subtlety and nuance. I saw enough of this at Edo to impress.
I liked the very finely tapered chopsticks, how a fern leaf was etched into the ball of wasabi with the mixed sashimi platter, the delicate way apple slices were fanned, the artfully carved vegetables, and carefully placed garnishes. All these things help to round out the whole dining experience a Japanese restaurant.
The little restaurant has the usual airy minimalist look inside and the go-for-it garish touches on the outside. Generic piano music played in the background.
Abandoning our setpiece approach to Japanese, we skipped the usual edamame beans for salmon skin tempura and vegetable yaki balls. The battered skins were interesting, but more batter than skin, and I lost interest half way through a huge pile. I did like the wasabi-spiked dipping mayo they came with and carried on dipping with my finger.
The yaki are dark little fried balls made from a gooey-gluey batter. They should have been minced octopus, but apparently octopus was also on the "do not ingest" list so we played safe. There was a strong vegie flavour in the balls, though not much texture, however with the mayo and a salty sweet sauce made an enjoyable combination.
Two of our other dishes starred tuna. An inside-out spicy tuna roll was a large maki sushi offering tuna and avocado with a spicy mayo across the top. The waiter said it was their biggest seller. I can see why. It was very good, with the tuna making a big difference. The rice was excellent, which is a funny thing to say, but so often it's what drags down the usual lunchtime salmon sushi roll.
But my highlight, as it always is, was the assorted sashimi plate. Edo's omakase sashimi had more of that beautiful meaty blue fin tuna, salmon, two white fish - gurnard and tarakihi - and some tender squid in a spoon.
I was in heaven sipping sake and dipping fish, so much so that when a toddler started wailing a few tables away I just smiled benignly in an understanding way.
Nanban chicken off the teppan section of the menu came as really juicy carved slices of chicken thigh with a crispy skin and a vinegary nanban sauce. The menu promised a dipping sauce. There was no separate container so assumed the chicken had been pre-dipped for. Whatever, it would have been good to have more sauce.
A fairly standard green tea icecream finished the meal. On special was a tiramisu, but that didn't seem right.
At the counter, the waiter took our bowl of plain rice off the bill. We'd barely touched it and earlier he'd thought we might need it, so he decided he needed to make that right. It was a classy touch to end an uplifting meal out.
AT A GLANCE
Edo Japanese Restaurant
493 Papanui Rd, ph 03 366-8688
Licensed and BYO allowed
Price range: Starters up to $12; mains up to $28; maki/nigiri sushi up to $20; desserts up to $10
Cost: $85.50 for two (excluding drinks)
Wine list ★★