A new Japanese restaurant arrives on the block with all the classics you could want, and enough artwork and paraphernalia to start a small museum
It’s a cold, wet October night, and Edinburgh is full of half-hearted cowboys. Walking to MIJU – the new Japanese restaurant that search engines will insist on autocorrecting to everyone’s favourite fancy pen shop – takes us past a host of students heading for an early Halloween despite the fact that it’s literally raining in multiple directions at once. This is it for the foreseeable, so what better than a piping hot bowl of ramen, all umami and noodles and big slices of meat? There’s a ‘soupy season/spooky season’ pun in here somewhere, but we can’t find it because the rain has seeped into our pockets.
As glum as it is outside, stepping into the Dalry Road spot instantly takes you from ‘can’t see because rain’ to ‘can’t see because too much’. From the pumpkin-shaped lamps on the tables to the flags, bunting and lanterns everywhere, MIJU is an explosion of script, signage and graphic design. Less is not more, more is more, and this is more than anyone can process in one go. Anyone with a soft spot for retro iconography will have an absolute blast scanning the objects, posters and artwork – see how many smoking children you can spot on the walls! It’s more than you’d expect! In fact, there’s so much going on that we didn’t initially notice a child-sized vinyl figure sitting on MIJU’s short staircase with his head in his hands. That’s child-sized as in ‘the size of a human child’.
But this is a restaurant, not a museum of Japanese advertising and cool USB-powered lamps, so let’s get to the food. First, sushi: maki with Oshinko radish (£3.90) and salmon and avocado (£4.70) are well put-together, with flavourful rice and wasabi that lets you know it’s there without trying to set your sinuses on fire. The tuna nigiri (£4.90) is great; there is so much subtle skill and technique to sushi-making that we can’t necessarily pinpoint why, but the texture of the fish is fantastic, so props to the chef and to the fish.
Our socks are slowly drying out, so let’s speed that process up with some hot bits. The takoyaki (£6.90) are tasty if a little underpowered (more octopus in the octopus balls, please) and the vegetable gyoza (£5.80) are solid but unspectacular. No, this paragraph is all about the Japanese pork cheese sausage (£4.30). A skewer of three dinky, super-smoky and soy-glazed sausages somehow infused with oozy, gooey cheese. Is it bits of cheese, or one long tendril of cheese, or some kind of injection situation? Who’s to say, all we know is these are just the kind of comfort foods that will see us all through winter.
Finally, to the ramen. The Tonkotsu ramen (£11.90) and Miso ramen (£11.50) are both meaty bowls that don’t overplay their hand. The flavours are there, but delivered in a lighter and less-industrial tone than in some ramens. (This writer’s all-time top bowl of ramen had a broth so thick it was basically gravy – incredible, but you couldn’t eat it every day). The pork belly balances sweet and smoky nicely, and, mercifully, is delivered in thin slices rather than in one big ol’ block. As for the differences, the Miso ramen lightens things up with green beans and a gingery tang; the Tonkotsu is a direct hit from the meat cannon.
MIJU is a welcome addition and a good place to start a winter of ‘trying all of the ramens’, but there is a sense of attempting one or two too many things at once. This is typified by the incredible waitress literally running around the restaurant serving eight tables at once, dashing back and forth past the lad with his hands on his head. The decor has the maximal part of the brief covered; MIJU can concentrate and take their time with the rest. After all, it’s not like anyone’s rushing to go back outside in *that* weather.
93 Dalry Rd, Edinburgh, EH11 2AB; Tue-Fri, 12-2.30pm and 5-10.30pm, Sat-Sun 12-10.30pm