‘The Answer to All Your Sushi Questions,’ Food and Drink Writer Asha Jani reviews Birmingham’s trendiest spot for sushi
This unassuming spot on the edge of Birmingham’s City Centre is the answer to all your sushi questions. Former sushi passion chef Michal Kubiak creates Japanese delights right in front of your eyes, as you sit on high chairs around a bar which overlooks the action. The décor is minimalism in all it’s glory, and the focus is entirely on the food. The menu is big without being overwhelming, with specials available dependent on stock.
Great sushi isn’t easy to come by in Birmingham, and that makes Gaijin Sushi a standout choice for a celebration meal, for example a graduation or a big birthday. The restaurant has a tiny capacity which means that you can make the most of Michal’s expertise, as he is full of tips and advice. The drinks menu is small, but Japanese beers and gins are on offer at a reasonable price. I went for a cranberry and chilli gin and tonic, which was spicy in a deliciously fragrant manner which complimented the sushi wonderfully.
At Gaijin, there is help on hand to talk you through the menu, which is invaluable when dealing with multiple types of sushi. You can order as you go along, or in one go, and then Michal will decide the order that your sushi arrives. He decides based on the sushi’s strength to palate, preparing the least strong tasting sushi first and taking you on a journey which could end with sea urchin if you’re lucky (and adventurous!). Alongside the sushi, we ordered some edamame beans which was a great way to measure the quality of the restaurants food and cooking, as they were beautifully soft and seasoned.
We started with yellowtail nigiri, which had been flown in from Japan just days before. It was my first time trying this, and its subtle but fresh taste and lightness of texture persuaded us to order it in sashimi form. Michal reminded us to cleanse our palates with the wisps of ginger provided, and sweet prawn nigiri followed promptly. Again, its freshness was immediate, and we nodded approvingly as we enjoyed
Next, we had two sets of gunkan, a riceless type of sushi. The fish is solely wrapped in seaweed making this a light interval in the meal. We ordered spicy salmon gunkan and scallop gunkan, which Mikal instructed us to eat quickly to experience the seaweed at its best. It had a delightful sticky quality that I have never noticed before with sushi. What came next was the highlight of the meal – eel nigiri which was drizzled with sticky soy. It was silky and soft and melted in the mouth, leading to a wordless reaction, as only approving mumbles truly did this justice. Some futomaki followed, crispy prawn and soft shell crab. It was now that we decided that we wanted more yellowtail, and so the sashimi arrived – with some surprisingly delicious edible leafage with a citrusy taste. This refreshed us just in time for the grand finale: handroll of sea urchin. Michal did his best to warn us that this was effectively the marmite of the seafood world, and I will not describe its taste in an effort to persuade you to try for yourself. If you enjoy the smell of the sea, you’ll probably love it!
This is by no means a regular student spot, but it is something that you should try to experience during your time in Birmingham. It is an intimate meal where the quality of the ingredients is championed, and the quality of chef is undeniable.