We just had to try Yakinori – which serves authentic Japanese cuisine including noodles, sushi, bento, tempura, teriyaki, ramen, teppanyaki, donburi, chicken katsu and okonomiyaki. We headed down about an hour after it first opened and were very surprised by just how busy it was! Located between the Sainsburys Local and Seoul Plaza on Bristol Road, it was very easy to find and being so close to the university Yakinori should become very popular with students! They also have a takeaway box for £3.99 containing noodles or rice with a range of toppings including teriyaki, katsu curry and many more.
Long story short, as Yakinori had just opened we went in expecting teething problems, which we did encounter and won’t try to hide, but in the end the food and amazing service made up for it.
The interior was adorable, covered in Japanese-style cartoons. There was a bar around the kitchen where you could sit and clearly watch the chefs cooking your meal in front of you!
To start, I ordered takoyaki, crispy fried balls filled with octopus, while she opted for yasai tempura; sweet potato, broccoli, courgette and aubergine served with tempura sauce.
Having tried takoyaki several times in a popular chain (please don’t hate me!) I was very excited to see it on the menu. The takoyaki were delicious, crunchy on the outside yet soft and melty on the inside. One had the largest piece of octopus I’d ever seen so I was really happy with this dish.
Her tempura was absolutely delicious and she said it almost made up for the amount of time we had to wait! The sweet potato, courgette, aubergine and broccoli were deep-fried perfectly. Having grown up in a vegetarian house, she had always wondered what it would be like fried in tempura batter… her verdict – “Good god, broccoli needs to be deep-fried every single time.” The tempura dip was absolutely delicious and worked so well with the other ingredients!
For mains, I opted for a chicken okonomiyaki while she chose a pumpkin and tofu bento box. Okonomiyaki is a popular street food in Japan, made up of yakisoba noodles layered with red and white cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, spring onion, terriyaki chicken and a fried egg combined in the normal tempura batter.
Having previously made it at home, I thought I should find out how the professionals make it and I absolutely ordered the right dish. The chicken (which was in quite sizeable pieces) were delicious and as it came with okonomyaki sauce (similar to the sauce on top of takoyaki) it was an all round winner for me. Also, if I’m honest, I had forgotten that okonomyaki came with noodles so they were an excellent surprise which worked so well as a contrast in texture to the tempura batter and crispy cabbage. Also, this dish was unbelievably filling!
Her pumpkin and tofu bento box came with fresh tofu and a fried pumpkin croquette, served with an agedashi sauce, inari sushi, spinach tamago (a mini omelette), wok fried greens and sticky rice. It was also simply the cutest bento box.
The pumpkin was absolutely delicious and melted in the mouth and we need to figure out how to make this at home! The tofu was very soft yet as it had just come off the grill, the outside was still slightly crispy! The stir fried vegetables were really good, filling and homely. She had never had an omelette that had been cooked in the same way as tamago, but she really enjoyed it as it was really soft and delicious. She really enjoyed this dish, but she already has her eye on the yasai katsu or the yasai kokonatsu for next time!
As we had been waiting for a while, we were also offered a complementary miso soup which we thought was very kind.
As it was the first lunch service for Yakinori, service was a bit hectic which meant we were left waiting for our food for quite a while. We think this was purely down to the chefs getting used to the order system (as at one point we did see a pile of unordered receipts that the chef was just sifting through). However, the staff were truly impressive in light of the situation, being calm and collected and doing their best to help out (even cracking a few jokes here and there!). We’re sure these issues will be ironed out very soon – if not already – as the staff were getting used to the system by the time we were almost finished. Even with these issues, Yakinori had a great atmosphere and we can’t wait to come back soon.
(PS we were really impressed with the gentleman in the white shirt and Armani jeans (we later found out this was Ali, the manager!), and the waitress who were both very kind and attentive)
We’d absolutely recommend Yakinori to anyone looking for authentic Japanese food in Birmingham. With a second restaurant opening in Grand Central when it’s complete, it’s going to be so hard to resist going in every time I get off the train!