the ingestigator: Edamame Holywell St

Think Japanese, and what do you get? Sushi, for sure – or that’s what most people come up with; Wagamama ramen at a stretch. So heading over to Edamame for lunch last week I had quite the journey of discovery.

Once I could get, that is! The restaurant is tiny, tucked away under those wonky houses that line Holywell; once you can get a space, don’t go expecting white tablecloths and the quiet babble of chat – Edamame is so popular, you’re guaranteed to have to share a table. A little nervous, my friend told me knowingly to unleash my inner Asian… to this day, I wonder quite what she meant! However, I soon came to realise this cheek-by-jowl only adds to the family atmosphere – there’s such a convivial feel to the place, and a quick turnover ensures, and reassures, that it’s all for good reason.

Speaking of which: the food. The most important thing about Edamame is you’ve got to come at the right time – they operate three menus, all at different times, and all quite different. The lunch (devoid of sushi) revolves mostly around dishes of tender meat on a base of rice or noodles, with heaps of diced vegetables and sauce, often with a real kick. The chicken kara-agé bursts with ginger, for example; or the salmon teri, with its own house teriyaki sauce – both have turned out real treats on previous visits. This time around, I went for the pork shoyu ramen – chunks of meat on a noodle base, mixed with bamboo shoots, beansprouts and leeks, all in a large bowl of broth. Sounds odd, tastes divine – can anyone make what sounds like slop taste so good as the Japanese?! My friend abstained, and went instead for the chicken curry- breaded and deep-fried, it came sizzling on a bed of rice, with healthy amounts of, again, the house’s own sauce. It tasted amazing – and the miso soup side did too.

Edamame’s menu isn’t huge (although evenings do offer quite a lot more choice), and there’s an unusual pay-as-you-go system meaning you have to cough up when you order. Don’t be phased though – this place is really worth it. You’d never know it was here, but personally a raft of recommendations has kept coming my way even once I’d discovered the place – it’s even been in the Lonely Planet. It’s that good. And for those who can’t quite let go, there’s even a special sushi night every Thursday – jo excuse. That said, just one thing: as the menu says itself, “get there early!”

Price: About three times hall, well worth it

Food: Rich, enriching

Atmosphere: Bustling backstreet gem

Richard North