Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Tokyo Season, Manchester
An oasis of calm in jam packed Portland Street!
I don't believe in New Year's resolutions as I believe if you want to change something in your life, it should start ASAP and not be dependent on a particular day in the year. When I moved to Manchester, I set two challenges for myself: 1. to experience something different every week, be it bubble tea or a fish pedicure, and 2. to visit every restaurant in glorious Chinatown! When I popped into Tokyo Season, I killed two birds with one stone.
Tokyo Season is a wonderful Japanese restaurant on the outskirts of Chinatown on Portland Street, and is situated in the basement so you don't have to look at Magic Buses belching out fumes and scruffy chavs coming out of Yates's, erm well, belching!
As soon as you step into this little slice of Japan, the calm and tranquility envelopes you into a cosy yet unstuffy culinary paradise and the exquisitely dressed waitress makes you feel welcome. I visited on a Sunday afternoon and was lucky enough to get a traditional booth. The booths mean you have to take your shoes off and enter the seating area via a sliding door, the seats being slightly sunken in relation to the table and floor. Very 'Lost in Translation'! Being inexperienced in all matters Japanese, I opened the menu (and my Vindaloo- blinkered eyes) to discover what treats were on offer. Previously, my Japanese experiences had been limited- I love the veggie sushi in Tesco for example, but my eating out experiences were bad. The first was in 2005 at a Berlin bar named Silberstein (I know, what a Germanic name) which was pretentious with weird, scruffy staff hankering for tips, and the second was in my earlier review at No 1 Sushi, Edinburgh. Tokyo Season offered an outstanding choice of dishes and even though veggies normally draw the short straw when it comes to dealing with the cast of Finding Nemo that Japanese restaurants tend to offer, it was clear to see here which dishes were herbivorous. I chose a lunch special for £7.99 which included a drink (Japanese green tea for me!), a stirfry of veggies and yakiudon noodles and 4 pieces of sushi.
The tea was cleansing and I chose a refreshing Aloe Vera water to down my meal with. This tastes like normal flavoured spring water but with Aloe Vera globules inside, making even drinking something as boring as water exciting!
The Yakiudon were a dream. These noodles have a brilliantly chewy texture and were fried with minicorn and mushrooms, flavoured with soy sauce. Heaven.
My sushi platter was like a work of art! Our hostess explained what was in each small parcel, one of them was rice encased in tofu skin which was a pleasure for the senses, and were served the proper way with ginger to cleanse the palate after each morsel, and wasabi for the daring vindaloo queens amongst us.
As I digested this feast, I took in the calm surroundings, the cool bamboo furnishings making me yearn for a country I am yet to visit.
This bountiful lunch deal was rather filling, but it left me hungry for my next visit. I highly recommend you escape from the garish lights and too cheap to be true buffets and visit Tokyo Season to rest your eyes and mind from the rat race of central Manchester. Believe me, your soul will thank you for it!
UPDATE:In March 2011, we paid a return visit, ordered a business lunch (not the cheapest or biggest portion in Chinatown, mind) and were rudely told no meat was included in this set lunch (Yes, I'm a veggie anyway, but nonetheless I found it impolite, a sign of penny pinching.) Then, another gentleman came in and she told him there was a service charge for sitting in the booths what she failed to tell us, not that I can see what difference it is whether you sit on a normal table or a booth.
Finally, as we came to pay, she told us we couldn't pay with debit card if we were getting a business lunch. When challenged, she came up with a cock and bull story that it costs the restaurant 50p per card transaction which is ok on a normal meal but not on a business lunch. At this point, we were truly lost in translation. 'Next time,' she warned us,'if you get business lunch again, you bring cash, yes?' No, missy. There won't be a next time. Or any further recommendation.
Edited Jan 2012