Only a couple of weeks ago, I was bemoaning to friends the lack of a decent East Asian restaurant in the East Riding.
They’re there, of course, but always seem to be the same basic Chinese serving stir fry this and sweet and sour that.
Oh, for a bit of sophistication, some new taste sensations. Then, as if my wishes were being monitored by a generous culinary genie, I heard about Ogino.It’s a first floor 50-ish seater upmarket Japanese restaurant in Beverley with a minimalist (but comfy) interior, an open kitchen and a hugely intriguing menu. That’s the very fellow for me, I thought, thank you Mr Genie-san. Best of all, it was opening a few days later.
Now, only a bounder of a reviewer would turn up to anonymously critique a new restaurant on their opening night, so I very gallantly waited until they’d been open a full 24 hours before sitting down to eat. They’ll have all the creases ironed out by now, I unfairly reasoned. Of course they hadn’t but, the odd perfectly understandable ordering error aside, we had a fantastic evening of adventure, surprise, and quite delicious grub.
Determined to try a bit of everything we went for the Zensai tasting platter for two, what came was a foot-square slab of slate with rolls of sushi, skewers of deep fried pork and leek, Japanese seaweed, tempura mushrooms and enough bowls, dabs and smears of sauces and dips to keep us amused as we fought over which one went with which.To my surprise (being occasionally wary of over-fishy dishes) the the crab, caviar and flying fish roe concoction found favour with me but there was really very little between all of the options, deliciousness-wise. The chef is apparently an alumnus of the sushi bar in Harrods and the quality of the ingredients and presentation certainly matched anything you can imagine being served there.
Next up we shared an Ogino special sushi roll which featured tiger prawn, avocado, asparagus and more caviar. It was a delight, a different taste in every bite. Just as good was the Gindara saiko yaki main course; a cod fillet which had been steeped in miso and then grilled and served on a bed of Japanese veg.
The combination of light, flaky fish and sweet miso was a succulent and tasty but, quite honestly, at £15.70 there could have been a bit more food on the plate.Plates didn’t enter the equation with my main course. It may seem unadventurous to order steak when the menu leans so heavily toward fish, but the menu said that the Ishiyaki steak arrived at the table sizzling on a volcanic stone. Now, I’m a sucker for a bit of theatre and any restaurant that offers me a dish served on hot volcanic stone is appealing to the Palladium in me.
What arrived was a little unexpected; a plate of raw ingredients – mushroom, tofu, spring onion and six cubes of steak – was presented along with a sesame dip, a soy dip and a slab of rock which was so hot it must have been quarried directly from the erupting heart of Mount Fuji. The table of four diners on the table behind me suddenly became very interested in my dish as they had all ordered the same and theirs was due to arrive. I was now centre stage in this performance.
The dish is a great idea but the reality of cooking the food from scratch at the table was actually a bit of a non-starter. The main problem was the sirloin steak had too much fat running through it to serve and eat in this way. If you eat a sirloin on a plate with a knife and fork you can choose to circumvent the fattiest part if you so wish, cooking and eating these chunks with chopsticks meant that the whole piece had to go in my mouth and then partially masticated remains ejected back out. If that’s unpleasant to read, imagine what it’s like to have to do in the restaurant with other diners watching you.
Apparently, I was the first customer to try that dish at Ogino and the owners were very keen to get my feedback at the end of the night.
I have to say it was the only part of the meal that succumbed to opening night jitters and its failure was utterly unrepresentative. They have now altered the dish so that it is served with strips of much leaner steak which is seared before it arrives so that you choose when to remove it from the stone rather than cooking from raw. A solid but still theatrical solution, I say.
Pricewise, Ogino is not cheap. It can’t be compared to a more familiar three course meal as you tend to eat bits and bobs from the menu but I think it’s fair to say that two of us had a good bellyful and drinks (including a Sake taster, yum) for our £110.
Having never had the privilege of visiting Japan, I can’t tell you if the cuisine is authentic; what I can say is that I’ve eaten in Japanese restaurants in several places around the world and the food we had at Ogino was as good as I’ve had in any of those places.
An occasional treat it may be but it could prove to be highly addictive.
Lunch: Wed-Fri 12:00 to 2.30pm. Dinner:Tue- Sun 6.00pm to 10.30pm. Sat & Sun Lunch:12.00pm to 3.00pm.
Ogino, 1st Floor, Beaver House, Butchers Row, Beverley, HU17 0AA. Tel: 01964 679500.