Sunday, 14 December 2014

Lunch at Sushi Passion, Great Western Arcade, Birmingham, 13th December 2014

Our first visit to Sushi Passion yesterday was impromptu, as we had originally planned to get lunch from a market stall in another part of Birmingham city centre, but the stall wasn’t there.  We had also planned to visit Loki Wines, in the Great Western Arcade, so decided to seek out an eatery near there.  We were turned away from one place but eventually spotted Sushi Passion, which is located just a few doors up from Loki.
The promotional literature that we picked up said that the restaurant had been open since August, but neither of us had noticed it before.
Inside, it was quite dimly lit and decorated in a traditional Japanese style, but with added tinsel, Father Christmas mobiles and a Christmas Tree.  There were three types of seating area; low tables with tatami mats, ‘western’ tables and chairs and seating around the  bar area.  The restaurant was doing a brisk trade and the seating area at the front was all occupied but fortunately there was room at the inn, and we were offered seats at the bar.  From our vantage point, we had a good view of the sushi preparation area, and an eye catching miniature train set which surrounded it.  The train included a number of mobile platforms, on which, according to the leaflet, bar orders were delivered, but today it was decorated for Christmas and the orders were delivered by hand.  The atmosphere was further enhanced by new agey Japanese style music and kimono clad front of house staff.
Our places at the bar were set with good quality slate plates and black chopsticks with a rest.  The soy sauce was contained in a miniature pouring pot.
The menu was comprehensive, offering a number of different types of rice-rolled sushi, sashimi, and salads.  There were also several set menus available, catering for newcomer and connoisseur alike.  Everything was prepared to order and it was great to see the brigade at work from our bar seats, and I was especially glad of this as I’ve never been able to roll sushi.
While we were making our lunch choices we saw a beautifully presented plate of sushi leaving the kitchen and were informed that it was the geisha selection.  There was a lot on there, and we were advised that portions were on the generous side.
There was much on the menu to tempt us so we went for a couple of mains and a couple of smaller side dishes.  As this wasn’t a planned visit, I didn’t have my trusty notebook with me so will have to rely on memory to describe what we ordered.  I’ve had to look up the terminology to describe the different styles of sushi that we selected and I’m satisfied that it’s all accurate, so I’ll proceed with it.  For the mains, we went for a California roll, uromaki style, filled with seafood and avocado and topped with a tiny amount of spiced mayonnaise, and a futomaki roll containing duck, tiny slivers of spring onions and a rich plum sauce.  For the smaller sides, we selected a hosomaki roll filled with prawn and spring onion and a seaweed salad gunkanmaki.  Everything was served at the same time on a large fish shaped plate.  A small amount of wasabi and pink pickled gari completed the platter.  As with the geisha set that we saw earlier, the presentation was superb and gave us confidence in the quality of the food.
We were both very happy with everything that we were presented with.  All of the rolls were expertly prepared and held their shape well.  We were able to eat each piece in two bites without them falling apart.  The sauces were small in quantity but highly flavoured and maintained an ideal balance with the other ingredients.  We were able to taste the nori, rice, fillings and sauce, and very much enjoyed the delicate fresh tastes of the rolls with the tiny bursts of flavour from the sauces.
There was also an extensive drinks menu, including Japanese beers, sake and soft drinks.  There were also a few different types of tea but the only one I can remember was Taiwanese Oolong.  We chose the Japanese Lemonade which came in glass bottles with a tiny sphere of glass in its own compartment at the top of the bottle.  The taste was  unlike any other lemonade that I’ve tried before.  It was smooth and reminded me of a mixture of lychee and bubblegum.  Until this visit I never realised sake could be served hot.  This seemed to be an extremely popular choice of drink among our fellow diners.
After finishing the main meal, we felt comfortable enough to order a couple of desserts.  Most were ice cream based, but there was also a fruit salad available with a ginger sauce.  The green tea ice cream was sold out, and we were too nervous to try the wasabi ice cream, so opted instead for a selection of flavoured mochi coated ice cream balls.  There were a few flavourings available for the mocha, and we chose coconut, yuzu and caramel.  In terms of taste, these were certainly on the delicate side, and the portion sizes were small, but they made for an ideal after lunch sweetener.  My only criticism of the lunch was that the desserts were served with disposable wooden teaspoons, as used in outdoor catering venues.  These were mismatched with the otherwise immaculate place settings but if it was part of a conscious decision by the restaurant to use biodegradables then that’s absolutely fair enough.
After finishing dessert we felt full, but not over-faced so asked for the bill.  There was no card machine and payments were taken one table at a time via iPad.  The staff explained this when we asked for the bill but there was no undue delay, even on a Saturday, so it wasn’t a problem.
Taking into account portion sizes, quality of food and standard of service, the price was very reasonable.  It came to just shy of £40.
In conclusion, we were both very happy with this discovery and would happily recommend, and indeed encourage, others to give it a try.  Service is professional, polite and friendly, with a knowledgeable front of house staff who can assist diners who haven’t tried sushi before, and also offer recommendations and advice to those who have.
The restaurant doesn’t have a web site, but maintains a presence on Facebook, which can be accessed here: Sushi Passion Facebook profile

Review written by Dee 14th December 2014

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