Yum Yum Ninja Brighton
15-18 Meeting House Ln Brighton BN1 1HB
I spent my student years in Brighton. It was the late 70s/early 80s and I was social secretary at Sussex University. My life revolved around playing and promoting music, drinking cocktails with salacious names, and eating out as often as my student budget would allow. Brighton’s Lanes were a regular haunt for the latter two elements of my out-of-college education and somehow the sound of seagulls became intertwined with my bacchanalian baccalaureate.
I was a bit nervous on being invited to sample the menu at Yum Yum Ninja and it wasn’t from a Tippi Hedrenesque fear of the local flying rodents. It was the restaurant’s name which was the cause for concern- it seemed a bit gimmicky. However on finding out that the people behind the venue had good form in Brighton, with the prize-winning Due South and seafood specialists Riddle and Finns already in their stable, my interest was certainly piqued. Finding the place was not easy as it is tucked away in a hidden courtyard, but once located it was clearly an attractive space with seating inside and out.
The menu majors in classics of Asian cuisine with tapas style and larger dishes. There is an emphasis on fresh locally sourced seafood and specific Bincho (barbecued skewers over charcoal) and Dim Sum menus.
To celebrate our arrival Fiona from London Unattached and I started on a carafe of chilled Dassai Otter Festival sake (£6.50). It was delicious, well-balanced with a slight citrus note and was the perfect foil for our pre-lunch nibbles from the Ninja Snack Basket (£3).
Pickled cucumber was cool and refreshing with only a mildly pickled taste.
Freshly made Tapioca and squid ink crackers were a revelation, crunchy and unctuous and given body by the umami richness of squid ink.
The Korean staple Kimchi was a chilli fest of spicy crunchy pickled cabbage.
Monkfish cheek skewers (3 FOR £3.75) from the Bincho menu were charcoal hot with the skin suitably charred.
It would have been bad manners not to try some Dim Sum and the Har Kouw (3 FOR £3.95), which came with a mirin (sweet sake), soy sauce and rice vinegar dipping sauce were stuffed with plump prawns and had a suitably glutinous casing. It might be more authentic for the prawns to be minced but these had a good taste.
Tori Kara-age Chicken (£7.95) was deep fried and battered and came with a lovely hot scotch bonnet mayonnaise.
Kyoto style aubergine (£6) came in two ways, deep fried and roasted and really lived up to the cliche of being melt in the mouth.
Tempura of soft shell crab (£11) with a yuzu dressing had a terrific batter that allowed the crab flavour through and was complemented by the sour citrus dressing of the yuzu.
Oysters (£2 each) with a Wafu (Japanese style dressing with oil and soy sauce) and Ponzu (Japanese dressing with citrus and soy sauce) dressing were fresh rock oysters with good flavour and given an oriental twist by the dressing.
(£8.95) had a breadcrumb panko batter and came with a great Octo vinaigrette, spiced up with garlic, ginger, chile and soy sauce, courtesy of David Chang’s New York hipster noodle hangout Momofuku.
To finish we had a taster plate of their desserts (£9.95 to share). Highlights were the Plum pie which was like a sexed-up pop tart and the lethal Toffee Wontons which probably should be banned for anyone over the age of 40.
When I was invited to review Yum Yum Ninja I wasn’t too excited about going-I had thought it would another identikit pan-Asian joint cashing in on the seaside trade. However the rather serious young men in the kitchen have clearly done their homework-the quality of produce, cooking and the variety in the menu create a pretty compelling offer at the price point that wouldn’t be out of place in Soho let alone Soho-upon-Sea.
The Hedonist was a guest of Yum Yum Ninja’s
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