Japanese food has always been my favourite cuisine. Even before I could spell or even pronounce ‘sushi’, I already knew that any kind of seaweed wrapped around rice was my favourite dish. So after two years of being Japanese-food deprived in Teesside, an Izakaya (a type of Japanese bar where small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks) finally opened in Middlesbrough across Teesside University and my cravings were fulfilled.
Umi originally began as a stall in Orange Pip Market, Middlesbrough’s monthly food and arts market located on Baker Street. After popular demand, they finally opened Middlesbrough’s only Japanese restaurant and bar. Bringing authentic food and an authentic ambience, Umi is just what ever-growing Middlesbrough needed to broaden the town’s culture.
FLAME SALMON AND TAMAGO NIGIRI
For starters, my friend and I ordered flame salmon sushi and tamago nigiri to share. This was a mistake, as we did not realize how small the portions were for it’s price. This said, the flame salmon was so good I forgot for a second how costly it was per bite. Although the flame salmon had more flavour, the tamago nigiri just seemed the taste better- maybe it was because it wasn’t overpriced for what it is. The only bad thing about sushi tasting this good is that it will always leave you wanting more.
FLAME SALMON (2 pieces): £3.50
TAMAGO NIGIRI (2 pieces: £2.20
CHICKEN KATSU CURRY AND CHICKEN TERIYAKI DONBURI
Chicken katsu curry donburi is one of my ultimate favourite dishes, not just out of all other Japanese dishes, but in general. Which is why it was so important to me that the only Japanese restaurant in Middlesbrough could serve authentic and delicious chicken katsu curry donburi.
Umi lived up to my ridiculously high expectations. The chicken was tender on the inside but crispy on the outside, and the flavourful curry drizzled on top suited the chicken perfectly. The curry did have a sweet aftertaste, which some may not enjoy, but personally, it tastes so much better that way as it gives your mouth a different experience from the crispy chicken.
My friend’s chicken teriyaki donburi however, was not greeted by the same reaction of my donburi. Taste wise, the dish was authentic and delicious. However, the portion of chicken and rice was not equal, causing my friend to be quite unhappy with her meal.
KATSU CHICKEN CURRY DON: £6.90
TERIYAKI CHICKEN DON: £6.90
Overall, if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese experience in Teesside, Umi is the place to go. Not just because, there’s nowhere else to go, but because of the food is genuinely delicious and the atmosphere was authentic. However, because of the price, I would not suggest this place as a ‘casual’ restaurant that you could visit once a week, especially on a student budget. It’s also quite small and only has limited seating available, so it’s always a good idea to book beforehand, especially if you’re a party larger than four.
Ever since opening, Umi has been expanding their menu and sharing their new creations on their social media pages. I can’t wait to come back and explore the menu more.