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Bentoya, Edinburgh, restaurant review

Bentoya's generous Japanese fusion cuisine will leave you spoiled for choice, writes Gaby Soutar

Published: May 4, 2015

I am a maximizer, my sister is a satisficer.

You might recognise us if you’ve ever read The Paradox of Choice by psychologist Barry Schwartz. It details how contemporary consumer culture can create anxiety because, presented with so much stuff, we agonise over making the right decision.

Maximizers fuss, paranoid that they might go for the wrong option, while satisficers are happy to settle with whatever choice they’ve made.

My species can’t deal with super long menus like the one at this new Japanese Fusion restaurant, which offers mainly Japanese, but also Chinese and Korean influences, and boasts a smart interior with a wooden sushi bar and potted plants in zinc containers.

I took my sister and, without any ruminating or fretting about doing the right thing, she swiftly compiled a list of goodies to suit three lunchtime diners. Ordered. Sorted.

Only problem is, those satisficers are a greedy bunch, aren’t they? The food began to land on our table, then never stopped.
First up was the kataifi black cod (£5.50), which featured crunchy shredded wheat-style sleeping bags of fish, with a mayonnaise dip on the side.

Then there were half a dozen large crimp-edged gyoza (£3.90), each toasted on one side and filled with a satisfyingly hot, squelchy and onion- heavy mixture. These came with a soy dip that buzzed with chilli heat.

The three kinds of sashimi (£8.90 for 10 pieces) consisted of tongue-shaped cuts of glisteningly fresh and pillowy slices of fatty tuna, salmon and pearly scallop. Presentation was slightly skew-whiff, with lettuce and parsley piled on the plate as decoration, but this was one for hungry mouths rather than happy eyes.

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The agedashi tofu (£3.80) was textural perfection and as comforting as milk and cookies, with four slippery blocks of battered silken tofu that were stacked in a salty dashi broth and topped with a drift of bonito flakes, while, salt and pepper squid (£3.90), with its coating of crumbly bubbly batter, was compulsive munching, as was the soft shell crab tempura (£6.80), which came as a pile of crustacean drumsticks rather than whole versions of this nude spider of the sea.

We kept waiting for the occasional dud to arrive, but there was none.
The pieces of quacker that were part of the roast duck ramen (£6.90) were rather fatty, but for the price there was plenty of bang for our buck, with slurp-able noodles in a rich broth, as well as carrot, mange tout, bean sprouts and the pretty cured fish swirls that are naturomaki, which resemble cross sections of jam-filled Swiss roll.

Our king prawn fried noodles (£6.50) had a great smoky barbecue flavour, loads of bouncy plump prawns and long struts of crunchy veg; while sweet and sour sizzling pork (£7.90), complete with pineapple chunks, was an unsophisticated example of the Chinese “battered meat in jam” genre that I have a shameful weakness for. However, our eel rice (£8.90), though good, with its slab of sweet miso-topped fish and a box full of fluffy white carb, made for way too much food, and had to be bundled into a doggy bag.

Our bill totted up to £63 but we could’ve eaten well for half that price. Though the food isn’t as fancy or artful as nearby Kanpai (IMO the best Japanese restaurant in Edinburgh), prices are lower. Thus, I present Edinburgh’s Japanese eating wardrobe: Bentoya for casual day, Kanpai for fancy night.

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Anyway, as far as the dessert menu was concerned, I didn’t let Junior near it (though I sneaked a peek and it was mainly ice-cream of various flavours).

We had no space left anyway. Next time I’ll let a maximizer order.


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Gaby Soutar is a lifestyle editor at The Scotsman. She has been reviewing restaurants for The Scotsman Magazine since 2007 and edits the weekly food pages.

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