Edinburgh's Bentoya restaurant was filled with eastern promise, but sadly left Cat Thomson cold

These days young people have sophisticated palates. They are unfazed by globetrotting around the world with their knives and forks.

Mexican on Monday, followed by an Italian on Tuesday, and a cheeky wee Nandos on Friday; no matter the nationality, they seem eager to shove every single exotic taste sensation into their mouths.

I am a child of the Seventies, when food choices were very different. Back then, a white bread sarnie smothered in Princes sandwich spread was a lunchtime delicacy, washed down with a Meri-Mate (a carbonated drink in a plastic tube).

It was a time when supermarket fruit displays consisted of oranges, apples and bananas, if you were lucky, and when a grapefruit was something you would only see on the telly.

A lot of food was frozen or tinned and there were often UN-style negotiations over who got to eat the solitary maraschino cherry in a tin of fruit cocktail.

Even a coconut was an event in itself, the preserve of the showground, definitely not a ready prepared snack in a pot.

To me growing up, the height of dining sophistication would be a trip to a café.

I recall one incident where I embarrassed my entire family by asking loudly “Why is there grass on my plate?” – when faced with an unfamiliar pile of cress.

Thankfully I’ve changed, along with the times, and am delighted to indulge my youngest’s penchant for a celebratory Japanese meal.

The first impression we get of Bentoya is that it’s cool. Although sadly not the achingly hip kind.

Its interior, with wire-caged, decorative paper lanterns and stylish lightbulbs swaying on ropes and repurposed pallet seating booths, is all very grand, however the place has an ambient temperature hovering just above zero.

None the less, we take the never-ending stream of Deliveroo couriers arriving at the door as a positive sign.

After the inevitable dithering with menu, the first dish up is youngest’s octopus sushi (£3.50). There is no way on earth I would have tackled these tentacles as a teen.

The detail of these intricate creations, with cinched in waists, tightly controlled by a Chanel-style belt of seaweed, is barely noticed as they are promptly demolished, although they are declared “fine” afterwards.

Treasured green gems are soon wrestled from their salted edamame bean-pod jackets (£3.20), but proclaimed too tough to eat in their entirety.

The most tender specimens are washed down with warming miso supped from soup pots. The heavenly broth with its scarce dots of diced tofu and spring onions and greens is perfection.

As relative newbies to Japanese food, our coordinated ordering is out of kilter, so we hungrily watch as the fella’s halved aubergine goma (£4.50) arrives solo.

We spectate like vultures as he joyfully scoops out its innards with his chopsticks; it’s yielding, soft, sweet and forgiven for being a tad oily.

Our eldest has an eye-wateringly emotional encounter with a chilli seed in her spicy fried tofu (£4.50). Crisp five-spice-laced tofu, onions, peppers and the fiendish red chilli culprit are served in a hug of an iceberg lettuce shell.

“That there, is heaven in a dish,” she proclaims, after recovering her composure.

My OCD-inclined diners welcome the immaculate vegetable bento box (£8.50) which we share.

Individual compartments hold a trio of spring rolls (like us, they could have been warmer) and five crisp tempura battered sweet potato and aubergine shards.

Another cubicle houses rice scattered with sesame seeds, but the highlight of the platter is the half-dozen identikit avocado maki.

These sushi staples have an initial hit of seaweed high tide, elegantly backed up by the sweet and ripe avocado centre aftertaste.

The chirashi don (£10.90) arrives like the dome on an autumnal Edinburgh skyline, raw fish triangles of octopus, salmon, tuna and prawn, gently placed on a mound of sushi rice served with wasabi and pickled ginger.

By now the h’angriest among us are champing at the bit to get their mains and the stream of couriers serves only to demonstrate that they must be feeling the heat in the kitchen, (although sadly not in the dining area).

The pork katsu and tofu curries arrive, (£7.50 each), not the finest versions of these dishes our young gourmands have ever tasted.

Bentoya

Picture: Cat Thomson

The sizzling teriyaki vegetables (£7.50)s, served hotter than the surface of Mars, sound like popping candy.

The beansprouts, water chestnuts, peppers and broccoli arrive bathed in a delightful sauce, yum.

We were going to hang on for dessert, but in the end we give up. Super slow service means we throw in the towel and swiftly pay cash at the counter.

Perhaps as an old dog I have to learn new tricks from the millennial generation; maybe next time we should ditch the in house dining experience and order a takeaway.

Bentoya

13 Bread Street, Edinburgh EH3 9AL
Tel: 0131-629 3993, www.bentoya-edinburgh.com

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About The Author

Catriona Thomson

Catriona is Deputy Picture Editor at the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday.

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