My sock collection is a disgrace. Most of them are like the pope, in that they're very, very holey. Others are widows/widowers, who have lost their other half in various washing machine-related incidents, and are worn mismatched. Some are so slack with age that they'll caterpillar their way down as I'm walking, and off my foot, wedging themselves into the toe well, like a small dog in a car. It doesn't matter, I think, as long as one looks relatively smart on the outer layers.
How was I to know we'd have to take off our shoes to eat at this new Japanese restaurant, situated in the former premises of Kampung Ali at Fountainbridge? It could have been worse, I suppose, though there isn't that much dignity to a grown woman wearing pop socks with fox faces on them.
The people behind this smart eatery, with an interior painted black, also own another Maki &Ramen (on West Richmond Street) and Maki Maki on Nicolson Street. Their other venues are quite casual, so this is their fancier project, with a smart sushi bar, where you can order omakase edomae style(you trust the chef to present what's the freshest and most delicious that day). I DO trust them, of course, who wouldn't, but us control freaks had already looked at the menu and decided what we wanted.
We kicked off with a couple of bowls of the eponymous ramen as, apparently, the chef here trained at the Yamamoto Ramen School. We went for two types –the "master chef burnt soyu ramen" (£10.90) and the tonkotsu ramen (£9.90). These were very similar, with slices of chashu (pork belly) on the top and half a gooey yolked soft boiled egg on each. Soaking in the broth were sinewy udon noodles, chopped spring onions, sweetcorn, mushroom cross-sections, nori, and other unidentifiable nibbly savoury bits. Th emaster chef ramen won though, as it was the mami of all umami things, with a flurry of crisp garlic flakes and a broth that, should you bathe in it, you'd emerge stronger, burlier and manlier, sort of like a merman. Gorgeous.
Our nigiri set (eight pieces for £11.90) was also a cracker. There were four rice blocks topped with silky and feathery bits of salmon, one burly ebi (prawn), one pale sea bass and another with a thick plank of tamago (omelette). All sparklingly super sea fresh(apart from the eggy option, obvs).
We were torn over their gyoza –five pork (£5.90) and five mushroomy and oniony vegetarian versions (£5.90), as one of my dining partners prefers a slightly denser, tightly packed dumpling. I, however, am easy, and enjoyed dunking these slackly filled and sticky bottomed bean-bags into the soy.
The menu also features a section of grilled sushi, and we tried the salmon and lime nigiri (£4.20 for two). These were gorgeous –made matte by a little heat, but still rare and very zingy. Next time we'll try the garlic and lime scallop (£6.20).
However, the showpiece had to be the set of black dragon rolls(£12.90). It consisted of a crocodile straight line of eight sushi rolls that were filled with tempura eel and cucumber, topped by nori and mayo.Lush, with the crunch from rice-wrapped batter and cucumber, and a centre of soft honey-sweet eel. They don't go big on puddings, but there are a couple to choose from (ask the waitress).We shared a massive sandcastle sized helping of green tea ice-cream (£4.20), served on a plinth like wooden board, which meant you ate it, or you lost it. Luckily, it was a slow melter and we are very fast eaters.
We also had a helping of halved and hollow coconut mochi (£4.20), each stuffed with coconut ice-cream. Nice. This was washed down with the taste-of-my-teenage-years, jasmine tea – which is gratis and served in a Thermos jug, so you can quaff it throughout your meal.
I really like it here. I don't usually get excited by ramen, but I've been turned. On my next visit, I pledge to wear the finest pair of socks that money can buy. n
97-101 Fountainbridge, Edinburgh (0131-228 5069, www.makimaki-restaurant.co.uk)
How much? Dinner for three, excluding drinks, £70