To celebrate my brothers' birthdays we decided to go to Birmingham for some Sushi and Shopping ♥ Usually we have "Sushi-Shopping-Sundays©" but we went during the week.
February is always a mega-busy time for my family. Three birthdays in one week then Chinese New Year usually falls in the same month. My younger brother's birthday is February 1st, then my older brother and my mum share a birthday two days later! I decided to take the whole week off work because I would be too incapacitated with all the non-stop eating.
My mum also always celebrates her birthday on the Chinese Lunar calender (probably doesn't like sharing her birthday), and if she decides to celebrate my brothers' birthdays on the Lunar dates as well, it could mean 6 birthdays in two weeks (x__x) If I could I would have taken the whole month off work because of the 15 days of Chinese New Year celebrations (although most people only celebrate the first three).
My friend Cheryl from Japanese class suggested we check out Woktastic. We've already been to Mount Fuji and Wagamama's in Birmingham and we've been to the Yo! Sushi at the Trafford Centre, so we were looking for a brand new dining experience.
We've only ever been to the Bull Ring and the immediate surrounding area and Woktastic is about a 10 minute walk from the Bull Ring - if you know where you're going. My younger brother has a GPS thing on his Blackberry but he couldn't get it to work at first and we were afraid of geting lost. After about 5 minutes of messing around, trying to get the darned thing to work and getting nowhere, we got into an argument and I stormed off on my own. My brothers should know by now that you don't shout at me for no good reason else I will just leave you on your own. (Other people have learnt this the hard way).
Luckily, I have a pretty awesome sense of direction and there are maps all over the place. We had to learn to read maps at a very young age since my parents aren't too great at English (which is nothing - imagine having to interpret between English and Chinese for a bank loan or mortgage at the age of five!).
My brothers seemed to have lost this ability, so I was storming off in the right direction with my brothers following behind. They finally got the GPS to work and caught up with me and we decided to walk together again.
It was the beginning of February so it was bitterly cold - it was starting to snow a bit and we couldn't wait to get to the restaurant. When we finally got there it wasn't much warmer inside! And it was dark... the lighting was really low or completely off. Bizarre. I took my coat off but I kept my scarf on.
It was also pretty empty even though it was lunchtime. We got some pretty nice seats by the conveyor belt sushi bar where we could see the chefs working. I noticed that the chefs in front of me weren't Japanese. I think they were Filipino. I remember the friendly waitress at Mount Fuji was Filipino too.
The interior was pretty funky with colourful murals and artwork - I'm pretty sure I've seen the artist's work in Computer Arts magazine. The furniture was also pretty in-your-face, bright orange and neon green. We might sit at the bench-tables next time and get a good look at the artwork on display.
We ordered drinks: green tea for my brothers - a coke and a Kirin Ichiban beer for me~♥ My older brother gets the "asian bar tan" if he drinks alcohol and my younger brother insists on driving whenever we go places - he won't let me drive! I still haven't driven on the motorway~ ;( But that means I get to drink!
We decided to have the £10 all-you-can-eat sushi. My older brother decide to order the Teriyaki Duck as well. It was their birthdays and I was paying~ but I always seem to pay for restaurant meals! -__-;
My brother said the Teriyaki Duck was pretty good. It comes with rice and vegetables. I tried a piece of the duck (we're always eating off each other's plates to try stuff lol) and it was ok - a little bit overcooked for my liking.
To end the meal (why did we end with this!) I really wanted to try the Uni Gunkan - or Sea Urchin Roe. I had uni at Wasabi's in Manchester and it was the worst thing I had ever tasted. It was a dull, mustard yellow colour. The best quality uni should be bright orange like in the menu photos! It had a horrible, bitter and chemically aftertaste.
So why did I insist on trying it again?! I was hoping this time - at a different restaurant - it would be better quality and taste better... maybe even delicious?
We ordered the uni gunkan and I think we actually spoke to the manager or owner of the place - he's the guy in the video on their website. He decided to make us a deal. We mentioned that we wanted to just try the uni - so if we ordered three servings of uni gunkan, all three of us could try it and he would give us a discount: £5 per portion instead of £7.50.
I was a bit apprehensive - if it didn't taste good then the second piece was going to be even harder to swallow. But we went for it!
It took a while to arrive. In the meantime I watched the chefs. I saw that the eel came pre-packaged, shrink-wrapped in sauce. It was sitting in one of the sinks. Is this how the eel is prepared at these Japanese restaurants? Locally sourced ingredients... from the local supermarket? Unagi is my absolute favourite Japanese food - I have it at the restaurant because I can't have it at home... could I just buy the eel like this from an asian supermarket and have it all the time?
I saw the uni gunkan being prepared. The uni was in a little tupperware container. I was dissappointed. I half expected to see them break into a live sea urchin to harvest the fresh roe. Was it fresh? Was it fozen? Who knows. When it was ready and served we had two pieces each. It didn't look exactly like the photo... it wasn't filled to the brim with uni. The colour - although a lot better than the cruddy yellow from Wasabi - was kind of a dark, brown-orange. I don't know what that means on the uni-quality scale...
The taste... it was better than the other restaurant - but there was still quite a bitter aftertaste. The overall flavour of uni is like a really intense fishy-shellfish taste - like concentrated mussles. The texture was like jelly, or pudding or creme caramel - very soft. My older brother didn't like it but my younger brother did - even so, he didn't want to eat our remaining pieces... -__-; I forced my last piece down and I can't remember who ate the last piece. The manager waltzed past and spouted how much he loved the taste of uni... yeah, ok.
I quickly grabbed something off the conveyor belt to get rid of the taste in my mouth.
The service was pretty good. The waitress and the manager were nice and friendly. The chef was helpful when we couldn't identify something on the conveyor belt.
Overall, I'll give it 7 thumbs up. Service was good. Decor was cool but lighting was poor. Food was ok with some exceptions. We want to go back and try some other stuff off their menu.