Overseas travel seems like a very distant prospect at the moment. If we make it to West Wales, Somerset and Cornwall for this year’s planned trips then I’ll be absolutely delighted.
One consolation for the lack of jet setting is being able to eat food in Cardiff from different countries around the globe. It makes the world feel a much smaller and brighter place.
I was fortunate to travel to Japan back in 2005 and it’s pretty much my favourite country I’ve ever visited - from the jaw-droppingly beautiful shrines of Kyoto and the free roaming deer of Nara to the zany modernity of Harajuku, everything is so damn cool.
So, it’s fair to say that whenever there’s an opportunity to broaden my Japanese food horizons, I’m keen to get involved.
Yuko Harris’s Ren Japanese Food has been on my radar for a number of years. Yuko has previously organised a series of sell-out supper clubs at Waterloo Tea in Penarth.
Based in Barry, Ren Japanese Food has a changing monthly menu available to pre-order via email or text message. Service takes place only on Saturday evenings with collection or delivery available (up to 10 miles from CF63 2PL for £5). Ren’s menu features meal sets such as chicken karaage and yakitori, sushi sets, katsu curries and desserts.
A misokuze salmon set (£15) saw a flaky fillet of fish bathed in a savoury-sweet miso and mirin crust. It was joined by a bevy of sides including light-textured Japanese omelette, charred spring onion, broth cooked carrot and mushroom, and crisp lotus root salad.
Vegetarian fotomake saw a nice mix of cucumber, pepper, carrot and avocado coated in well-seasoned loosely packed rice.
Kakiaga tempura was an absolute belter - a mix of finely shredded sweet onions and carrot were coated in super crisp and light batter.
A non-vegetarian sushi set (£15) was commendably fresh across the board. Fatty salmon, sweet prawns, salty fish roe, pert sea bream, crisp cucumber, and big flavoured smoked salmon and mackerel inside out rolls were all joined by more of that well-seasoned rice as well as soy, pickled ginger and wasabi.
Desserts were enjoyably different - the skewered dango mochi with sweet soy sauce on the menu also caught my eye.
A slice of matcha chocolate cake (£4.50) had a fudgey brownie like texture with a good note of grassy green tea and sweet chocolate. Whipped cream twanged with red beans and a chocolate shard added an extra dimension.
Ichigo daifuku (£2.50) saw a soft and slightly elastic glutinous rice flour ball filled with sweet red bean paste balanced by the clarity of fresh strawberry. I really liked it but Mrs G wasn't a fan of its elasticity.
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