Being a 31 year old man-child just the name Yum Yum Ninja had given me a food-on. While I secretly hoped I'd be be sitting amongst pictures and paraphernalia of Shinobi, Snake Eyes, and Leonardo and the gang, I was less than disappointed to find out I wasn’t. I wasn't expecting the Ninja Turtle inspired chocolate and marshmallow pizza I'd enjoyed a kid, but I had been warned to save some space for the toffee Wontons. But we'll get to that later.
I love Asian food. As a small child my favourite dinner was always the weekly Chinese takeaway. I've since been told my old dear had ridiculous cravings for Sweet and Sour Pork Hong Kong style while pregnant with me. When I got my blood tested as a baby she was fully expecting my blood to be MSG+. A trip to Tokyo taught me what I need to know about Tempura, Wagyu and. Fugu. Thailand is next on the agenda for a proper Pad Grapow, but it's fair to day I've sampled as much as I can here in the meantime. I've trawled Chinatown for a decent meal, and even found one once. Safe to say I know my spring onions.
Part of a growing number of awesome eateries in my adopted home city of Brighton, the seaside perennial is awash with great restaurants. What it lacks in fine dining it makes up for with it’s collection of burger Joint’s (the Troll’s Pantry is in arguments for Britain's best, while Meat Liquor recently opened a Sussex outpost) American Pit Barbecue (The Worlds End), and pubs arguing for the right to claim the best roast in town (Sovereign when it's open, just for the extra portions of pork crackling in a tin cup). Proving that decent food can be found beyond the borders of the M25, Yum Yum Ninja is tucked away in Brighton’s Lanes hidden amongst a sea of jewellery stores and olde sweet shoppes on the site of a former very average burger joint.
A mixture of tables, Wagamama style benches, and traditional shoji private dining rooms, the restaurant is much more understated with an interior not as mental as the name might suggest. The bird cages for lanterns are a lovely touch but I'd have been just as happy sitting under a bunch of hanging Peking ducks.
When you can start a meal with crispy chicken skin cooked in Rosemary and Maldon Salt you know you’re in for a good lunch. The best bit of the chicken that the fun police have tried to take away from us, if it were up to me they'd be ramming it down our throats, this crunchy snack was great way to get the gnashers chomping. The crispy pig ears we had with them were great, although the crispness came from breadcrumbs rather than the ear itself as expected. But then what do I know, I'd never tried pigs ears before and only ever given them to my dogs. Although the sancho & yuzu mayonnaise was a bit of a misstep, some simple soy sauce was much better at bringing out the flavour.
Sashimi is a weird one for many, the finely cut raw fish doesn't even have the stodginess of rice to back it up. But not me. Some of the finest raw fish I'd had in a long time, there was no skimping with the portions, and some of the tastiest tuna I've ever had. And if you’ve not had sea bass sashimi before, it's chewy texture makes a great counterpoint to the more common salmon and tuna. After a deep fried starter it was the perfect palette cleanser.
Now like most of you reading this I like a drink. I don't trust anyone who doesn't have at least have a small Baileys at Christmas. So when my plus one for the day suggested a carafe of sake obviously I said yes. Every time I drink sake I hope I have an epiphany and learn to appreciate it’s far eastern charms. All of Yum Yum Ninjas sake is brewed in an area known as bishuoukoku, which translates as the empire of beautiful sake. However to my less than sensitive taste buds, it’s not beautiful, but the love child of vodka and gin, served warm. A drink with very few redeeming features except your host is meant to pour yours out for you
In the evenings the Ninja bar is opened upstairs for some of Brighton’s best cocktails, but our Saturday lunchtime session wasn’t best timed to partake.
While our dim sum was great, especially the steamed pork belly ninja bun, and our duck and pancakes were a joy, they were just the Wurzels playing combine harvester at 10am to our Rolling Stones Glastonbury Saturday night headliner of a main course.
I don’t think I’d ever eyeballed a mouthgasm before this meal, I’d only seen post prandial evidence. But plus one was having multiples with every slice of the Hacho Miso Lamb Rump. Meat perfection, grilled “Robata” on a charcoal hearth, the outside was charred awesomeness with a sesame crust, the inside a pink, sharp taste explosion on the tongue. Rump it may have been, but a rump far meatier and infinitely more tasty than Miley Cyrus will ever twerk.
While our stomachs were stuffed, my head wasn’t satisfied, and demanded that final toffee wanton to set us off on our sluggish, full, and happy walk home. Due to regular menu changes, I was denied, but a salted caramel wonton was brought out in ints place. A little more grown up than I was expecting, it was still an oozy mess that took me over the edge. Yum Yum Ninja isn’t the Chinese takeaway of my childhood, but a succession of taste explosions that marry the best of Chinese and Japanese cuisine. I’d have had a celebratory ninja roll out of the door in excitement if I hadn’t gorged myself on so much awesome food.
Yum Yum Ninja, 15-18 Meeting House Lane, Brighton, BN1 1HB or click to find out more.