Okayu: Raw talent on the North Strand
The Okayu Japanese take-away on Dublin’s North Strand is a real star
It’s the talk of the neighbourhood – sushi in the North Strand. Forget cappuccino bars, sushi is the new sign of poshification. “Now what’s that gonna do to residential property tax valuations?” one friend asks. Another has met all kinds of interesting folk sitting on the small chairs waiting for their orders to emerge from behind the neat curtain with an owl printed on it.
Okayu is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small white shop on Dublin’s North Strand Road across from the fire station. It is a neat white place when you step inside. Small hand-made silk things are suspended from string with wooden clothes pegs and a spray of origami flowers tumbles down from the ceiling.
There is a small counter where you could conceivably stay and eat your bento box, but I’m a friend who lives nearby so we’ll be bringing it home to hers.
They have printed takeaway menus but the choices are also hand-painted onto white paper that hangs in long lists from the counter. Most eye-catching is the okonomiyaki, which sounds like a summation of the Irish economic situation, but is actually a kind of Japanese pizza. There are 33 types of sushi and sashimi. Two pieces of nigiri sushi (the typical rectangular wedge of rice with a topping) cost between €2.10 and €3.20, so they’re a little over a euro a pop. There are bento boxes and even a couple of teriyaki burgers.
There’s a whole other section of cooked food on the back of the menu, but we’re here for the raw fish and that Japanese pizza. A trip to the cash machine (as the card machine is still on its way) means we miss out on the green tea you can sip while waiting.
Then it’s home to a candle-lit table, warmed plates and a third diner to help us get through our haul.
First the soup. I have no great expectations of miso soup. It’s something I feel I should like as it’s healthy but I’ve never slurped one I’ve loved. Until now. Okayu’s miso is a light golden honey colour and has the gentle yeasty warmth of miso without the sludgy aftertaste. There are rings of crisp raw spring onion floating like tiny texture and flavour lifebuoys. It’s miso soup for the soul.
The okonomiyaki (Japanese pizza) appears to have a living topping when we open the lid. “It’s moving,” I announce – but it’s just the bonito flakes waving in the warm draft from the candle. These parings of dried tuna are like the aftermath of a chemical peel; skin coloured and textured and feathery enough to come alive in the lightest of breezes.