Okayu: Raw talent on the North Strand
The Okayu Japanese take-away on Dublin’s North Strand is a real star
They top a warm round pie of egg, bacon and ginger. Thin lattice lines of mayonnaise are squirted underneath the bonito flakes and there’s another sauce that has pickled, sweet-sour notes. It’s a one-dish campaign against the image of Japanese food as a healthy and life-prolonging diet. Japanese pizza is a riotous taste-fest without being greasy or leaden.
A salmon sashimi box has several clean wedges of raw salmon, a first for one of the people around the table (he likes it). There are two giveaway signs when your raw salmon is not at peak condition. The first is a slimy texture, the second a fishy pong. This fish has neither. Its seams of fat are thin and it smells sweet rather than fishy.
Underneath, there’s a leaf that we almost don’t eat. Bento boxes have been known to come with plastic greenery just for show. Not eating it would have meant missing out on a delightful nettle-mint flavour like nothing I’ve ever tasted. A quick forage in the undergrowth of Google images later indicates it was a shiso leaf, from the perilla plant which is a member of the mint family.
The box also has two crisp-bottomed pork gyozas and crab and avocado rice rolls dusted in orange roe. There’s plenty of sweet pink pickled ginger, my very favourite bit of the sushi experience.
The sushi itself is as intricate as those origami decorations. Omelette sushi has thin-fried egg layered and folded onto itself like millefeuille and then garnished with a few rice grains. Sweet, golden-fried thin tofu has been turned into a pillow case for fluffy innards of rice. Brown gourd strips pickled and strapped to the rice with a seaweed safety belt are like sweet, firm onions crossed with cabbage stalks. There’s properly ripe softly disintegrating avocado, not the tooth-squeaky depressing wedges of rubber you can get.
A dessert of green tea ice-cream looks lovely but tastes of nothing more than vanilla. The green tea tiramisu is a little more impressive: coffee-soaked lady fingers smothered in a blanket of minty green mousse.
Is Okayu authentic Japanese food? Possibly. Most definitely it’s great food, sourced, crafted and presented in a way that puts Okayu in a different stratosphere to your average takeaway.
Dinner for three, with dessert, came to €44