Japanese menus can be intimidating things. They can expect you to know your nigiri from your sashimi and your hosomaki and uramaki from your fotomaki. Some places can make you feel you almost need a degree in Oriental Studies to grasp what you’re eating- in other words, they can be off-putting for the casual diner.
So the good news is that Cardiff’s Sushi Life makes no grand po-faced claims to be ‘authentic’. They clearly see themselves in the fusion tradition, where it’s more about the kitchen finding inspiration and having fun with it, than slavishly sticking with tradition.
Clearly, they take what they do seriously- that’s obvious from the dishes in front of you. This little restaurant in Roath is a much more relaxed affair, welcoming to all age groups. It’s accessible and accommodating, with a happy buzz from people enjoying themselves from a menu with something for everyone.
There are generously-portioned sushi choices- and there’s a mix of dishes for vegetarians and vegans who haven’t been overlooked here, with the Zen maki rolls a recent addition. The sweet potato and red pepper tempura, cucumber and avocado topped with sweet bean curd is a popular meat-free choice.
And if you’re after something hearty and substantial then head for the Cha Han egg fried rice section. It’s loaded with diced red and green peppers and red onions, piled high with everything from thick slices of duck breast to salmon to tofu to prawns to teriyaki beef. It’s not just variations on sushi, ramen and other noodle dishes here.
Of course, any sushi-based menu stands or falls on the freshness of its ingredients, so the octopus tako and eel unagi nigiri are popular, and prawn dumplings are a highlight. That combination of tiny, sweet, whole prawns and chives in a dainty little shell, blistered and crisp from the oil, is a must-order.
Sushi Life is an independent business with character and a sense of fun. It’s one of those restaurants locals are genuinely fond of, and it’s always easy to see why.
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