Gluten Free Review – Oki-Nami Restaurant
Brighton Food Reviewer, Chloe McKellar, March 2015
I adore Japanese food.
Having lived in Melbourne and New Zealand, I have been spoilt for choice when it comes to decent Japanese food at an affordable price.
Brighton has a handful of decent Japanese Restaurants, and Okinami is known as one of the better ones.
Okinami is owned by a lovely couple Azita and her Japanese born husband and chef Mike, and the excellent DJ Norman Cook (aka Fat Boy Slim).
Many years ago they were based in Hove, but have since moved to a very central location on New Road in Brighton, so perfect for a pre theatre meal.
I was visiting quite late on a Wednesday evening (late for me anyway, around 8pm) to try out their gluten free range as it had been recommended by a friend.
Restaurant & Cocktail Bar
The restaurant itself isn’t huge, there are a few tables near the window, and a spiral staircase at the entrance which leads to the relatively new cocktail bar called Oki-Bar; this is also owned by Oki-Nami and we hear that they serve some of the best cocktails in Brighton.
The restaurant has a minimalist modern design, with a brightly lit neon sign at the front window, and white walls and white tables and chairs. The spiral staircase has coloured origami cranes hanging from it and there are some stairs that lead to the toilets and kitchen downstairs.
The menu consists of starters, tapas, sharing plates, main dishes, sushi and sashimi, and they also have a pre theatre set menu which is a pretty good deal of only £9.95 for two course before 7pm.
For drinks you can choose from a selection of sake, plum wine, cocktails, beer, soft drinks and green and herbal teas. We both chose teas that evening, I had the Gen Mai Cha and my partner went for the Matcha tea.
They are served in cast iron pots which are beautiful, and little ceramic tea cups on the side. The matcha was bright green and strong, as the tea was left to steep inside, and my Gen Mai Cha was fragrant with toasted rice and earthy green tea.
Gluten Free Dining Options
Most of the dishes can be served gluten free, as they have tamari soya sauce (gluten free Japanese soy sauce) and also have a gluten free teriyaki sauce as an option too.
Obviously the tempura is out of bounds as it is made with wheat flour, as with the gyoza as the dumpling flour has wheat flour too. If you are gluten free, just make sure you let the wait staff know so they can request the gluten free option for you.
We decided to get a few tapas to share and then some sushi as this is what Azita recommended we do, and I also love having lots of little bits to share, it’s usually much more exciting than one plate of the same food. The menu suggests around 3-4 per person, which sounds like a lot but the portions are pretty small. (Not always a bad thing you know).
We both chose a miso soup to start with, which came out pretty quickly which was great as I was very hungry!
It was lovely and rich, with silken tofu and seaweed, and full of the incredibly more-ish umami flavour, there was so much depth to it that you knew it was made with knowledge and care.
There was a slight tomatoey flavour, and pieces of spring onion and finely chopped pickled ginger too. What a great start to the evening, and I was looking forward to what was coming next.
The next dishes took awhile to come out, the restaurant wasn’t busy, but there was a side note on the menu to say that all sushi and sashimi is prepared fresh so do expect a wait.
Lucky for us their chopsticks wrappers have origami paper and instructions, so we were kept occupied for a little while during the wait. However, I have to say, I couldn’t quite figure mine out, and neither could my partner, so we both ended up rather frustrated because of it and origami was left incomplete.
Our tapas started to arrive and they looked really pretty. The first to get to us was the spicy tuna teri, which were skewers of tuna coated in 7 spice and covered in a teriyaki sauce. They were slightly spicy and pretty tasty, with a little bit of pink showing in the middle too.
The age tofu arrived next, and was deep fried in cornflour, so gluten free friendly and fried until crisp. They came with a soy and ginger sauce and were scattered with spring onions; the tofu pieces tasted more watery compared to what I am used to, nonetheless they were enjoyable.
My partner ordered the salmon gyoza, and he said they were firm to bite, but slightly crispy and the filling was lovely and fresh tasting and slightly lemony. They came with a sesame and ginger dipping sauce which went well with the salmon.
We shared some of the chicken yakitori which had pieces of onion skewered in between, the onion was only just cooked so had a slight raw onion flavour still which I really liked. The teriyaki sauce on top was made with tamari, so gluten free and it was sticky and sweet.
The sushi came last – we went for nigiri, maki rolls, and also some musu maki – which are similar to maki rolls but the seaweed is on the inside and the rice is on the outside instead.
We had salmon nigiri, and the fish was obviously carefully selected and very fresh, the rice was well cooked and just lightly seasoned.
For the maki we went for classic prawn and avocado, the prawns were juicy, and the avocado was really buttery.
We chose the tuna musu maki which came as a whole roll chopped into 6 pieces and looked great.
The tuna was a stunning dark colour and was rolled in the spicy 7 spice that we had tried on the skewers earlier.
The tuna actually melted in our mouths, my partner is usually not very good with any type of pink looking meat, and he loved it – we were both really pleased.
We decided to share dessert as we were both pretty full, and can usually only manage one to share anyway. They have a few options to choose from which are gluten free, including tempura ice cream, matcha green tea ice cream and chocolate orange cake.
I love chocolate orange cake, and their version is gluten free, and it’s served with plum liquor infused sultana ice cream which sounded divine. Sadly for me, they were out of this that evening, but we were recommended to try their special that night instead, which was a black cherry and chocolate cake served with sesame ice cream which was also gluten free. I will have to go back to try the chocolate orange cake another time…
The cake came out after a short wait (thankfully as it was now nearly 10pm and I was getting tired) it was a decent sized slab with some berries on the side. It was dense and rich, but slightly rubbery which sometimes the gluten free flours can be.
There were little flecks of black cherry inside which I would’ve liked to have more of, but that’s personal to me I guess! I had never had sesame ice cream before – it was interesting but I liked it, and I found myself keeping going in for more.
It was sweet, but had a savory flavour too, it reminded me of the small sesame bars you can buy in corner shops and gas stations but I liked it. I will certainly be trying that again!
Overall, we had a great evening at Okinami, it was a calming atmosphere for a change, rather than the hustle and bustle of a weekend night.
The prices are mid to high and you would expect to pay this for it’s location, and also you could tell that the quality of the fish was really good so with that in mind it was absolutely worth it.
The pre theatre menu is a great deal, so I would recommend trying that if you have never been before and are interested in trying it out.
It would also be a nice venue to go for a light sushi lunch, with a couple of glasses of sake and cocktails to wash it down, as I have heard they are pretty good too!
They certainly cater well for gluten free, so it’s a great place to head if you or someone in your party needs to eat gluten free too.