Chizuru Tei

278 Morrison Street

Edinburgh EH3 8DT


The Food:


Miso soup

Aubergine in sweet miso

Vegetable gyoza

Yakitori chicken

Prawn and sweet potato tempura

Green bean salad with sesame dressing

Omokase five-set sashimi: salmon, octopus, sea bream, scallop and tuna

Nigiri sushi: salmon, tuna and eel

Green tea ice cream

The Wine: 

2019 Weingut Max Ferd. Richter Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese     89 

Japanese cuisine is ideal for the lackadaisical chef who cannot be bothered to read Escoffier, spend hours reducing sauces or learn the art of pastry. Why waste your time doing any of that when you can slice up a salmon and proclaim yourself a sushi master? The UK has suffered an outbreak of substandard pseudo-Japanese restaurants that charge a king’s ransom because Japanese is so trendy, and we happily overpay for “exotic” food we don’t really know.

Being married to the world’s most unforgiving Japanese food critic is tough. I took her to Araki, the most expensive and exclusive restaurant in London, and her verdict was an indifferent, “It’s okay.” (To be fair, given the cost, that was not far off the mark.) When we stayed in Edinburgh, I mentioned a Japanese restaurant that I had spotted around the corner in Haymarket – nothing fancy, more a place for locals to eat. Plus, it was BYOB. Why not give it a try? So after a long day visiting the city’s tourist traps, we ventured 150 meters from our apartment with no real expectations. Guess what? It was the best Japanese meal I’ve enjoyed in a long time.

The Chizuru Tei façade

There were several good omens before we even entered. First, people were milling about outside. This was a place where the locals obviously wanted to eat, and despite it being a Monday night, we had to reserve a table later than we wanted. The menu looked like one you might find in Tokyo: genuine and unpretentious yet enticing. The restaurant’s website describes it as “Japanese fusion,” but to me, it was anything but – and I mean that in a positive way. Upon entering Chizuru Tei, the sushi chef gave a brief and cheery welcome from behind his counter, then immediately returned to slicing his sashimi. He was concentrating. He was focused. He was in the zone. All that mattered was that fish. No, he might not be Jiro Ono, but he cared about his craft. We were in safe hands.

Aubergine in sweet miso

We sat at a table. The restaurant was busy and some hopefuls were politely turned away. The prices were a damn sight cheaper than in London, and so we ordered freely. We began with the obligatory bowl of edamame beans, crunchy and perfectly seasoned, and then an aubergine marinated in miso that was so delicious we ordered a second.

Yakitori chicken

Then came a plate of yakitori chicken. One of my cherished memories of living in Japan is walking back on sticky, humid nights after a day of teaching, sitting on a bench with tipsy young salarymen perspiring in their polyester suits, at a yakitori stand outside Tamachi Station. As I sipped my ice-cold Asahi, I would gaze at the skewers sizzling over the embers, intoxicated by the smell of the sweet sauce. It’s dead simple, and yet I have never found yakitori in the UK that has nailed the recipe; it’s always some slightly inferior version. Here at Chizuru Tei, as soon as I took a bite of the first skewer, I was whisked back to that stand at Tamachi Station. “This is it! This is real yakitori,” I exclaimed to my wife, who just nodded in sympathy. 

Omokase five-set sashimi: salmon, octopus, sea bream, scallop and tuna

The dishes kept arriving, and we kept waiting for one to let us down. It never happened. The sushi rolls were equal to any I have eaten in overpriced Japanese sushi bars in London; the seaweed wrapping maybe a little sweeter than normal, yet every one carefully assembled. Ordering an omokase set of five different sashimi, it was patently clear that the quality of fish was of paramount importance, as you would hope given that we are in a city that borders the cold North Sea. Again, the dish was as good as any I have encountered in the capital’s top restaurants, but at half the price and without the pretentiousness.

Prawn and sweet potato tempura

The tempura was top-drawer, the batter light and fluffy, the king prawns oozing with flavor. Bellies full, we finished with some green tea ice cream that delivered a lovely but subtle bitter tang.

As I mentioned, Chizuru Tei is BYOB. Naturally, I researched a local independent wine shop, and purchased a 2019 Brauneberger Juffer-Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese from Weingut Max Ferd. Richter, since the grape variety matches well with sushi or sashimi. The generous bouquet offers candied orange peel, freshly squeezed limes and wild peachy notes. The palate carries more residual sugar than I expected for a Spätlese, yet it’s beautifully balanced, with impressive depth. The pretty apricot and peachy finish is countered by a perfect seam of acidity. The bottle was finished all too quickly, and I wished I had brought a second.

Afterward, I had a quick chat with staff and found out that the family are originally from Malaysia and that their sushi chef had trained in Japan. The bill came to £80.00 – unbelievable value given the quality, though they do not take cards, so make sure you bring cash. My wife asked if we could go back, which is a compliment equivalent to being awarded a third Michelin star. It was just as good the second time.

As I have written before on Vinous Table, Japanese food is about one thing and one thing only: the food on your plate. It is the care of the chef and the little nuances that elevate a bog-standard Japanese meal to one you remember. And Edinburgh is burgeoning with restaurants like Chizuru Tei. Where London seems interested in serving only those with too much money to spend, conversely, the Scottish capital is full of unpretentious local restaurants offering various cuisines that are focused on the quality of their cooking first and foremost, without airs and graces. Chizuru Tei has one raison d’être: to serve the best Japanese food possible. I cannot return soon enough.

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