I remember a time when the Lapwing Lane arcade was a modest row of shops: a chippy, an off license, a Blockbuster (what a throwback), and West Didsbury’s beloved stationery shop, Inman’s, to name a few. But in recent years the landscape has changed; the wrought iron canopy has been restored, and each shop has its own shiny new olive green sign, giving the arcade a fresh new look. The chippy and Blockbuster are long gone, and in their place have emerged trendy wine bars and restaurants, niftily located directly across the road from the tram stop as a sanctuary for south Manchester’s young professionals after a hard day at work. Nagoya Sushi & Noodle Bar is the newest addition to this arcade: a “family owned and operated business” claiming to serve “authentic Japanese food.”
At 8pm on a Wednesday night, the place is buzzing. There is only one table left, which we graciously accept. This bodes well. There is a colourful “welcome to Nagoya” wall display on one side of the room, and at our table we find our chopsticks balancing on carved wooden chopstick rests. There are no knives or forks in sight, but the friendly manner in which we are greeted by the waiting staff gives me the impression that our wish would be granted should we request them. And — hallelujah — we are spared any Musak. Instead, there is the soft hum of Japanese music, at a decibel that still allows the clatter of knives and forks and human conversation to be heard.
The menu is substantial, boasting 130 different sushi rolls from £3.80, and some hot appetisers such as gyoza and tempura. Also on offer are sushi platters, starting at 12 pieces for £13.95, and hot main courses at around £11 per plate, ranging from well known dishes such as teriyaki and katsu curry to more obscure Japanese dishes. Most of the dishes have a picture attached, so you know what they are supposed to look like. Make of this what you will.
We order the gyoza, salmon nigiri and salmon and avocado rolls to start. The gyoza arrive first, complete with a tangy soy-vinegar dipping sauce in a charming fish-shaped bowl. Equally charming are the plates on which the sushi arrives: small, green glazed leaves, which are darker in colour where the leaf indents. All three dishes are as delightful as their serving receptacles. The gyoza are piping hot, crispy on the bottom and delicately soft everywhere else. There was a purely vegetable option, but we have gone for chicken and vegetable, and we don’t regret it. Both sushi dishes offer a substantial portion of salmon — there is no scrimping here — and the rice is perfectly seasoned. I should mention that it falls apart as soon as we try to lift it, but this does not detract from the experience. In fact, we appreciate that it makes the dish last longer.
Our main courses arrive. First, the katsu curry. It looks and tastes as I would expect it to: the chicken has been bashed to less than a centimetre thick, and coated in a satisfyingly crispy panko crumb. The curry sauce is a thick and fruity puddle, served alongside white rice. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is comforting and delicious, and what more can you ask of a katsu curry? The other main, Atsu Atsu Kimuchi Zousui, is a cauldron of fiery, umami broth and chunky udon noodles. After much deliberation we had chosen beef, but as the waitress sets it down we see we have received both options. “The chef recommended beef and prawn,” she says. We don’t argue. Both beef and prawn are well cooked, and my companion remarks that the bundle of nori “tastes like the seaside smells.”
It’s served with a Japanese ladle with which to slurp up all of the chilli-spiked broth. It is the right receptacle for such a celebration of noodle soup.
We don’t have a dessert, but at the last minute we order a katsu curry to go — we are stuffed, but someone at home wants to join in the fun. We drink two Asahis and a soft drink. The entire bill is £50, cash only while the restaurant finds its feet.
I don’t know what authentic Japanese food tastes like, but I do know that the food at Nagoya Sushi and Noodle bar is exactly what I want when I go out for Japanese. The staff are also friendly, the menu plentiful, and the prices unbelievably reasonable considering the location. Lapwing Lane has changed a lot over the years, but it has almost reached its climax as a bustling hub which is neither part of cool Burton Road nor wholesome Didsbury Village. Nagoya Sushi & Noodle bar is a welcome addition to an arcade reforming its identity.
Words by: Isabella Barber