The Tastes of Japan, of course in Umai Benidorm…Costa Blanca
Our friends of Round Town came to Umai Benidorm, and this happened:
If, like me, you thought that Japanese food was all sticky rice and seaweed … think again!
I was invited to lunch at the Umai Japanese restaurant which is above the Hotel Belroy on the corner of the Avenida Mediterráneo and Avenida Europa. As soon as we entered, I knew I was in for a new experience. Minimalistically decorated, the Umai is quiet and peaceful and I felt it was very special.
The waitresses are dressed in Japanese apparel and as soon as we had been seated, one came along and poured something hot over the bowl that was in front of me. It resembled a small candle and I admit I was at a loss as to what it was or what I had to do with it! In answer to my questions, however, the waitress explained that it was a small towel to wash my hands. Apparently the Japanese would usually eat with their
fingers so this is the normal custom.
We were then given a dish of something that looked like peas in their shells. They were in fact, Edamame beans. These are eaten raw as an appetiser when fi rst picked and apparently (so I was reliably informed) as they grow to maturity are used to make
soya milk and tofu … I can now vouch for the fact that they are absolutely delicious.
Confused … No Need … Everything is Explained!
Presented with the menus, I have to be honest, I was totally confused, as I had never eaten this type of food before, but, thankfully the Umai have thought of this, and they gave us a menu which as well as having all the descriptions it also had pictures of all the dishes! Also below each picture appeared a series of symbols which indicate what the main ingredient of each dish is. What a good idea!
Nothing Lost in Translation
The waitress, a lovely Hungarian girl, who spoke several different languages, was more than happy to further explain anything that we were unsure of, and to recommend various dishes according to what we like. And what we endedup with was an absolutely wonderful banquet!
First there was Unagi, a salad of fi nely sliced vegetables with slices of fi sh on top, which AFTER we had eaten it, we were told was eel! I would never have
chosen that, but like everything else we had that day, it was delicious. This was accompanied by little parcels of fish (Gyoza). Next we went on to chicken Yakisoba, best described as a noodle dish similar to a Chinese Chow Mein, then a taste of clear and very healthy Miso soup. Next came some small hot rolls of cheese, avocado and salmon tartar. Then it was Tuna Tepp an-Yaki, a thick chunk of fresh tuna seared on all sides but almost raw in the middle, a superb taste, quite different from a tin of tuna!
So what is Teppan-Yaki?
I always thought that Teppan-Yaki was where they cook the food in front of you and throw knives around! Wrong! Teppan-Yaki simply means cooked on a “plancha”, (a griddle) and the throwing around of knives and food is a Teppan-Yaki Show!
When we thought we could eat no more, out came a platter of diff erent “sushis” with hot wasabi and soya sauce for dipping and slices of fragrant pickled ginger to clear the palate between fl avours. We absolutely refused dessert, but they presented us with a plate of green tea tiramisu, lemon sorbet, black sesame ice cream and chocolate truffles! Needless to say, we ate the lot, and were very grateful when we were given a lovely tea-pot of hot saki wine which aids digestion.
Experience all the Top Dishes
If you too know nothing about Japanese food, try one of their weekday menus. They do 3 diff erent ones priced at €12.50, €15.90 and €17.50 as well as a vegetarian (€12.50) and a children’s one for €8.50 and all include a selection of diff erent dishes, a pudding and a drink. For a real adventure they do a fabulous Tasting Menu priced at €35, which is more like the one we had.
So much more than Sushi
The meal was full of interesting fl avours which I had never before tasted, the service was impeccable and the atmosphere quiet and calming. It was a truly wonderful experience, which I would love to do again. Our whole hearted thanks to manager Vira for a wonderful afternoon.
Find the Umai Japanese Restaurant above the Hotel Belroy in Benidorm.
Located where the Mediterranean and Europa Avenues meet.
Open Tuesday through Sunday lunch time and evenings. Reservations advisable at the weekends. Telephone (0034) 965 850 147.