Kushi-Ya now lives where the venerable Alley Cafe used to. The small space has been stripped back and made to feel spacious with exposed beams, wood-panelled walls and traditional Japanese robes adorning them. Through a huge aperture, chefs work fastidiously over a long, charcoal grill.
We started with the prawn shumai (£3.50): soft dumplings served on a small pool of light broth. I nodded to my dining partner; this was looking good.
From the small plates and skewers menu, we ordered salmon tataki (£6.50): medallions of salmon seared on the outside with a citrusy, ponzu-style sauce, and sticky rice furikake (£3.50): “furikake” meaning “sprinkle over”. Traditionally, chefs top the rice with their own dry seasoning and Kushi-Ya’s is shiitake mushroom powder, kombu seaweed, aonori, mixed sesame seeds, beetroot powder and salt.
The tofu katsu skewers (£3.50) were so good we ordered them twice. The tofu came coated in crispy panko crumbs and served with katsu sauce for drizzling. We also sampled the beef skewers (£5) and the chicken-thigh skewers (£4.50), and both were exceptional. We also went for the grilled avocado (£5) topped with crispy shallots and yuzu kosho; a blended paste of green chilli and zest from the yuzu fruit.
Each dish is presented as if designed purely for the ‘gram, but there’s a relaxed vibe and it’s all about the flavours and delicate respect of ingredients. There’s nothing too spicy or in your face, but they’re not afraid to be brave; duck-heart skewers have featured on the specials board.
Their lunch offer of a snack, two skewers and rice for a tenner is great value. If you like Japanese food and enjoy tapas-style eating, you should check out Kushi-Ya.
1A Cannon Court (off Angel Row) NG1 6JE. 0115 941 1369