Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Izakaya Samsi - Manchester

Not matter what many people tell you cheap is most often not cheerful. I am highly suspicious of things I think are too good to be true. So imagine my surprise in enjoying a very cheap meal in the basement of one of Manchester's premier Japanese restaurants.

Izakaya Samsi is the newest addition in the rapidly growing Samsi chain of restaurants in Manchester. Located in the basement underneath Samsi Manchester, Izakaya sets out to recreate a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serves heartier food than bar snacks. And hearty it is! Myself and the welsh fashionista spent hardly anything and ate like kings in the process.

With thanks to Samsi
To start we both ordered the miso soup, plus the vegetable gyoza whilst we read through the rest of the menu and tried to decide what to have from the many delectable dishes on offer - and after what seemed like an age fashionista chose chicken katsu AND the yakiudon, whereas I was a little more restrained and went for the bento box; although it was hard not order a curry as well -  there was a special offer of all curries half price (working out at about £2 per massive dish!). It almost seemed rude not to order one.

Our tummies were rumbling after we'd had the miso, as even though we were the only other group in the izakaya, service was very slow.  This is due to the server doubling as the cook, therefore having to prepare everything and see to all the customers' needs at the same time.

However, the wait was worth it. When the food arrived it was very generous in size and had a good flavour for the cost we were paying. For twice the price I have eaten dishes of the same quality (or worse!) and a smaller size in other parts of Manchester.

My bento was especially good value at £4.50 for two large pieces of expertly cooked salmon, a large mound of  well cooked rice (not cold, not soggy, just right), pickles, seaweed and sauce. The bento has the added advantage of offering many different combinations including; gyoza, salmon, chicken, beef, teriyaki, katsu, noodles, rice and so on - and if you order takeaway it comes in a proper bento box.

The good value bento
Fashionista's katsu was a large portion of very crispy chicken in panko, nothing special, but thankfully with no taste of stale oil and no pieces of gristle. His yakiudon was massive and delicious; we had to apologise to the server/cook for how much we wasted (I did question two mains did I not Mr WF?).

Katsu and the massive yakiudon

The overall quality of the food wasn't Michelin star, the service was slow but very attentive and friendly, the izakaya was noisy (due to an extractor fan) and was cramped in next to the shop. But for the cost, the taste and overall experience I couldn't have asked for more. For the price we paid and the time we had it was indeed everything I could wish for from a Japanese pub in a basement and am already booking in with the boy for our next visit (well, I couldn't not take him with his favourite dish being katsu, could I?).

Workers in the area should also be aware that Izakaya Samsi is open for lunch and has a takeaway option. Thankfully I don't live or work anywhere near, otherwise I'd be twice the size I am right now!

Price for two including: three starters and three mains (we bought drinks separately) - £17.70.

Value for money: 9/10
Service: 6/10
Atmosphere: 6/10
Food: 7/10

Total: 28/40

Izakaya Samsi, Basement, 36-38 Whitworth Street, Manchester M1 3NR - 0161 279 0023

Samsi Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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