Sushi that's well worth the wait

EATING OUT: Sushi cravings are satisfied at this top-notch hideaway, but the setting could be nicer

EATING OUT:Sushi cravings are satisfied at this top-notch hideaway, but the setting could be nicer

I HAD A PLAN during my first pregnancy that I would celebrate motherhood with a newborn in one arm and the world’s biggest plate of sushi in the other. I loved sushi and craved it like dark chocolate, but it was on the list of forbidden pregnancy foods. Do pregnant Japanese women eat sushi? Yes, it seems, but in the west the dangers are seen to outweigh the benefits.

Of course the sushi fantasy was blasted to smithereens in the maelstrom of a new baby. And since then my love affair with sushi has dimmed after one too many overpriced plates of mediocrity where the pickled ginger tasted better than the fish.

It is one of the puzzles of living on an island that sushi is not done very widely or well here. So I was looking forward to visiting a place with a reputation for doing it better. Somewhere without the gimmicks, the pre-packaged clammy contents and plastic pieces of sea weed with a doll’s-house-sized bottle of soya sauce.

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Michie Sushi in Dublin’s Ranelagh is as hidden away as a restaurant can get. I look it up on a map before setting out on a gloriously sunny early evening. Chelmsford Lane looks like another side street off the village. But it turns out to be a very lane-ish laneway, with cars parked along one side and garage doors back on to the other. There is nothing glamorous here. A sliding patio door leads into this tiny place.

I’m about to mention the name I’ve booked the table under and the waiter smiles and says it first. Mine is the only booking and he’s put a hand-written reserved sign on “the best table in the house” – a two-seater by the window looking out at a stone wall and garage door. I count roughly 17 seats, including the three bar stools where people collecting takeaway food wait for their order.

Small white tables and simple plywood chairs and stools provide the seating and the walls are painted lime green on two sides and red at the back. There’s a beckoning ceramic cat on the counter and magazines to read while you wait.

My friend Paul arrives and we start to decipher the laminated menu. I’m going all fish and he’s going to try other dishes. We’re a bit giddy with the summery weather and order a bottle of the house rosé. The wine list is as minimalist as the rest, described as house white, red and rosé. A smiling waitress in a kimono tells us that they’re out of rosé so we go for white. It turns out to be a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc Cono Sur; cheap and chilled to drinkability at €11.90, or €13.51 once you add the 13.5 per cent eat-in charge.

We get pretty blue bowls for soya sauce and bamboo-patterned side plates before the food comes. My sashimi of salmon and tuna comes first, five large pieces of salmon and five smaller cubes of tuna. The salmon is good and the tuna is excellent – soft and succulent. It is so far from the dry, putty-coloured tinned tuna as to be almost unrecognizable as the same food. Paul’s fried tofu and aubergine chunks are super, covered in a sweet crust and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The flavours are the right combination of smokiness and honey sweetness.

A Michie Special comes as large rolls of rice wrapped in seaweed with an inner filling of flying fish roe (tiny orange balls that ping when you bite them), salmon, tuna, mayonnaise and crabmeat. Everything is good in this, with the exception of the avocado, which is just the wrong side of ripe – rubbery rather than soft. They are also a little awkward to eat, being slightly larger than a mouthful and difficult to separate into two.

Paul’s teriyaki steak noodles are “absolutely delicious. The steak’s not the tenderest but it doesn’t have to be with these flavours,” he says. The honey sauce, savoury meat and nutty, firm noodles work beautifully. In between, we pop perfectly-cooked edamame or young soybeans out of their furry pods and eat them like peanuts, only better.

By now the rush of Sunday evening takeaway customers and the frequent trilling of the phone has calmed and they’ve lowered the lights so it feels more like a restaurant. We’ve had good green tea served to us in brown, handle-less cups before and after the food.

The desserts offer “two of my favourite things in one bowl”, Paul says – a green tea crème brûlée. There’s a brownie and ice-cream option too, but I decide to go slightly more Japanese with a portion of mochi. These are made from glutinous rice pounded into a gluey dough and then stuffed with a sweet paste. The crème brûlée comes with a proper sugary glass lid and three blueberries on top. Apart from a green hue, there is no great green tea flavour, but it’s vanilla-y, sweet and good. My mochi are sticky and cloying, but not overly sweet and an interesting way to finish a rice-based meal.

Fresh, clean flavours are everything in sushi and this place has them. It deserves a few more eat-in customers to take the canteen feel off the place. And then it has the lot.

Dinner for two with a bottle of house white came to €70.17

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Michie Sushi

11 Chelmsford Lane, Ranelagh, Dublin 6, tel: 01-4976438

Facilities:Spartan and clean with some impressive origami decorations

Music:Tinny pop sounds

Wheelchair access:Yes, but there's a step up into the bathroom

Service:Friendly and efficient

Food provenance:None, unfortunately

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