Here’s how to annoy yourself and everyone around you. You know the way the ‘Macarena,’ Beelzebub’s insidious theme tune, burrows its way into your head like one of those earwigs from ‘The Wrath of Khan,’ and when you hear it you can suddenly find yourself chirping ‘Hey…Macarena’ and wobbling your head around for no apparent reason? Well, now that I’ve got your attention, not to say approbation, try replacing the word ‘Macarena’ with ‘Moshi Moshi’ and see how long it is before you want to kill yourself. I say this because for reasons I cannot adequately explain, I found myself doing exactly that as I walked through the bizarre combination of concrete jungle and elderly, more sedate architecture that encloses Bartholomew Square in Brighton, home of ‘…Hey Moshi Moshi’ (sorry.)
Despite its slightly confused surroundings, I rather like the building itself. You can sit outside on shaded, slatted benches, or head inside the open fronted light box of the restaurant to the bar, facing directly on to the conveyor belt for the committed sushi grabber, or onto one of a number of backless booths that appear just exotic enough to give you a taste of the Orient without actually having to sit on the floor. I sat at one of these with my back to a child, but needn’t have worried as he was foreign and therefore well-behaved. The belt glides between these seats and you can pluck away discreetly whilst checking the menu for further options.
Service was efficient and friendly, to the extent that the waiter seemed genuinely upset when explaining that the soft shell crab tempura was the only dish that wasn’t included in the £2.30 Sunday lunch special. This didn’t bother me at all as a) I wanted it anyway, and b) this somehow convinced me that ordering the monkfish liver terrine as well (which was on offer) represented some sort of saving. The tempura was delightful – light batter with beautifully flavoured crab and that slightly oily feeling that you might be eating Japanese but it doesn’t all have to be good for you. A couple more pieces of vegetable tempura would have been nice, but that’s just because I love vegetable tempura. The terrine was…interesting. I can’t say I loved it because I didn’t – I wanted to try it, I appreciated it, but I just can’t say the combination of terrine texture and slightly fishy liver floated my particular boat. Having said that, the spot of (soy?) sauce it came with gave it a lift and my companion absolutely loved it.
Speaking of boats, at this point one of the waiters came by with a whole wooden model of one, packed to the gunwales with different types of sushi and sashimi that he then rather annoyingly placed on another table (to be fair, I think they had ordered it.) This looked to me like the perfect combination of showmanship, variety and excellent seafood, but I don’t know for certain as they wouldn’t offer me any and I was soon being told off for staring.
Luckily, back at our booth, things were going rather swimmingly too. As well as edamame beans and the odd bit of sushi and sashimi that I couldn’t help liberating as they passed, we also had superb gyoza chicken dumplings and suimono soup with crayfish and a quails egg floating in it which was quite the nicest alternative to regular miso I’ve ever tried.
Korean sashimi may have been the most expensive dish we ordered, but that much fresh tuna, salmon and er, Cornish daily catch (white fish, possibly bass, can’t be sure, didn’t ask, too busy eating,) atop a pile of brown rice and salad vegetables was well worth the £11.80, even if someone ordered it without the advertised chilli sauce and sprinkled it liberally with soy instead.
Having polished that lot off, common sense would have told us it was time to stop, but I had heard great things about the green tea brulee. I’m normally very happy to watch Japanese desserts – those artificially coloured, sugar dusted creations specifically – head on down the track, but on this occasion, I’m glad I didn’t. Sweet without being sickly, aromatic but tasty and the perfect conclusion to a wonderful meal. At £44.50 (without service) it was also fantastic value, even if we didn’t drink anything more madcap than sparkling water. I’ve been to Moshi Moshi before, I shall be going again, and if there is anything you don’t like about it, one little tip – when you get that song in your head, in fact, any song, simply sing ‘It’s the FI-NAL COUNTDOWN…’ quite loudly and it will immediately disappear to be replaced by something far more appalling. You’ll thank me for this. Or possibly not.