Walking through the city and down Northgate towards Sainsbury's at the beginning of the Summer I spotted this sleek matte black storefront that had popped up between Asian grocery stores. If you've been a tourist in Canterbury rather than a resident or a student, you won't really know this part of town. It's locals area, around great pubs and little independent stores. I used to walk down Northgate practically every day on my way from the school gates to the hockey pitches, so I used to know every newsagent, chocolate shop and bookbinder that lined the road. Now something new is a novelty, and dining at Tamago, the little authentic Japanese restaurant with someone who had the same school memories, we were upset it did not exist then!
I've already spoken at length about the foodie revolution that has been happening over the last year in Canterbury, but I think Tamago takes it to a whole new level. Eddie had lived in the city for five years, I've lived around the city my whole life and the idea that there was somewhere you could get sushi in the city, let alone bento boxes, bubble pancakes and bubble tea (from the sister store Bambina next door I have yet to sample) blew our minds, but what was really special for both of us is we had one of the best bowls of ramen of our lives in Canterbury. Scratch that, it was staggering to us that you could get ramen in town somewhere that was not Wagamamas. Anyway, shall we take a look at our totally delicious, excellent value lunch?
The restaurant is deceptively spacious inside, but even with a fair few tables it is always rather full when it is open. We did however manage to get a table for two in the back for lunch at one on a Saturday afternoon (though this was before the Kent, UCA and Christchurch terms had started, so the city was rather low on students for the end of the Summer!), but while we were sitting there catching up and chatting about Eddie's upcoming trip to Korea and Australia (so jealous, all the food he is going to be eating sounds incredible!), almost every other table in the place turned twice. And the service was not so fast it felt like we were being pushed; if anything it was rather slow! Anyway, I had a delicious glass of iced Oolong tea, though they also have a fantastic looking menu of sake, plum wine, Japanease and local Kentish beers.
We started with probably the most amazing Pork Gyōza I've ever had, served with a simple soy side. These were perfect; steamed well so that the filling did not fall out when you bite them in half, and lovely and caramelised on one side from their time in the pan. And the filling, oh the filling. Rich, flavourful and that perfect balance of sweet and umami. I know the menu says that unless you're vegetarian you should not leave Tamago without trying them by way of a sales pitch, but in this instance their claim is actually true.
There was no question as to what ramen we were both going to have. I can't think of anyone else I know who loves Kimchee as much as we do (remember in 2012 when I was served it in Los Angeles' Koreatown and I had no idea what it was?!), so while there were so many delicious looking options, Kimchee Ramen was the only way forward. Even when Bibimap was on the specials board, which we're both also more than a little partial to. The broth was rich and savoury. it was spicy, but not too much and tasted wonderfully of kimchee, without giving you the feeling that you're just eating a massive bowl of the fermented condiment. The pork was tender and fatty (in the good way you want it to be), the kimchee pieces were generous and so were the noodles. They had a fantastic bite to them, even when when I got to the bottom of my bowl and they'd been soaking a while. I need to learn to be a bit more elegant eating it, though. Eating the noodles out of a massive bowl of soup is not my strong suit! Eddie said it was the best bowl of ramen he'd ever had. I think it comes on par with the amazing bowl of seafood ramen I had at Ajisen Ramen in Los Angeles.
While we were both rather full at this point, we wanted to try the sushi, both for the novelty (sushi, in Canterbury!) and because they do take away boxes in the front of the store, so they'd make great lunches for me on the go. We just went for the basic Salmon Nigiri which were nice. Not the best sushi we've ever had, but still enjoyable and much better than anything you can get in any supermarket, the other option for Canterbury sushi lovers. Sushi is actually all about the rice, which was lovely. This bodes well for the bento box I'm no doubt going to be ordering on my next visit. The only thumbs down of my whole experience, however (the food was so good the slow, though lovely and helpful service did not really bother me) was the pickled ginger. Usually my favourite type, it tasted a little of toilet cleaner. This is only a guess, but I think it was purchased in bulk; it would hold up better to their fantastic food if they pickled it themselves.
You know how I said we were both full? A dessert menu was put down in front of us, and it all looked wonderful. Japanese cheesecake. Green tea panna cotta. Black sesame ice cream (it was #Bingate week!) We figured that, in spite of being full, we could stretch to a scoop of green tea ice cream, to share. Eddie said it was one of his favourite flavours, but I'd never had it before. What can I say? How did I not know how delicious green tea ice cream is before now? I was not big on the ice cream being traditionally served with sweet beans, but the ice cream itself? Bliss. I need to work on making my own version at home.
The final fantastic thing about what had been a truly wonderful came when the bill arrived. I don't usually do the money part in my restaurant reviews, choosing to focus on the food, atmosphere and service, but I just have to point out here what great value our meal was. £36.80 between us, £18.40 a head. Even if we'd had drinks and our own desserts, it would still come way under any meal of this quality and with this much food anywhere else I like to visit in the city. The ramen itself would make a perfect quick lunch, and only comes in at £9.80. The Gyōza were £4.90 for 6 pieces. They also do loyalty cards (I can see this getting dangerous. The only other place in town I like with a loyalty scheme is Canteen, and I spend way too much on their salads and flatbreads!) where you get 20% off your 5th main dish, and 50% off your 5th bento box.
Either if you're a local, a student at one of our three universities or just visiting, I urge you to go and try Tamago. I'll also keep you posted when I get a chance to try the crepes and bubble tea at Bambina. Also, because people have been asking me what other Canterbury spots I'm planning on reviewing, at the top of my list at the moment are Salt on the King's Mile (yes, I know I'm late to the party!) and Raphael's at The Goods Shed. I've eaten there loads, and keep on forgetting to type up a review! As for where I've been locally recently and I'm not planning on writing about, I had a lovely dinner at The Parrot the other week (it is the same owners, and pretty much the same, but smaller menu as The Shakespeare) and Chapman's, which was nice, but you can get better fish and seafood at The Goods Shed or Deeson's.