Location: Oxford, OX1 3SA
There aren't a lot of Asian restaurants in Oxford other than Thai and Chinese ones, so it's understandable that a place like Edamame would be continously jam-packed by students and residents galore.
The Japanese 'restaurant' Edamame is located conveniently on a quiet street in the centre of town. One unfortunate thing is that it has really odd opening hours (it's closed on certain days, open at different hours on other days) so you must always check their website to make sure it's worth the trek. Anyway, I put 'restaurant' in quotation marks because it's more like a fast food diner, or like Wagamama, where you have to squeeze in and sit with strangers in small square tables.
On Thursdays only, they have sushi nights. The big mistake we made was not checking the closing time. We were relying on the fact that it was pouring rain that day, and thought we can just get there at 7.30pm or so and get a seat quite quickly. The problem was they stop taking orders at 8.30pm, so for half the time, we were wondering whether to go somewhere else or to keep standing in line. But somehow, we were able to get a seat an hour later and make our 'last' order.
The other unlucky thing was that by the time we got to order, the salmon sashimi ran out! That was what I wanted to eat. Oh well, but we could still get the sushi and gunkanzushi sets. Anyway, I went here with a friend who doesn't particularly enjoy sushi, but we decided to go so that I can introduce him to the different flavours, and tell him which raw fish is what.
So to sample a bit of everything, we shared between us the nigiri sushi set, and the gunkan set, plus a unagi eel set.
The difference between the nigri and the gunkan set is that the sushi has no seaweed, whereas the gunkan style has a 'boat' like structure, with a seawood as the 'boat', vinegar rice at the bottom, and fresh ingredients at the top (see photo on left).
Some of the ingredients are not raw, for example the avocado gunkanzushi (on the left). The presentation is absolutely beautiful and gorgeously coloured, and every bite is really fresh. It definitely is the best Japanese restaurant in town, and compared to London places, Edamame would still win in terms of price and quality.
I'm not going to go on and on about the raw fish as it's an acquired taste, but really, it's so delicious especially when combined with the soy and wasabi sauce.
Edamame also does non-sushi items on other days and at lunch hour, such as katsu curry and ramen. Overall, this is a good place to check out if you're in Oxford, but be warned about the really bizarre opening hours and the long queues!