The other day we went on an evening Christmas shopping trip in miserable weather so as a treat Bailey suggested we go for a nice casual dinner instead of having to cook. To avoid paying for parking in town, we decided to visit one of our old favourites - Umami on Oxford Road.
I first started going to the little underground restaurant that is Umami during my PGCE for Friday night post-pub feeds, after the place was discovered by one of my fellow teacher pals. We kept going back because it is a great student haunt that does good quality food and is excellent value for money. I always used to order the Vegetable Pad Thai which, despite being a bit of a boring, safe option, was amazing and definitely the best Pad Thai I've had in Manchester.
Anyway we hadn't been in ages, probably due to me not really spending as much time down Oxford Road way as I used to, so we were very excited, also hungry, so we decided to get starters AND mains!
My starter was an Oriental Vegetable Salad, which was really fresh and healthy - exactly what it said on the tin. I was amazed by the lovely flavours of soy, ginger and rice vinegar in the dressing and the veg were perfectly warm and crunchy. A little bit difficult to eat with chopsticks but that's what practice is for I guess. Lovely jubbly.
I was still envious of Bailey's TWO starters - one of them, in his defence, being part of the Umami Combo that he ordered. Still, you can't argue with a lovely plate of crispy Vegetable Tempura and another of Vegetarian Gyoza Dumplings. Bailey was really happy with his tempura and said the batter was "the best he has ever had"! He let me have a wee dip of one of his peppers in his soy and it was really yummy. Can't beat a good bit of freshly made tempura done properly!
Bailey was a little less impressed with his gyoza as he thought the dough was a little on the soggy side, and not as firm and crisp as other gyoza we've had in the past. However he thought the filling was superb and they tasted brill to me too.
As tempted as I was to go ahead and order my usual Pad Thai (I was dreaming of those perfect noodles, crispy veggies, crunchy peanuts, subtle hint of lime and lovely chilli flakes) I decided not to be boring and decided to choose something different. After much deliberation I plumped for the Chilli Vegetable Udon. Very nice it was too with a lovely selection of perfectly cooked veggies and a sweet, sticky chilli sauce to go with the soft noodles. However, sometimes the best thing about trying something new is the reminder that the grass is not greener and how good your usual dish is. I have to say I will definitely be boring and sticking to the gorgeous Pad Thai in future!
Bailey's main was Chicken Ramen which he actually said was very similar to the Atsu-Atsu he'd had a few days earlier at the well-recommended Koya Noodle Bar - but better! The broth was perfectly clear yet full of flavour, the chicken tender and the veggies yummy. He loved it so much he picked up his bowl to drink down all the last drops of broth.
So as usual, Umami did not disappoint and we had a lovely bit of food in a nice atmosphere for cheap as chips. Another thing that really impressed me was the outstanding service and the warm welcome we received. The staff were super attentive - for example, no sooner had I emptied my glass of water, someone would swoop in to fill it up. They also dealt brilliantly with the people sitting on the table next to us, who were a bunch of absolute, for want of a better word, d*cks. A fab little restaurant worth checking out.