Sushi is one of those words that, like Marmite, cause you to recoil in horror or smile. Let's start with the basics. Sushi is Japanese food, based on rice and vinegar combined with fish, seafood or vegetables and teppanyaki literally means "cooking on a hot plate". Japanese restaurants are not new. There are restaurant chains that offer sushi and teppantaki buffet, and arguably do this well, selling a brand, but looking at the menu you can all too easily stop and think, 'Am I in Glasgow or Cardiff?'. No, you are in Birmingham. I prefer independent restaurants that don't have the corporate styling and bombard you with emails offering a code for 15% off on days with a 'Y' in it.
Shogun is an independent Japanese restaurant in Birmingham, nestling in the City Centre Mailbox complex, but admittedly positioned without the canal views of its rival mega chain eateries. I think Shogun is all about the food. And the theatre of it all. Let me explain.
It is date night and where do you go? Can I be so bold to invite you to Shogun; I'll pick you up at 7. You'll come? We'll sit at the teppanyaki table, a half circle of seats around a hot plate and await the chef, dressed up to the Japanese nines, to cook our dinner and simultaneously provide front row cabaret. Our date will be warmed by the hot plate, dicing and slicing, offering a perfect recipe to those unfortunate first date silences. I can almost hear your squeals as an egg is cracked in the air and lands sizzling on the hot-plate, and then your glance at me adoringly…
If the budget won't stretch to teppanyaki, (although they also offer a house teppanyaki menu for approximately £30) take a seat at the conveyor belt for sushi on the move. It's not priced plates, it's unlimited buffet for £11.95 per head, except Saturday evenings; and it's not all raw fish and tentacles. There are cooked fish and some hot dishes that you see freshly prepared; I adore their cooked king prawns in tempura batter as they tempt from the conveyor.
You can supplement with dishes from the main menu, but I feel this misses the point of buffet, which prompts you to try something new to you, even if you're not quite sure what it is at first. I prefer adopting the 'I'll try a bit of everything' mantra as it approaches you. You may even find a new favourite dish from Shogun's well stocked conveyor.
I think Shogun's food is real. Not overly presented. Decent portions. Take note, men do take the use of chopsticks very seriously. It's a macho thing, (but forks are available). There is table service for drinks (it is licensed) and a 10% service charge will be added. Shogun used to have another branch in Birmingham and some websites might be out of date for directions, so use postcode B1 1RD. Shogun is walk-able from New Street station or there is a multi story parking at the Mailbox.
Here are my top tips for enjoying Shogun -
1. If you choose the sushi conveyor belt you don't have to wait and order, so it can be a quick option if you've to be somewhere.
2. Don't get a seat at the end of the conveyor belt. You'll have your eye on summit coming and it may be snatched before.
3. Try something new.
4. Ask if you have any food allergies and the staff can advise.