Shinsen Sushi, Edinburgh, review – we try the rainbow rolls at the capital’s newest Japanese restaurant

inner shinsen

It was while visiting the Audubon’s Birds of America show, which is at the National Museum of Scotland until May 8, that we decided what to have for lunch.

Along with letters, taxidermy and other treasures, this exhibition features this US artist’s ornithological portraits.

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The wild turkey made our mouth water, and all the little wrens looked tasty, if a bit crunchy and insubstantial.

sushi rolls

However, it was the image of a sea eagle – or at least, I think that’s what it was, but my brain was added by hunger at that point – clutching an angst ridden salmon that was the most tempting.

Yes, it’s sushi o’clock. Give me all the omegas, and stuff them into my beak.

Thankfully, Shinsen Sushi has opened a second branch to join their Broughton Street venue. It’s just round the corner from the museum, on Edinburgh’s most ramshackle thoroughfare, opposite what used to be Avalanche Records and the soon-to-be-defunct Shoe Zone.

There are just five tables, all surrounded by bright orange canteen-style chairs, and a fridge, for instant takeaway, though they also take orders and deliver.

Chicken katsu don

Expect Japanese soups, teriyaki and karaage, as well as sashimi and lots of sushi. We would like to have tried more, but there were only two chicks in this nest.

Drinks include Asahi beer, green tea or sake, but I went for a pina colada bubble tea (£4). I ordered this, since I am 12, and wanted the kawaii container with its cartoon dog on the lid. I enjoyed the tropical coconut mixture, with its yellow tapioca pearls at the bottom. They remind me of the bath ones you used to get from various aunties at Christmas, except these don’t taste soapy, like those did.

My husband went for the Ramune (£3) fizzy soda in watermelon, with its Codd-neck bottle and marble that you have to push inside. We needed help. Thank you, waiter, with your extra strong thumb.

We also shared the kaiso salad (£4), which was a large slippery and salty portion of wakame, shredded carrot, mukimame and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.

Then there was the chicken katsu curry don (£10) – also available in prawn (£11) or pumpkin varieties (£10). It was a hearty portion, with a bank of sushi rice, and a crumbed and crispy cutlet that was slathered in sparrow-colored katsu sauce with a subtle buzz of spice. There was also a lovely soy-marinated and sticky-yolked poached egg and a salad of sugar snap peas, carrot, daikon and spring onion. Very comfortable.

I would have liked a tour of the sushi menu, but the rolls come as sets of eight, and I asked, but wasn’t allowed to mix it up.

Thus, I went for the rainbow rolls (£11) from the raw section, and, in tribute to John James Audubon, a portion of the cooked duck ones (£10).

They came together, presented on a black slate with a ceremonial strawberry on the side, a smudge of Orville-hued wasabi and loads of fiery pickled ginger, as well as a pretty leaf print rendered in mayonnaise. I’m used to bite sized sushi that you can pop it in your craw without fear. These, however, were almost snooker-ball dimensions. I binned my decorum and rammed them in, being careful not to inhale a sesame seed.

The fishy versions were topped with smooth and thick slices of salmon, sea bass and tuna, with fillings of avocado, cucumber, spring onion and oshinko and kanpyo pickles.

I wasn’t totally sold on the duck rolls, with their topping of crispy shallot and filling of shredded poultry, hoisin sauce and cucumber, since the meaty centers were a little dry. They needed an extra soaking in soy sauce.

Although a pudding of yuzu, lime and pistachio cheesecake (£7) sounded excellent, I always want ice-cream after sushi, so we repaired to the new Alandas on Forrest Road.

There was a queue outside, so we waited patiently, while the ghost of Greyfriars Bobby nibbled and licked our ankles, for helpings (£4.50 for a medium two scoop container) of the jammy and fruity cherry cheesecake, the subtle rhubarb crumble and a vanilla chocolate brownies

The combination of those two museum book-ending venues seemed like the ideal post-exhibition feast.

I’d like to thank my feathered friends for their subliminal foodie guidance.

How much? Lunch for two, excluding drinks, £35

Museum Brasserie, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street,

Soup, fish and chips and burgers are the order of the day at this Level 0 restaurant, which recently reopened. The fillings in their sandwiches are pretty tempting and include Scottish hot-smoked salmon, rainbow beets, baby spinach and horseradish creme fraiche on a Breadwinner Bakery bagel.

Until June 11, get your dose of culture at the Art of Wallpaper – Morris & Co exhibition at this gallery, then visit their in-house cafe. The flavors might include lamb pasties, and sweet stuff such as raspberry, rose and redcurrant empire biscuits or a slice of cherry and marzipan cake.

This upmarket Italian restaurant is in quite an incongruous spot on this busy street, but it’s definitely worth tracking down. Their five-course tasting menu is £65pp, or £115 with paired wines, and includes dishes like Sicilian blood orange cured salmon, carpaccio of rainbow beets and acid cheese mousse. There’s also a casual Bar Menu, with a steak of the day or risotto.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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