There’s a long tradition of food-related riddles.
One of the most well-known- and the inspiration behind the logo you’ve seen countless times on that Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin in your cupboard- is thousands of years old and biblical in origin.
Briefly, Samson (Delilah, lovely hair, superhuman strength) killed a mountain lion with his bare hands (‘He tore the lion apart with his bare hands as one would tear a young goat…’); and when he passed some time later, bees had taken up residence in the cadaver. He took some of their honey, and later used the incident to set a riddle to win assorted goodies- a rough translation from the Hebrew, you understand- but sadly his pre-wedding celebrations took what you might call ‘a bit of a turn’ and soon there were piles of Phillistine corpses.
An anger management counsellor this man was not.
Hence: “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.”
That Lyle’s logo is reckoned to be the world’s oldest example of commercial branding. Its meaning would have been instantly recognisable to its public on launch, but less so today perhaps. At least not to the friend who offered, ‘Is it because the lion is called Lyle, and he has a really sweet tooth?’
So, perhaps tritely, here’s a 21st century food riddle. When is an ‘invite’ not an ‘invite’?
I’m not going to rehash the old arguments about free meals here, for and against, or publish a ‘manifesto’ like some pound shop politico, but the disclosure should never be buried among 17 hashtags or tucked away at the foot of the piece.
This, for example, is an invitation that isn’t an ‘#Invite’: it’s an invitation in the oldest sense of the word, a cordial summons to eat without any ‘blogger/influencer’ flimflam strings attached. Let me explain, transparently, how this review came about. ‘Invite’ is supposed to cover all instances of meals when no money changes hands and when that meal is mentioned on social media.
Recently, the management got in touch and asked if I’d like to come and try the new menu. I asked, as I always do, what they wanted or expected as a result. I’ll be honest either way, went the standard blah.
Nothing, came the fairly unusual reply. Just come in, try the new dishes. We only want an honest opinion. You wrote about us very early on (here) so you can tell us if we are still hitting the mark.
And then- we certainly wouldn’t expect you to have to go to the trouble of writing a full post on the blog, but we’d love some direct feedback after the meal. That’s all, they said.
This visit did include the owners’ increasingly common complaint that they had been approached many times by unfamiliar types requesting a free feed for them and multiple mates, with the payoff being Instagram content. Thankfully, they realise what some don’t: that most IG content has a lifespan barely longer than a mayfly which watches its weight, doesn’t smoke and drags itself out for an occasional jog: still measurable in hours.
Trust who you’re going to trust. As Mark E Smith barked, ‘ Check the record/Check the record/Check the guy’s track record…’ Make a judgement. I’ll continue to put my trust in people who have proved over time that they can assess a meal in some sort of relatable and reliable context, provide a measured response, and who obviously have a broad experience of eating out. Because what else are you to do? The huge majority of reviews are snapshots based on one visit, after all, which you’d struggle to term definitive or exhaustive.
Do they feel you can be trusted to make a mature judgement of a meal? It’s all free to read anyway. If someone has a track record of fairly sound views, trust them. If they will obviously shill for anyone and anything and proclaim everything, however mediocre, to be exquisite and cooked to perfection and ravishing- not so much. That’s up to you: there’s obviously a market for it. You know the type- would attend the opening of an envelope (or a Love Islander’s flies), buys Instagram followers and likes. Fraudulent gobshites. So, because I always like to kick against the goads, and although they asked me not to, I’m going to tell you how good Sushi Life is. I’m going to tell you that it does what it has always tried to do, and it does it well.
Alright, I’m getting there… music isn’t the food of love. Dumplings are. I am a dumpling tart. Gyoza, pierogi, momo, jiaozi, manti, whatever. Baked, steamed, fried, steamed THEN fried: I am shameless in my pursuit. The prawn dumplings here are good- 5 for £5.80- very, very good, that killer combination of tiny sweet whole prawns and chives in a dainty little shell, blistered and crisp from the oil. If I had made a list before starting of what I wanted from an excellent prawn dumpling (what? You mean you don’t..?) I’d have been busy ticking every box. Five chicken gyoza (also £5.80) are also very good, the filling delicately seasoned, and if they don’t quite scale the heights of their predecessors that’s no insult. Because- did I mention this?- they are very, very good. So good that my friend’s eyes widen as she takes her first bite and says (and I may have covered this) ‘Oh, these are gooooooooood. Very, very good!’
Who am I to argue? She knows her seafood. The Manhattan maki roll (£8) is the kitchen having fun and experimenting with memories of travels, all under that American plastic cheese you’re either too much of a food snob to ever admit eating, or gleefully shovel slices straight from fridge to mouth when hungover. It’s all about that crisp little nugget of prawn starring in the centre, but surimi and sriracha bring plenty to the party too and the snap of cucumber is a welcome balance to the cheese.
I don’t know if I’d order them again, but I do like a kitchen enjoying itself. Sushi Life make no grand po-faced claims to be ‘authentic’: they clearly see themselves more in the fusion tradition. Tucking into the Cha Han rice (£8.70) feels downright saintly. It’s loaded with tiny dice of red and green peppers and red onions, and just to balance out all that New Year New Me smugness it’s piled high with thick slices of duck breast.
Some long patient cooking combined with a quick final sear on the grill means it’s a substantial serving, and balances the virtuous with the indulgent. It probably edges toward the latter, which is far more my kind of thing.
This menu stands or falls on the freshness of its ingredients, so the octopus tako and eel unagi nigiri have nowhere to hide. The former is sliced slightly too thick for my preference, but my friend isn’t as pedantic as I and demolishes its bouncy freshness.
Highlight? Those prawn dumplings, obviously, but the duck fotomaki (5 for £7.20) captures the essence of that classic duck and cucumber combination vividly. This, I’d eat all day.
So, although they didn’t ask me to write this, you should know that Sushi Life, another small locally owned business in Roath, deserves your time and money. That it will feed you very well in relaxed surroundings.
Just leave some of those prawn dumplings for me.
The Globe Centre,
5, Wellfield Rd,
12.00-2.45; 5.30-9.30 MON- THURS
12.00-3.00; 5.00-9.45 FRI
12.00- 8.00 SUN
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.