Japengo is a Japanese-themed restaurant located on the beach road in Qurum. And, as Adam Hurrell discovers, it’s really rather good
I leapt at the chance to review Japengo as I am a lover of sushi and I enjoy eating with chopsticks – there’s a certain elegance to it that appeals to me. Also, a chopstick is a brilliant tool for adding emphasis to a point during a heated mid-meal debate.
Matt, Y’s art director, and myself paid Japengo a visit on a Tuesday lunchtime and it was about half full. We were greeted with smiles all round from the very welcoming and hospitable staff, who invited us to sit wherever we liked. We chose a table by the window so we could enjoy the view – Matt is a charming chap, but looking exclusively at him for the duration of the meal would’ve been a struggle. Our very helpful waiter explained the lunchtime menu and we quickly ordered drinks. After much contemplation of the menu, we ordered a chicken katsu curry, a plate of mixed sushi and a Caesar salad to get in a few greens. While clearly trying to be a Japanese establishment, it was a little odd that the menu also featured pizza, pasta and even fish and chips – who goes to a Japanese café and orders fish and chips? There seemed to be a bit of an identity crisis going on here.
There was a healthy mix of clientele and a good balance of expats and locals, with friends and families all enjoying hearty lunches. Japengo has enormous windows looking out over the beach, making it an incredibly light and airy dining space. So many places these days are dark and dingy and I can’t stand sitting in the dark. But Japengo is clean, fresh and bursting with natural light, which was a real delight.
Our food duly arrived and we placed the dishes in the middle of the table so that we could share. Put simply, the food was brilliant. The chicken curry, its official name being Tori Katsu Karee, was delicious. The sticky rice was perfect and the sauce was sumptuous. The chicken was crisp on the outside and moist on the inside, and could not have been tastier. And the sushi, well, that was just exceptional. Sushi is an elegant dish, and I love the way it is so detailed and composed on the plate. It’s an organised meal. A plate of logic, in smart rows with each piece carefully crafted. For me, presentation is almost, if not even more, important than how it tastes. Luckily on this occasion, it tasted as good as it looked. Our 10 pieces of Tsuki sushi went down a treat. Very tasty, indeed, although also somewhat expensive in my opinion at RO12.3. Matt was brave and much more liberal with the wasabi than I was – the man must have a mouth made of asbestos, as even the tiniest bit blew my head off. How he managed to chomp his way through so much of the stuff is a biological miracle. The Caesar salad did not disappoint either. The lettuce was crisp and so fresh it felt like it had been picked five minutes before it arrived at our table. Again, the chicken was perfectly cooked and had a pleasant char-grilled texture. We were both extremely happy with our main meal and were full by the time we had polished off the three plates.
In fact, we were too full for a pudding, so we opted for a green tea to help wash things down. Unfortunately, this was where Japengo got it wrong. The tea arrived in a charming teapot with accompanying cup that resembled an earthenware pot, popular in Europe during the 1970s. Once again the presentation was good, but sadly, the tea was a disappointment. It had clearly been stewing for too long, giving it a bitter taste. This was somewhat of a shame, as everything up to that point had been so good.
Japengo is the sort of place people would frequent even if the food was average on account of the fantastic view, but on this occasion the food was as good as the view.
It is well worth another visit, although I fear I may have to save up for it first. At RO37 for two for lunch, it was rather steep and I can’t help but think you really are paying for the location.
Good food, nice view and friendly service.
Y Magazine reviews anonymously and pays for its meals