A few nights out have ended in Nuvo. I never remember them, it's always the identifiables of a stained dress from the dancing and a purse full of receipts. I get enticed by the bright lights and the promise of Nelly, and I always forget to take my make-up off when I get home. I'll be honest, when I heard that they had opened a Japanese restaurant called OKO inside of Nuvo I was a little skeptical.
So credit where credit is due to the team behind Nuvo in delivering a Nobu-esque experience in the heart of Birmingham. It takes considerable skill to do Japanese food well and the two chefs here - one on the hot stuff, the other on sushi - deliver it with aplomb. The sushi comes with elaborate theatre under a plume of dry ice smoke; the vegetable garnishes painfully carved out. The sushi rice is correctly at room temperature, the fish gossamer thin and ultra-fresh. I liked it all; the salmon (£7 for 4 pieces) and the dragon rolls (£8.50 for 4 pieces), the prawn that had a slight whack of the ocean.
OKO is also home to some of the best tempura in the city. Light and airy, without a hint of grease, the plate of tempura-coated mixed vegetables (£5.50) all still retain a little bite, whilst the squid (£7) is tender and without chew. It's a very good plate of food. And those edamame beans (£2.50). If given the choice take the spicy ones over the salted, drag the skins between your teeth and relish every bean that pops out the side and into your mouth. Wash down with sake (from £17.50 a bottle). Lots of sake. They have plenty here and it’s only right you try them all.
The dish of the night goes to chicken gyozas (£7); carefully pleated pockets packed full of meaty, garlicky notes. I could eat a bucket load of these with a bottle of soy sauce to add those salty, umami undertones. They are better than the duck spring rolls (£7) where the casing is a little too thick. It's okay though, because did I mention they have sake?
The DesignMyNight Digest
Overall, I really enjoyed OKO. It takes a complex cuisine and delivers it concisely and with precision. Service is subtle and attentive, which is exactly how it should be. We have one waitress and she quickly understands the pace that we like to eat at, and only reappears to check on drinks. Next time I'm back for sushi I may even hang around for a dance afterwards.