My undergraduate granddaughter asked if I liked Sushi. I responded that I have a weakness for most Oriental dishes, and was pleased that many Asian kitchens had settled in our great capital. A regular previous complaint of mine was the absence of ethnic cuisine in the city while our erstwhile visitors, particularly the English tourists, who claim ‘chicken tikka marsala’ as their national dish, can trip along our coastline scattering spring-rolls where they may.
The young relative suggested I sound out ‘Koi’. This is located in Menandrou Street, off Themostenes Dervis with Wagga Mamma on the corner and tucked in behind Pixeda and opposite Skinny Fox. I believe there is also an oyster bar in there somewhere. Quite a collection.
But it wasn’t the proliferation of dining opportunities that struck me, but rather the knowledge that a child of one of the most conservative communities on the island should have experienced the delicate cuisine of Japan, and not only enjoyed it, but returned for more. What on earth is going on?
Sushi depends upon the quality of the ingredients. They must always be fresh and accompanied by wasabi (horseradish) that contains the glucoside sinigrin which accounts for its pungency. The more finely grated, the more potent the taste. It stimulates the appetite and the digestive juices; but be aware, it will be the hottest sauce you have encountered. The pickled ginger is sliced and fermented. It refreshes the mouth after each dish.
Koi is simply furnished with wooden chairs and tables, easily spaced, with 52 covers inside and out; quite comfortable. Marialitza, our charming waitress, offers the menu that is simply laid out and contains most of the basics one expects from a Japanese Sushi restaurant in central Nicosia. My companion and I have a weakness for tempura and order the shrimp dish served with a sweet chilli sauce to start. We could have chosen edame soya beans, rice balls, tuna or salmon rolls. The menu contains Maki, Nigiri and Sashimi. These feature slices of raw fish such as salmon, tuna and eel served as Dragon Roll.
Whenever, I see eel on a menu, it will appear on my plate. The Koi method of serving eel is to present it in an avocado and cucumber rice roll topped by smoked eel with teriyaki sauce and sesame seeds.
We followed this with Spicy Crab roll, bound by surimi, avocado and red massago on the outside. All were as fresh, nourishing and perfectly wrapped in the traditional style with the nori – seaweed – ranging in colour from deep green to black. There is something visually pleasing about plates of Sushi and Sashimi when arranged in file on the dining table accompanied by the little dishes for the soy and the dash of wasabi and the curled ginger pickles. We chose to drink green tea – Koi provide free water – and half way through the meal we had a flask of Saki; not a drink to be taken lightly. Many assume that it is a form of tea so be aware it pours out at 14.5 ABV, which is about the same as a fortified wine. Went very well with the sweet: Mochi.
A very pleasant evening, the only disappointment was the last dish which was a little tired. But proprietor, Panagiotis Psarris, knows what he is about and what the young Cypriots want. Probably the best value for money I have experienced in many a year.
WHERE Koi, Menandrou 3, Nicosia
CONTACT 22 260777 or 96 007882
PRICE Very reasonable