January 2, 2019
Eldon Square’s foodie quarter has proved a popular destination for those seeking chain restaurant fare – pizzas, pastas, burgers and the like – but a new independent eatery has now opened offering something completely different.
Located upstairs, Umai Mi doesn’t look like an independent restaurant thanks to its contemporary décor and stylised Asian graphic art adorning the walls and the menus. But as director James Lan tells me, this is the first restaurant of its kind for his family-run company, which owns an Asian grocery distribution business, Nudo Noodle House, on Low Friar Street in Newcastle and nine Nudo Sushi Box takeaways across the North.
Umai Mi is named after the fifth basic taste in Asian cooking, which James reveals loosely translates as a “moreish delicious taste” that is intended to “leave diners wanting more”.
The restaurant had only been open for a few days when my two colleagues and I visited last month, but when we arrived it was already hosting a hefty throng of diners.
The Pan-Asian menu is a cacophony of tastes and flavours from the East, divided into pre-eats, small-eats, dumplings, tempura, sharing platters, sushi, soup noodles, rice bowls, rice dishes and sizzling rice hotplates.
In addition, Umai Mi has separate gluten-free and vegetarian menus.
A little dazed by the extensive choice, we allowed James to choose our selections for us and we were soon presented with chicken gyoza dumplings with Chinese black vinegar, Korean fried chicken, the Yaki skewers (chicken, beef and pork), the green dragon sushi rolls, the duck donburi (rice bowl) and the king prawn sizzling rice hotplate with garlic sauce.
The three of us set about sharing the feast, which was all beautifully presented and tasted delicious. The sizzling plate – which is mixed at the table – was an unexpected treat and could have easily been eaten as a main meal, while the sticky nuggets of Korean fried chicken from the small-eats proved a real hit.
We didn’t really need to finish our meals with a dessert but the Sweet Ending (fried apple dumpling, steamed Malay cake and green tea ice cream) and the deep-fried black sesame ice cream proved too tempting to resist.
Umai Mi may be an independent restaurant but its owners have clearly thought about every detail and it is operated with remarkable slickness. It definitely left me wanting more…