E-Kagen, Brighton, England

By Jeremy – February 14th, 2006

I like Japanese food. Let me qualify that: I like good Japanese food. There’s nothing more depressing than lacklustre noodles or mediocre sushi. So when I found an establishment that serves superb sushi and delectable noodles, I kept going back for more.

Sushi

E-Kagen — formerly the Yum-Yum Noodle Bar — bills itself as a restaurant, but it has more of a café feel to it. It’s a hidden gem, tucked away at the end of Brighton’s funky North Laine, above an oriental food shop. From the outside, it doesn’t seem that enticing. A single doorway leads down a dim corridor and up a flight of stairs to the café proper. There, you’ll find plain tables and some minimalist Japanese decor (very practically, there’s shelves of manga and racks of kimonos for you to peruse at your leisure).

If you were to judge purely on outside appearances, you’d probably give E-Kagen a miss. But that would be a mistake. You’d be missing some of the finest Japanese food around.

Gyoza Try the gyoza to start with. They’re freshly made: you can watch the chef prepare them, thanks to the café’s open plan layout. Once you’ve tasted these pork gyoza, it’s clear that this is a chef who knows what he’s doing.

Depending on the mood you’re in, you might want some sushi or you might want some noodles. Either way, you’re in for a treat.

Unagi When it comes to sushi, I’m a big fan of nigiri. The combination of fish and rice, when done right, is divine. All the usual fare is on offer at E-Kagen: tuna, salmon, sea bass, etc. Sadly, one of my personal favourites, mackerel, doesn’t make an appearance. But the fantastic eel more than makes up for it. You can also get the eel as a main course with rice as una-don.

As good as the sushi is, what really keeps me coming back to E-Kagen is the noodles. Specifically, the soba noodles in broth.

Tempura Soba

You can get yaki-soba if you prefer your noodles fried, and you can get udon noodles if you fancy something thicker, but you’ll be missing out on the crowning glory of E-Kagen. I don’t know what it is, but the combination of the buckwheat soba noodles with the very delicately balanced broth is just perfect.

Try the tempura soba. It may seem like a weird idea to take the nice crisp tempura vegetables and prawns and dunk them into a bowl of broth and noodles, but the result is a surprisingly good texture. The tempura batter, by the way, is wonderful. You can even get a soba dish with pieces of batter: tanuki soba.

There’s a lot more on offer from the menu at E-Kagen, but I must admit that I keep returning to my tried and trusted favourites. I have yet to eat there in the evening, when a slightly more expanded menu is on offer. For a lunch-time treat, however, I can recommend it whole-heartedly.

Salmon sushiWhenever I come across a treasure like this place, I’m always torn between telling everybody I know about it and keeping it to myself. On the one hand, I don’t want it to get too popular. At the same time, I want to spread the good word. In the case of E-Kagen, I definitely think it deserves a wider audience. Wagamama opened up a branch just down the road from E-Kagen a while back. I have nothing against Wagamama — the food is perfectly adequate — but E-Kegan is far superior. I certainly hope that the higher profile of Wagamama doesn’t result in reduced custom for E-Kagen.

Despite its unassuming appearance, E-Kagen serves up some of the finest Japanese food I’ve ever had.

E-Kagen, 22/23 Sydney Street, Brighton BN1 4EN, England, +44 (0) 1273 687 068

Comments

Drool! I want to come too!

# Posted by Jon Hicks on

Yes, there are few things more disappointing than lackluster sushi, save for lackluster Italian. Unfortunately, living in Los Angeles, horrid “Italian" restaurants rule the roost, though I am fortunate enough to be engaged to an Italian girl who whips up excellent Calabrese inspired meals :)

# Posted by patrick on

Heh. It’s one of our regular work haunts and never fails to deliver fantastic food.

On the other hand I think attendance there has definitely dropped since Wagamamas and Yo Sushi opened up, which is a shame. E-kagen spits in their faces and calls them Susan.

# Posted by Tom Hume on

Actually Tom, I think it was through you that I first heard about E-Kagen. At some stage you mentioned on the BNM list how good the gyoza are.

Mmmm… gy-o-za.

# Posted by Jeremy on

E-kagen is amazing I am having my hen night there soon It is so much better than Yo Sushi and Wagamamas Support E-kagen and the chef sounds like yoda!

# Posted by Emily on

I love E-Kagen. I had tried sushi before in all the other chain places but E-Kagen is fantastic! It’s amazingly fresh & tasty! If i could i’d stay there all day & eat sushi rolls :) The staff are uber-friendly & the big Don is a nice chap :)

# Posted by Biffer on

I would say E-kagen is the only place in Brighton that you can eat reasonably good Japanese food. As a Japanese person I have no hesitation in saying that all the other Japanese restaurant in Brighton are simply not offering Japanese food. They are definitely hype but they sometimes taste good (very creative food in a way). E-kagen is like a cheap odinary eating place in Japan where most of the people goes everyday and not special at all. Foods in there are at the normal level. But that’s very rare in England and therefore very valuable restaurant for us. Not sure if it attracts people from other countries.

# Posted by habo on

Yes, the food was fabulous - I went there today utterly by accident and was completely charmed. Linking back to you!

Went there last night for the first time in many years. The food was truly wonderful - easily the best Japanese any of us have had in Brighton and for us 4 vegetarians, a very wide selection. We all loved it!

# Posted by Laurie on

If you ever have time when you’re next in Phoenix, Arizona, there’s an excellent sushi place at 32nd Street & Camelback called Zen 32. I highly recommend it. Their dragon rolls with eel sauce is great, and they do a very nice salmon with wasabi mashed potatoes.

# Posted by Wayne on

Went tonight for the first time - it’s absolutely fantastic, gorgeous food!!

I like E-Kagen. It’s amazingly fresh & tasty!

# Posted by Erica on

E-Kagen is an absolute gem. We’ve been going as a family for years and both my young daughters (16months and 4 years old) love it. The food is consistently excellent, and astonishingly, is entirely served by the husband and wife team (in the day time at least). We have eaten there dozens of times and have yet to have a duff meal.

# Posted by Robin Hislop on

just been for the first time; proper, delicious food and very friendly staff (I had the sansai soba) - will definitely be going back again

# Posted by gareth on

It is an absolutely brilliant restaurant, with great staff and superb food. Don’t deny yourself the pleasure! Go there now!

Awesome restaurant! Puts all the other japanese restaurants in brighton to shame.

# Posted by Carlos on

Authentic Japanese grub. Friendly and unpretentious - don’t be put off by the lack of poncyness. Good value. Particularly like their vegetable tempura.

# Posted by bobsan on

I spent some time working in Japan a couple of years back and fell in love with the noodle broth. After returning to the UK I struggled to find anything that matched up to the dish I was eating in Japan; that was until I went to E-Kagen. I would recommend this restaurant to anyone who wants to try a very good example of genuine Japanese food.

# Posted by Rob on

I’ve been eating here for a while now since I think the restaurant was first set up, a couple of years ago, by the lovely middle-aged japanese couple who’ve now moved on to set up their store near Sainsburys. I’ve been happy going over the years because the food is simple and tasty and it’s just an easy place to go for some basic asian food with friends or for a quick working lunch. However, there’s a waitress I’ve noticed in maybe the last 6 months, who, whilst she isn’t unpleasant or rude in anyway, you still strongly get the sense that she resents you for having the temerity to walk in and expect a meal. I dont mind paying a 10-15% tip for basic service (and the serivce is very basic, quite like a canteen), but when you’ve only spent a tenner on a bowl of noodles, to be pretty much demanded to fork out another fiver, when all she’s done is plonk a couple of bowls of noodles on the counter without faintest attempt to conceal her contempt is really going too far. But when I ate there today with my girlfriend, and this waitress quite bluntly asked me how much I would be adding on to the bill as a tip, I didn’t expect to check the debit card receipt later to find that she’d doubled it! Furthermore, the chip and pin machine is designed to allow you to add the tip yourself and the amount I said could not be misheard for what she charged to my card so it was a deliberate scam.

# Posted by Chamee on

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