Wednesday, 18 February 2015


When we arrived in Brighton, we had heard rumour of a fab little Mexican place called La Choza.  I called to try and book us a table for dinner, only to find out that they didn't take bookings.  We then planned to drink our way through the Laines to La Choza to grab a table later on.  We made it out of The Mesmerist, accompanied by the sound of growling stomachs and decided we couldn't wait any longer.  Out came google maps, and we started to negotiated our way up to the North Laines.

We found La Choza, a lively, colourful little restaurant on a dark street corner and bundled ourselves inside to find a table.

Which they didn't have.  They also wouldn't have a table for another hour and a half.  Frankly, we couldn't wait that long.

Shay remembered that we had passed some promising looking places on the way up near the Theatre.  By this point my heels were killing me, but I stuck my brave face on and we marched purposefully down the hills until we came to Oki-Nami
Once again we bundled ourselves inside the bustling restaurant, only to find that there was only one table left, and it was right by the door.  The owner was wonderful though, told us to sit there and hold tight as another table further in was about to vacate.
Vacate they did, and just as we were about to move, another couple came barging in and took it.  Meh, stuff like this happens and honestly, being right by the door actually wasn't that much of a problem.  For one thing, it meant that we had a bit more privacy for the awkward taking of photos - a major disadvantage of being a blogger and something that I am still not entirely comfortable with, especially in restaurants.  Two of us doing it made it feel less awkward though!

As it turns out, La Choza being full was actually a brilliant twist of fate for us, as Oki-Nami turned out to be one of the best Japanese restaurants I have ever eaten in.  Check out The Demon Gin for her take on the evening.
It's been a long established part of Brighton life for over 20 years and run by the husband and wife team Mike and Azita Dodd.  It was Mike who sorted our table out for us, chatted with us freely, was clearly loved by the regulars we saw in the restaurant and who pointed us in the direction of the cocktail bar (but more on that later).   It is a family run business, with both of the Dodd's sons, Daniel and Joseph, helping out in-between University terms, and Azita's sister, Nazanin Kamali who designed all the furniture and the interior.  It is also co-owned by Fatboy Slim.  Huh.
Oki-Nami is all about producing good, satisfying and healthy Japanese food in a calm and beautiful setting whilst ensuring that all the ingredients are locally sourced where possible and ethically treated.  Some of the herbs and vegetables used are even grown in Mike's own garden, fed with compost made from the waste produced by the restaurant in one great green circle of life.  They also have a minimal-wastage approach, something that Shay and I would experience again the following day....

So, that's the history and ethos behind Oki-Nami.  What about the menu? 
Well, firstly, it's pretty to look at.  Inside though was a huge selection of choice.  We started off with cocktails.  Holy crap these were good.  Mine had prosecco and grated fresh ginger and was sharp, warm and full of flavour.  Shay's was cool and sharp, cut through with lime and gin and made the area at the back of your jaw tingle with delight.
We both went for the set menu, three courses for £22.95 is an absolute bargain. I chose the Gyoza, which was sticky and sweet and caramelized on one side whilst Sinead ordered the sushi selection with wasabi and fresh pickled ginger (which was just divine - I could have munched a bottle of the ginger).  All through dinner Shay told me stories of her time in Japan, a place I have never been and now seriously want to visit. 
For our mains we both had the Teriyaki, char-grilled chicken for me in the Oki-Nami teriyaki sauce with braised vegetables and sticky rice, topped with sesame seeds and Japanese pickle.  Shay's version came with a char-grilled salmon fillet.  Both were delicious; light and full of a delicate smokey salty flavour.
Finally we both ordered the chocolate orange cake.  I was tempted to go for the Matcha Green Tea Ice cream so that we didn't end up with the same dish, but frankly, the temptation of wheat free chocolate orange cake made with almonds, oranges, chocolate and eggs, with plum liquor infused sultana ice cream and chocolate sauce was simply too hard to resist.  We both caved and dove into one of the nicest, fluffiest, lighted chocolate cakes we have ever had.  It also looked like it came with a carrot.  It didn't - that was a strawberry and mint leaf.  Looks like a carrot though.
We both settled up our bill; a very reasonable £30 each for the three courses and a cocktail, and looked curiously at the large, spiral staircase in the middle of the restaurant.  We knew what was downstairs; the toilets and the burst beer line that had the staff frantically running around an hour or so earlier.  We didn't know what was upstairs, apart from that people kept disappearing up there and no one was coming back down. 
Another chat with Mike, and we found out that the stairs led up to Oki-Nami's cocktail bar, which he promised was somewhere we definitely wanted to be next.
Hunger sated, we concurred and traipsed dutifully up the stairs in search of more cocktails.  At the top we found a circular room with high tables and vibrant red painted walls and a small bar. 
We grabbed a table and perused the extensive cocktail menu.  Ramos Gin Fizz for myself (Tanqueray gin, lemon and lime juice, sugar syrup, double cream, egg white and orange blossom water) and Espresso Martini for Sinead (which tasted wonderful!). 
Sinead placed our orders at the bar and the cocktails were delivered to our table.  The bar operates table service so if you fancy another cocktail, catch a member of staff's eye and place your order.  You just settle up at the bar when you are ready to go.  Cocktails start at £7.50 so are pretty reasonable as well.
The crowd in Oki-Nami was eclectic.  There were an unusually high number of groups of guy friends for a cocktail bar and that may have been due to the lack of fruity, sweet cocktails on the list - something that I heartily approve of.  A lot of the mixes are made with strong rums, whiskey, gins and brandy's.  I took a mental note of the fact that the Maderia Drive was made with Monkey Shoulder, one of Steve's favourite whiskey blends, for when we will inevitably end up in Brighton next.
The Oki-Nami bar has an enviable position on New Road, right opposite the Brighton pavilion, something you can take full advantage of by taking your drink out onto the little balcony and people watching down the street.
We lingered in Oki-Nami for some time, conveniently forgetting a couple of the other bars that we had originally debated going into before heading back to the Black Lion for some late night ska.  The evening was finished off with yet more gin in the hotel bar, before (so rock and roll) cups of tea in our PJ's back in the room.

I didn't feel particularly drunk.  I still woke up with a hangover though.

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