REVIEW: Jumon Belfast

Jumon Belfast is not so much a restaurant as a concept. By their own admission they adopt a zen-like philosophy to eating, inasmuch as they only partake of good food with good healthy attributes. Although vegetarian in nature to call this a vegetarian restaurant would be unfair. Jumon Belfast takes what tastes good and enhances the ingredient as the star of the dish using Asian flavours and techniques to produce a wonderful blend of goodness.

Found at the bottom of Fountain Street, Jumon Belfast brings the East to the centre of Belfast. The menu zings with Asian exotic ingredients. Unfamiliar with a lot that is on their menu we asked for guidance from the staff, who were so patient and willing to help. They really made the evening for us.

We started our Eastern delight with a couple of sharing starters which completely blew my senses – Cigar rolls and Tempura Broccoli.

The Cigar Rolls would put you in mind of spring rolls. But they are nothing like spring rolls. Beautifully crispy cigars containing Yunnan eggplant, ricotta kimchi, black ketchup and jade mayo. The taste is beyond the appearance. Wonderfully seasoned eggplant which gave a great texture and bite to each cigar carrying the kimchi. The kimchi, a South Korean fermented cabbage, was sharp and sweet and balanced with the western ricotta. The dipping sides of Black Ketchup, salty umami-ness, and Jade Mayo, cool cleanliness, created a different experience of the cigar. Each dip brought out different tones and flavourings from the same roll. So clever. The Broccoli was taken to such a height of culinary excellence it was almost unrecognisable. They were served with a slice of ginger which accented the earthiness of the broccoli with a shot of sharp heat. I ate these as quickly as possible for fear she would eat more than me. The starters were educational. No meat and yet no disappointment at its absence. This was an underlying theme to our conversation on each course.

For mains we had Sayur Lodem and Hungley. A rice dish and noodle dish respectively. The Sayur Lodem is a Jack Fruit curry sauce reminiscent of a Korma only more refined. Served with Asian greens, pickled lychee and carrot served on brown rice. Words are not enough, this was beautiful.

Lychee always reminds me of the dessert served at a Chinese restaurant during the eighties. So to see it used in a savoury dish and pickled to boot intrigued me. What a wonderful use of this fruit, the sweetness at first, unmistakable, and then the acidic pickle where great. I picked them out of the dish like a Pacific diver plucking pearls from the deep. The dish was just beautiful.

The Hungley was a stronger curry flavour. Ramen in Malayoo curry with lentils, veg, peanut and pickled pineapple served on noodles. The Hungley would be a heavier dish, liken to the comfort-food end of dishes so different to the light Sayur Lodem. Although I am using a lot of names and referring to ingredients I have seldom or never encountered, this is what Jumon is, an educator. I encountered flavours and tastes that initially tasted familiar, but as they developed on the palate brought me forward in my understanding of food. Therefore, I would like to thank the guys at Jumon. Thank you for the education.

The sweet end of the evening was a complete surprise. Miriam had Full Moon. Chocolate sponge with banana in cane sugar caramel, and passion fruit. It was light and refreshing for something which sounded heavy. The passion fruit puree cut through the dish like a shooting star cuts an arc through the night sky. Amazing and a great end to the meal. My sweet was a quartet of desserts some familiar others new to me. On the menu as Halo-Halo I leave this for your discovery.

Discovery, what a discovery. Jumon Belfast is a school room for an education in taste. Breaking with the conventional, Jumon changes the concept in Belfast of Asian cuisine and for the better I might say. Thanks for the education I am a convert.

Paul McMath

Jumon Belfast is on Fountain Street in Belfast City Centre, opposite Voodoo Belfast. For more information on opening times and contact details go to @jumonbelfast on Facebook. Published in TBL 302.

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