I first met Tom Would and his brand Oishii Ne during their recent ill-fated tenure at the equally ill-fated House of Hammond catering facility. I was impressed with the food but not the setting. Now, with an awesome new decor, it’s a whole different story.
A boy from Hull who fell in love with sushi while teaching in Japan, Tom trained at a ramen restaurant in Portugal and launched Oishii Ne as a pop-up and takeaway while staying home. house during lockdown. His determination – against all odds – to become a sushi master eventually led him to open his first permanent restaurant in the enchanting setting of the Paragon Arcade in downtown Hull.
The glass-roofed Victorian arcade looks set to become a foodie’s paradise, with the much-loved Hispanic at one end, Oishii Ne at the other, and several other food businesses seemingly set to pop up in between. . It is an excellent development for the city. The owners of the arcade experimented with food nights and they proved extremely popular, so the idea of a permanent dining room right next to City Hall (so perfect for pre-concert food) was very attractive. At present, there are only a handful of sticky-carpeted pubs to accommodate the thousands of onlookers desperate for food. An arcade full of alcohol and food can only attract them.
At Oishii Ne, the arcade has a large capstone for its plans. A small menu and limited seating upstairs make it perfect to dive into at lunchtime for a quick and comfortably exclusive sushi hit for the evening crowd, when the real nighttime dining begins. The dining room has been decorated with murals and the tables feature Sakura trees covered with small origami birds.
It all juxtaposes nicely with the austere steel and glass of the archway that you can see through the windows. The small menu, by the way, is not a bad thing. It’s all appealing and the portion sizes make ordering a delight. “Let’s take six more” became the oft-repeated battle cry when I took my kids for a first visit last week. Closely followed by “Let’s just have another six”.
The menu changes pretty much daily, but you’ll likely come across options like the plum umboshi roll or the salmon and avocado roll or the crab and garlic roll. You can already see that each option is extremely tempting, right? The sushi all taste good. Not the biggest I’ve ever had but also far from the most expensive. So that balances out and makes ordering six more permanently desirable.
Non-sushi offerings, again, vary daily, but include robust pork belly ramen, very indulgent karaage fried chicken, and subtly spiced furikake tatties. The latter two go well together as a kind of chicken and fries main dish, but are also recommended individually. And then there are the gyozas. The usual varieties are available (pork, chicken, vegan etc) and these are the second best I’ve ever had. The best were pork and celery from a stall in Newcastle’s Grainger Market.
I ate so much that I honestly thought I should be taken home. Being the second best after these beauties is no shame. The gyoza wheel is especially recommended. It is an invention of Oishii Ne and involves eight gyoza cooked tightly together so that they form a crispy circle in the pan. They are then served upside down (so the crispy side is superior) to provide maximum crispiness. Soft, crispy, juicy and flavorful – everything you could expect from a gyoza.
Oishii Ne was only open a few weeks before I visited, so they were still juggling their drink and dessert menus. Drinks are currently limited to a small range of Japanese beers, saki, red wine and Fanta for the kids. I’m hoping for plum wine on my next visit.
Tom’s girlfriend was apparently responsible for making the Filipino banana float I had. It may have been the only pud offered, but I wasn’t complaining. It was a creamy banana cake that was light (presumably why it’s called a float) and delicious, like a fruity tiramisu. More desserts are planned, so expect expanded options when you visit.
And you should visit. Tom may be a novice restaurateur, but he does a very good job on his first attempt. As his confidence and skills grow, things can only get better, and he’s already operating from a perfectly solid starting point. Maintaining a food business has proven incredibly challenging for experienced caterers over the past two years. Starting a new food business during a pandemic – and expanding so soon after – proves that Tom has what it takes to succeed. Based on my encounters with him and his excellent cooking, I have no doubt he will.
The phrase “Oishii Ne” is apparently a widely used Japanese saying that means “it’s delicious, isn’t it?” but – although it is a question – it is not delivered as a query but as a statement. As if you knew it was delicious, the person you’re asking knows it’s delicious and you both confirm it to each other. I can confirm that Oishii Ne is delicious, so now you know, right?
Oishii Ne, 17 Paragon Arcade, Hull, HU1 3PQ, tel. : 07526070274. Open: Tuesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.