Chef proprietor Adam Glamacinski has added an additional seat – yes, one – taking the total number of covers at Sushi Passion to a magnificent seven. Mr G has also taken on a new sushi slicer. And yes, he’s Polish, too.
Why is the restaurant so small? Does it serve Russian oligarchs in a discreet, private dining room dripping with gilt and a private art collection in Edgbaston?
Nah, it’s in the middle of Birmingham’s indoor market, opposite an outlet selling tiny suits and dresses for the pre-prom generation.
The smell of fried eggs and chips from the market caff hangs heavy in the air.
Retail poetry is spouted by meat trade stall-holders: “A whole tray of pork chops for a tenner! A tenner! All this pork for a tenner! Come on, luv!”
If you were looking for a food metaphor for modern Birmingham this scene would serve you well: Eastern Europeans slicing Scottish salmon for south-east Asian punters amid the hullaballoo of a traditional British market. If Birmingham is a melting pot of cultures, it’s bubbling away nicely in here. And if you’ve got change from lunch, you can pick up a pack of frilly knickers for her, or him, indoors.
But before the good bit about Sushi Passion, there is the bad bit, which has nothing to do with Mr G. He is a victim of it, just like you and me.
Mr G deserves, and would love to have, an outlet in a city centre location or on a busy high street, but the rents in these locations are prohibitive. Mr G, who retrained to specialise in sushi 12 years ago, says he would need to find £800 to £1,000 per week for the lease. And thus our shopping parades remain littered with chain stores, chain restaurants, estate agents, hairdressers and charity shops.
Mr G, who is 40, wants to open in the evenings – and customers want him to open, too, so they can enjoy post-work drinks and sashimi. It’s not much to ask in Britain’s second city, is it? But Mr G can’t service the night-time demand because the market shuts in the late afternoon. This he accepts – he knew the conditions when he took the unit – but it’s terribly frustrating. Unless Mr G acquires a bigger site, he won’t be able to generate the income to afford a bigger site. Get the picture?
It’s this vicious circle of rent-inflation and narrow-minded commercial property management that kills creative food ideas in cities like Birmingham. Thus culinary development is held back, which leads to stifled job opportunities, frustrated cultural growth and… I’ll shut up now.
Undeterred, Mr G is buying a scooter for sushi deliveries. He can cater for dinner parties or an informal get-together. I have no financial stake in Sushi Passion, but I implore you to visit its Facebook site (http://goo.gl/WmwWc) and see the kind of food it turns out. You can see for yourself what a Pole, a sharp knife, fish, rice and passion can achieve. Plus, if you sign up as a friend, you get a discount at the sushi bar.
I went at 1.30, after the lunch rush. A group of hip young Chinese came along to place an order and I was joined by a Scots-born businessman who had driven in from Barnt Green to get a plate of Mr G’s food. He is a regular. I can see why. You don’t go for the view but the camaraderie, Mr G’s idiosyncratic, friendly style, the “we’re all in this together” spirit and the sushi.
Basically, you can order what you want but there are plenty of set plates, all prepared from scratch in front of you, with pictures in the menu and on the wall to help the indecisive and the uninitiated.
Yes, some people haven’t eaten sushi before and places like this encourage them to give it a try without making them feel like twerps.
I had the “set 4” for £15.50. It’s outlandishly good value.
The roll is accompanied with six pieces of tuna maki; salmon tataki nigiri, given the blowtorch treatment; and a salmon teriyaki roll with a shower of crunchy onions. Japanese green tea, in china teapots and cups, is included.
On a previous visit, I had the upscale £19.50 platter which had a selection of nigiri (eel, prawn, cuttlefish, sweet prawn and octopus); black caviar gunkan and salmon roe (ikura).
You will find far higher class sushi restaurants, but not in Birmingham. You will, however, struggle to find anything that matches Sushi Passion for off-beat atmosphere and value. I am going back soon, not least because I forgot to pick up those knickers.
Sushi Passion, Unit 30D Birmingham Indoor Market.
Tel: 07414 654 280