When Terry Huang’s feted Umezushi closed for good in autumn 2019 the city lost its finest sushi joint. But while the tiny eatery located within the railway bridge arches on Mirabel Street is no longer taking bookings from the general public, select diners are being offered a unique culinary adventure that’s impossible to forget.
Introducing Umezushi Omakase, a members-only Japanese food lover’s wet dream available to just four guests per sitting. This lucky inner-circle, currently around 80 people strong, get to enjoy one of the most intimate restaurant experiences on the planet, with Huang preparing and serving dishes in front of them from an ever-changing menu of his choosing, available on alternate Saturdays and when chef feels “inspired”.
The idea is rooted in a traditional Japanese dining style. Omakase sushi, as Huang explains, often takes the form of a set menu with a specific number of courses for a fixed price. In comparison, tempura Omakase is more about placing trust in the kitchen talent, who continue to cook for guests until those guests are full. Once they can eat no more, the bill is calculated.
Umezushi’s take on things sits somewhere between the two. Huang comes up with a menu in advance, but is also happy to continue passing out plates until every customer is completely satisfied. Naturally, then, Finest wanted to check out what’s in store for the privileged few, and we weren’t disappointed.
Tempura olives, sea urchin (or ‘uni’ in Japanese), real prawn crackers, king crab, and abalone — a giant sea snail — are among the delights on offer. However, the masterplan behind this particular Omakase concept is less about the restaurant and more focused on inciting a food revolution.
“We want to enable every personal kitchen to become a sushi kitchen,” Huang tells us of his long-term aim, which will see the on-site store, specialising in high quality ingredients not commonly used in the UK, take the spotlight. “Offering this Omakase is part of that experience. We want people to see it, then touch it by going to the shop and purchasing ingredients, which are a fraction of the cost of a restaurant but restaurant standard.”
The retail arm will also soon be used to choose new members who can access the ultra-exclusive dine-in option. While no definite decision has been made on how this will work, 2022 will see more people invited to join the club based on how much they have bought from the shop. Meanwhile, engagement with the Umezushi YouTube channel — dedicated to educating epicureans on improving their cooking skills — may also provide a route in.
“It’s really because of all the uncertainties for the customer, they don’t know what they are getting and so I would prefer to keep it to a group of people who already get this style,” Huang replies when we ask why membership is so exclusive. “The limitation is more on my capacity to produce, rather than strict criteria. Members are always welcome to bring guests, and once those guests have experienced it, understand the concept, and are happy to jump in and take the risk then usually it’s not a problem for me to add them as members.”
Ultimately, Umezushi Omakase is a real labour of love, and one that reflects Huang’s personal passion for the most exacting standards. And in creating this original experience — for Manchester at least— he has set sights on helping others discover exceptional cuisine. In turn this raises their expectations of what every restaurant should be, while also arming them with knowledge, confidence, and culinary supplies to take home.
“I’m very clear that I’m not going to get rich or make a lot of money out of this. And that’s fine,” Huang says, explaining the project doesn’t have much to do with business acumen, and is really about sharing edible wealth. “I’ll run it until I can’t afford it,” he continues, bursting into the kind of belly laugh that clarifies how much he’s relishing the new direction.
If you are keen on becoming a member to Umezushi, whilst you will sadly have to wait till 2022, we would recommend checking their socials or signing up to their newsletter as all information on the membership will be announced through these platforms in the first instance.
To be extra prepared you can create a free account with Umezushi here. You will then be able to purchase a vast array of Sushi ingredients from them and also get access to the prized membership once they’re made available.
Once you’ve purchased your ingredients, if you’d like to learn how to turn them into a sushi feast then please subscribe to Umezushi’s YouTube channel. It’s full of tasty Sushi content featuring helpful tutorials, tricks of the trade, interviews and more. New videos are released onto the channel every Thursday at 3PM.