It was a reader who pointed me in the direction of a new takeaway just down the road from Sneinton Market. After visiting Sosu with her husband, Natalie Walker said: “I wanted to catch her eye as it’s a very new place that needs big improvements, the food is fantastic and very reasonably priced.
“I think you should check it out and let Nottingham foodies know about it through your articles and your own social media.” Always happy to oblige, I hopped in my car and made the 30 minute drive to Carlton Road, the main road between Nottingham and Carlton.
I pass Lidl, the Falcon Indian supermarket, the Blissful Asian Massage salon and an unlicensed shop called Exotic Booze before arriving at Sosu, a self-described Japanese take-out. Takeout meals are hard to check out if you don’t live nearby. Eating in your car is not the best experience.
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But it’s not just takeout, there’s seating. There aren’t many, just four against the counter and another four facing Carlton Road.
I’m the first to arrive, arriving just after 12:00 pm for lunch, so I get my choice of seats. I take a seat on one of the tall wooden stools that overlook the March Hare pub. With a concrete tower in the distance, it’s not an impressive sight, but I’m not here for the views. Inside, the decor is simple but authentic: a beautiful pink-flowered tree painted on the wall, and traditional Japanese paneling above the counter and open kitchen.
The menu starts with yakatori chicken, gyozas, tempura and chicken karaage starters. Eel, tuna, prawn and vegetarian sushi, from just €3, is another option.
For mains there are katsu curry, vegetarian curry, steak with wasabi mushroom sauce, and teriyaki chicken or salmon. Ramen lovers can opt for a bowl of homemade noodles in a broth with pork, chicken or beef.
Served between noon and 5pm, the bento boxes seem like a good all-rounder, so I order the katsu box, preferring a cup of green tea instead of a can of Sprite or Fanta.
The chef, elegantly attired in a black uniform and red scarf, disappears through a traditional noren, the cloth divider hung between rooms. He is decorated with Japanese symbols for good luck, koi carp and maneki-neko, better known as the waving cat. He returns with a steaming glass teapot, filled not with the usual loose-leaf tea, but full-size leaves.
It’s an acquired taste that I’ve gotten used to. As a dedicated tea drinker, I sometimes trade in my many cups of PG Tips for the occasional green one which is said to have a host of health benefits. Whether it really improves brain function and increases fat burning, the jury is out.
The liquids come fast and furiously when a bowl of miso soup arrives. It’s so steamy that it will do my pores a lot of good. The first spoonful is salty, the next one has a hint of fish, then as I dig into the bowl I find silken tofu and greens. Meanwhile, thinly sliced spring onion rings keep their crunch.
Since it’s miso fermented, it’s supposed to be a good detox for the gut. Until now I am enjoying the virtue of everything that has passed through my lips. As I finish my soup, there’s a sizzling sound behind me as the chef starts frying… there goes my halo of health.
Bento boxes remind me of those plastic school dinner trays with nuggets in one compartment, vegetables in another, and pudding in a third, except this one comes with chopsticks.
I start with two sushi rolls, with surimi (crab stick) and slices of ripe cucumber and avocado, expertly wrapped in rice and topped with gem-like orange fish roe. Thinly sliced red cabbage provides color and crunch, while the sesame dressing adds a nutty flavor.
It takes a while to get to the gyozas because they are so hot. The meatballs are some of the best I’ve ever had. The wrapper is soft, slightly chewy but crunchy too with a satisfying filling of minced chicken.
The star of the show is the chicken katsu, served with steamed sticky white rice. Overlapping its compartment, the sizable chicken breast is coated in golden breadcrumbs, so deliciously crispy that every bite is a delight.
The chicken is wonderfully moist and of good quality. A bold claim, but I’d say it beats Wagamama hands down. Instead of the usual hot curry sauce, a drizzle of mayonnaise adds sweetness and spicy heat.
Eating with chopsticks is not a fancy sight, so I apologize to the passers-by and passengers on the stream of lilac Carlton-bound buses who looked on and witnessed my clumsy chewing.
In the pleasant environment, it is easy to engage in conservation with another client. He’s been before and this time he’s ordered a box of salmon with broccoli. “It’s so cool,” he tells me she.
Sosu has served me some of the best food I’ve eaten recently. It’s a double win as the price is unbeatable at £8.50 for this very hearty lunch box. When I reminded the owner that he had not charged me for the tea, he said it was free.
When I get to pay the bill, there are three other people at the takeout. I would love to be there one night when all eight seats are taken. I imagine it’s loud, dynamic and a lot of fun.
It’s always exciting to discover a new place, especially a modest-looking business that turns out to be a real gem. It would be easy to miss on the busy main street, especially when the blinds are down at neighboring properties, but keep an eye out.
I envy the locals who have this on their doorstep. It’s too far away to be a regular, but if I’m in the area and have time for lunch, in the words of the Terminator: “I’ll be back.”