I was recently invited by my friend, Frank, to a little hole in the wall, smack in an alley along Xiang Yang Rd where I used to pass by every day for work — Sumo Cat.
Sumo Cat belongs to a chain of Japanese restaurants with Taiwanese owners, a seemingly common pairing these days in Shanghai.
Disclaimer: This was an invited tasting.
Sumo Cat is modelled after a Japanese Izakaya, which is like a super small eatery where people go to for a simple good meal after work usually specialising in only one type of food. In the case of Sumo Cat, it was Japanese rice bowls.
There are an assortment of rice bowls at Sumo Cat, mostly featuring raw seafood that is imported fresh from Japan.
I tried the Salmon and Ikura (Salmon Roe) rice bowl, along with some sides, while sampling also bits of seafood from my companion’s eel rice bowl.
The eatery is essentially a 10 seater on the ground floor featuring closely spaced seats around the bar. While the environment was clean, it did felt very cramped, especially if you have bags and in colder weather where one is wearing thicker clothes.
The raw seafood is stored in a display fridge like many Japanese places, but I did wish that the overall temperature in the eatery would be colder, as it did get a little warm for my liking, especially since most of the food featured raw seafood.
On to the food.
Salmon and Ikura Bowl (88RMB)
Both the Salmon and roe were thankfully, very fresh and tasty. How do you know when seafood is fresh? When you don’t experience any form of fishiness or off-taste at all. Salmon roe, when fresh has a salty and delectable umami flavour that literally bursts in the mouth. Any less than fresh roe would give off a fishy flavour, depending on how old the roe is. I emphasise again, the seafood at Sumo Cat was impeccably fresh.
That said, I was a little confused by the other toppings, of okra, sweet black beans, corn and some tomato garnish. The beans were interesting, but I basically removed all the other stuff from the bowl as I found them distracting.
It is also worth noting that the rice beneath had been sprinkled generously with furikake, a Japanese condiment/seasoning often used to enhance plain rice. It did the job at Sumo Cat, although I would’ve been more impressed with a well executed sushi rice instead.
Interestingly, for all the rice bowls, a dish of nori sheets were provided for one to eat the rice with.
Eel, Sweet Shrimp and Scallop Bowl (128RMB)
This was a more premium bowl my companion had. The eel was cooked by torching right at the bar counter.
I did enjoyed the flavour of the saltwater eel, which is smaller and thinner than the usual freshwater unagi on rice bowls.
I also tried a piece of scallop, which too, had been torched on the surface, they had a lovely charred aroma with sweet, delectable flesh. Lovely.
Pictured here is the signature premium Sumo Seafood Don (158RMB) which my other dining companion had.
We also tried some freshly opened Sea Urchin (80RMB ea)
This was my first time eating Uni out of it’s shell.
It was also one of, if not the freshest and tastiest Uni I have had in Shanghai. No sharp flavours at all, but a very round, creamy and umami-laden taste from delicate pieces that simply melted in the mouth.
The Wasabi Octopus was nothing to shout out for. It tasted like wasabi, with small pieces of forgettable octopi.
The Edamame Beans at Sumo Cat were a little more interesting. They had been seasoned liberally with black pepper, which gave a strong kick to every bite and suckle to get the beans out.
After going through the menu, I realised the prices can be compared to more notable Japanese eateries, which made one wonder if it was worth it, for a hole in the wall. I was also a little concerned with the food handling in such a small space.
Thankfully, after tasting the seafood, I can attest that the seafood featured were of exceptional quality, well worth it and we were free from any upset tummy from the meal.
Have a try at this hidden gem, and let me know what you think!