Fumi, Brighton review – Japanese fine-dining in an elegant, modern venue

Tuna sashimi and salmon nigiri at FumiTuna sashimi and salmon nigiri at Fumi
Tuna sashimi and salmon nigiri at Fumi
As Brighton and Hove’s demographic shifts, the city’s increasingly important hospitality sector appears to be moving with it.

June saw the opening of Fumi, a Japanese fine-dining restaurant based in the recently developed land which used to house the slightly less refined fruit and veg market.

The change in the urban landscape is quite remarkable, with 142 new homes, 450 student rooms, and some striking new environmental building design.

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Brightonians of a certain age will be pleased to see the all-night cafe the Market Diner is still in situ (albeit under new ownership and looking all the better for a spruce up), but otherwise it’s out with the old and in with the new and shiny.

Inside Fumi in Circus Street, BrightonInside Fumi in Circus Street, Brighton
Inside Fumi in Circus Street, Brighton

Fumi is based on the corner of this major new development, on Circus Street just a few steps from the Brewdog pub (formerly Hector’s House for the aforementioned ageing Brightonians) on the ground floor of a new substantial building

There’s an immediate sense of space as you step into the brand new venue, which is a world away from the majority of smaller restaurants in town.

High ceilings, neutral colours, well spaced out tables and a long bar table also differentiate it from other venues, and there are East-Asian motifs in the form of cherry blossom, paper screens and a rather splendid, specially commissioned, monochrome and gold mural of Japanese Long-necked Cranes.

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The diffused low lighting adds warmth and a comfortable feel amid the stylish interior.

Black cod with organic black rice and pak choi at Fumi.Black cod with organic black rice and pak choi at Fumi.
Black cod with organic black rice and pak choi at Fumi.

It’s been set up by Wolfox, which is behind an ever-increasing number of coffee shops in Brighton and Hove and also plant-based Japanese restaurant Kusaki on New England Road.

Their aim is to provide a sustainable experience, blending Japanese cuisine with, wherever possible, the local produce of Sussex.

Our first taste of Fumi, an Elderflower Sake Martini, achieved that aim with sparkling Sake stirred with gin and elderflower cordial giving a fresh hit of Sussex hedgerow, and a slice of cucumber provided a further summer breeze.

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The second was an adorable White Peach & Marmalade Fizz, Yamanashi white peach liqueur shaken with marmalade.

Pan-fried scallops at Fumi, BrightonPan-fried scallops at Fumi, Brighton
Pan-fried scallops at Fumi, Brighton

Peachy in every sense of the word, the liqueur comes from a region known as Japan’s ‘fruit kingdom’, while the marmalade is presumably English, think Paddington Bear in a kimono.

Being smart cookies we chose the six-course omakase menu.

Omakase is a Japanese phrase which means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’ which given the experienced roster of Fumi’s team, seemed the wisest path.

Our first plate – a substantial cut of tuna sashimi and a faultless salmon nigiri.

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Seared duck with plum at FumiSeared duck with plum at Fumi
Seared duck with plum at Fumi

As always the fresh silky fish was all better plunged into smoky soy sauce, and the amber-hued salmon had been lightly seared by blow-torch, creating a slight caramelisation and transforming both the texture and flavour.

Plate two brought with it an air of the English Channel with Asian flavours and expert cooking techniques.

Perfectly pan-fried plump scallops were matched with a restrained wasabi foam, with a miso twill on top.

The marvellous molluscs were slightly savoury from the golden brown searing and wonderfully juicy.

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Next up came a dish of black cod with organic black rice and pak choi.

The rich Alaskan black cod (which has a higher fat content due to the colder waters of its homeland) is a Japanese favourite, and its velvety texture worked well with the lightly cooked pak choi and al-dente grains.

Japanese Pear Tarte Tatin at FumiJapanese Pear Tarte Tatin at Fumi
Japanese Pear Tarte Tatin at Fumi

A plate of thick slices of pan-seared duck was served on a bed of pak choi, with a sweet and sour plum.

The brightness of the plum vinegar was ideal for earthy gamieness of the duck, and the moisture and crunch of the pak choi added to the balance of the dish.

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It’s also worth noting the contribution of the delicate flavours of the different micro-greens served with two of the courses.

We were right to leave the food choices to the kitchen team, and similarly the drinks choices were best left to Chris, the super-smart and charming general manager.

He provided sage advice, a flask of sake which made my dining partner blissfully happy, and the sort of smooth whisky I’d previously only associated with moonlighting Hollywood A-listers on Japanese ads.

Plates five and six were two puddings, a creme caramel Purin, a vegan Japanese custard pud, and a sublime, and definitely not vegan, buttery Japanese pear tarte tatin.

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Of the two shared puddings, the first was perfectly adequate but is was the near toffee-tasting fruit tart, with the thinnest of pastry, which led to some undignified pudding squabbling, unbefitting the smart venue.

A near faultless selection of dishes with high quality ingredients cooked with precision, presented with artistry, and served with enthusiasm by universally attentive and thoroughly approachable waiting team.

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