Monday, February 22, 2010


The first time I went to Nikko I remember thinking it was not as good as many people had told me it was. Fortunately I've been back several times since and I've come to realize that this is one of the better Japanese places in Cologne. It's in a small shopping arcade, a bit out of the centre of town, but nevertheless seems to be consistently busy. Luckily for me it is close to where I go for japanese lessons.

Although the sushi here is very good, this is not just a sushi place and the menu actually has a wide range of different dishes to offer. These days I always have difficulty choosing (no surprise to anyone who knows me) and usually ending up eating too much (also no surprises), so as not to miss out on my favourites.

Starters such as yaki gyoza (fried dumplings) and tako su (octopus ad cucumber in vinegar) are consistently good for getting the juices flowing. There is also a tasty grilled mackerel which always comes high up my personal list of options.
I find it hard to resist the tempura, which is excellent here, or the fresh and tasty sashimi and excellent nigiri sushi, so I have yet to try many of the main courses like katsujyu (breaded pork and egg on rice) or tori no shougayaki (chicken in ginger sauce). But I'm hoping to go often enough to try everything at least once!

At the weekend I opted for one of the excellent fixed menu meals, the Momo. This comes with 5 small vegetable starters, each delicious and with a contrasting range of flavours. Then sashimi - delicious but a little smaller portion than I remember having before. Next deep fried tofu in soya sauce. I was a bit suspicious of this the first time I had it, and didn't expect much in the way of flavour. Turns out to be very good indeed and a nice complement to the courses on either side. The main dish is teriyaki beefsteak, which was a very flavourful and beautifully cooked. I was unable to resist supplementing my meal with four nigiri sushi at that stage (toro, unagi, saba and hamachi), all of which were excellent, and with a generous portion of fish. The toro (fatty tuna) was especially good. However, by this stage I was unable to manage my final course of green tea ice, but fortunately one of my companions was happy to oblige.

If I had to ask them to improve one thing, it would be the speed of service. Nikko gets pretty busy in the evening and the gaps between the courses can get a bit extended, which is OK if you are there for a leisurely meal, but can still be a bit frustrating. The sushi chef gets especially stacked up with orders, but when you see the beautiful, and large, platefuls he comes up with, it is no surprise that he needs a little time.

All in all, a great place that requires repeat visits.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Favourite Webcomics

The Washington post is having a poll for best webcomic, which is not a new idea of course, but is still a nice bit of fun.

Amazingly enough Sluggy Freelance is not amongst the nominations, despite being the quintessential webcomic, I would have thought.  It's been going since August 1997, with a new comic almost every day, including many full colour multi-panel contributions (random link) that must take author and artist Pete Abrams hours to complete.  It has genuine humour, drama and pathos and, despite the incredibly complex and long-running plot lines, he still manages to get at least one punchline in every day.  I guess it's not an easy comic to get into if you haven't read the archive, but there are plenty of others that are even harder to follow, and reading the archive is worth it anyway!  It's a must-follow comic for any webcomic fan.

xkcd is an altogether different thing - a comic of romance, sarcasm, math and language.  Many of these are just plain inspired.  I confess I don't get every math related one, but who cannot fail to marvel at something like a map of Onlne Communities.  One thing that amazed me recently was that, despite the stick figure drawing, artist Randall Munroe still managed to get, to my eyes anyway, a real sense of dejection into the last panel of G-Spot, just by slightly changing a circle and a line.  I only recently found out that all the comics have an additional mouse-over text with an additional gag or aside.

My favourite of the moment though is Questionable Content by Jeph Jacques.  No comic has ever made me laugh out loud so much (and I mean "laugh out loud", not lol) even at the second and third reading.  It is clever and grown-up (read "adult situations") and quite simply very funny.  Not only that, but I find it is a goldmine for tips about interesting music in the post- and indy-rock arena.  I also love the art work.  Far too many web-comic artists would have just had 4 near identical, copy and paste, talking heads panels for this recent comic.  You can also follow the characters on Twitter for additional laughs, but be careful about clicking on any link posted by Pintsize (these are definitely not safe-for-work or to everyones taste).