Taberu is one of those restaurants that has existed on Cowley Road, seemingly against the odds, for years. While many other establishments in East Oxford seem to come and go, the Japanese restaurant has been a staple on the food scene here for a long time. So it’s somewhat surprising that I’d never been, and I never really hear anyone talking about it. We took a leisurely walk on the weekend to Cowley Road, and catching a glimpse of ‘vegan taco’ being advertised in their window, we decided fairly spontaneously to go in. I’m so glad we did! I discovered Taberu has a large separate vegan menu, with gluten free also well catered for, and had to restrain myself from ordering every single item on the menu. Still, we had a large spread of food on our table by the time I’d settled on which dishes to order…
Of course I had to order the vegetarian rolls and try out what their sushi was like. I used to really dislike sushi but I’ve since discovered that it really varies depending on where you buy it. The sushi rolls we ate at Taberu were a big hit for me – so fresh, and really beautifully made. The nori was mild and not too ‘fishy’ as I find it can sometimes be for me. The rolls had a wonderful texture, with the soft well-cooked rice complemented by crunchy veggies, and were even more delicious when you added a sliver of fresh ginger. All in all I thought they were excellent value, in both quality and quantity.
The vegan ‘taco’ was a tempura battered nori shell, filled with sushi rice and finely diced, crunchy veggies. I wasn’t sure whether it would be for me because I don’t enjoy the ‘fishy’ taste of nori in large doses, and this was certainly a large dose, but with the crispy deep fried coating, I was in love. The flavours inside were the perfect combination of sweet and salty, with pickled veg and sesame in there adding a contrast to a sweet sauce. It was properly delicious and I loved seeing something innovative and a bit different on the menu.
The veggie gyoza had perfectly crisp pastry, with a tasty filling that wasn’t complete mush like some you can get. The four parcels come with a mild dipping sauce, which for me could’ve had a bit more flavour or heat to it, but there were plenty of other things on the table that I could dip into anyway. We seem to order gyoza wherever we go, and aside from the sauce these were up there among the best quality we’ve eaten.
We also ordered the pumpkin koroke katsu, which came as four generous pieces of breaded pumpkin, the filling sweet and creamy, and the breadcrumbs adding a lovely crunch. They were served with a fresh, crisp salad on the side (which was actually very edible rather than just for show, as these salads often are). To go with the pumpkin chunks, a delicious fruity dipping sauce, with bags of flavour. I look forward to ordering this in future in katsu curry form too!
As another couple of little treats on the side, I’d ordered some edamame, served warm and covered generously with sea salt, and inari sushi. I love these parcels of deep fried tofu wrapped round sweet and sticky sushi rice, and could probably have eaten loads of these ones served at Taberu!
There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as stumbling across a gem of a restaurant like this at random. I was reaching the majorly hangry zone, and I think that made our meal all the more enjoyable as it was so worth the wait. The service was very quick when we arrived and it didn’t take long at all after we’d ordered for our food to be brought out. Taberu are still available to order takeaway for delivery online – please do support them if you liked the sound of all of this, so we can continue to enjoy their food for more years to come!