Maxada, a ‘unique Sino-Japanese restaurant’ opened a few months ago – its two new young owners as keen as mustard to get it on the map.
The name comes from Saho, an Afro-Asiatic language meaning ‘daily activity’ and Kanbun is a technique for turning Chinese text to read like Japanese. The cuisine is just that: a mix of the two cultures’ food.
Their aim is to offer Far Eastern hospitality by cooking over imported Japanese bamboo charcoal.
More Chinese than Japanese in looks, the restaurant has the favoured Sino colour of red – symbolising luck and warding off evil.
Cross-cultural Asian dishes include duck or other meat with noodles (bangdles), beansprouts, spring onions and a plum base; or chargrilled aubergine, tomatoes, sweetcorn and a mushroom served on a ginger salad base.
Speciality seafood soups – tangdles – feature king prawns, squid, fish balls, mussels, mushroom, tomato, and broccoli. The farm platter, chargrilled marinated pork ribs, duck, sirloin steak, and lamb ribs, comes with vegetables and steak-cut chips.
Or try one of their maxcels, Chinese dumplings with a Maxada twist. That BBQ also fires up a half-lobster or sirloin steak (£11.99). Prices £8.99-£14.99, maxcels from £2.
At lunchtimes (no barbecue) the dishes are: a duck with soya rice, mushrooms and home-made plum sauce (£10) plus chicken and other choices. The duck was acceptable but not a bizarre rice with tiny slices of sausage and raisins said to be from a north-eastern part of China... and best left there.
I returned for the charcoal effect and chose a noodle with broth and grilled meat combo. Maxcels with pork filling made a light starter, the pastry paper-thin. Black bean balls added a zip. An enough-for-two noodle bowl followed, the large wooden dish filled with mushrooms, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, noodles, water chestnuts, spring onions, beef and lamb. But why use what seemed like Italian tagliatelle over Chinese or Japanese noodles? Chewy beef didn’t taste of grilled meat over charcoal. The star was the broth, a reminder of how tasty it can be if taking 24 hours over its preparation.
Desserts desert the Orient in favour of British tastes: sticky toffee pudding; treacle pudding; ice creams.
It’s the service and warmth of the owners that draws me here. The jury is out on the Sino-Japanese mix, but the will and focus of these newcomers will surely shine through.
My bill: a little more than £14 plus a glass of Colombard-Sauvignon blanc but not a deserved tip.
140 Elm Grove Road, Southsea, Portsmouth, PO5 1LR (023) 9217 6366
Monday-Thursday 12:00 – 23:30; Friday-Saturday 12:00-23.59; Sunday 12:00-22:30
Disabled access: fine, although wheelchairs will have to negotiate double doors at a right angle.
How to get there: the restaurant is on the right near the junction of St David’s Road if coming east along Elm Grove from Museum Road. On-street parking.