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sushi with a smile -- at a price to make you grin

SUSHI is one of the original fast foods. Although food resembling sushi has been eaten in Japan for centuries, the finger-food version which we have come to know and love dates from the 19th century.

Ireland was rather late coming to sushi and indeed many still baulk at the idea of eating raw fish. Although fish is a common ingredient, most of us forget that sushi is really a celebration of rice and the good stuff zings off the palate and fills the senses.

Michie Sushi was opened on an obscure lane in Ranelagh in 2009 by Michel Piare and his partner Anna Van Exel and fans of sushi quickly realised what they had been missing. I confess this was my first visit to the restaurant although I had eaten their food in takeaway form. The restaurant is more like a small cafe with just a half dozen tables, but is perfectly suited to a fast food like sushi. I was dining with the engineer and Japanese and Brazilian friends, who had both bemoaned the lack of good sushi in Dublin. They are not moaning any more.

Savoury

We began with green tea and a bottle of house wine to whet our appetites. The wine was listed at the worryingly cheap price of €13.50, but I was delighted to see a bottle of Cono Sur Sauvignon Blanc arrive. This light fresh Chilean proved a good match for the food despite being the cheapest house wine I have encountered in at least a decade.

Our large sushi plate consisted of 30 pieces of sushi classics, including nigiri (tuna, salmon and prawns on top of moulded sushi rice), maki sushi (rice rolls filled with salmon, tuna, cucumber or radish) and some ura maki, which is inside-out sushi. Miso soup with ramen noodles and seaweed with salmon had typical umami savoury flavours and was slurped up in minutes. The soft-shell crab roll contained fresh soft meat with avocado and, best of all, a large dollop of flying fish roe. The tiny beads of orange fish roe burst against the roof of my mouth, dousing my palate with flavours of the sea.

Just as western cooking has been influenced by Japan, so have they adopted some of our classics and tonkatsu is perhaps the best example.

Pork fillet is coated in crunchy panko breadcrumbs, deep fried and served with mustard and a kind of Worcestershire sauce (home-made in this case). This was a good contrast to the fresh sushi and we fought over the final pieces.

We finished with some jewel-like moichi -- small sweetmeats made from pounded sticky rice that taste a little like Turkish Delight.

Michie in Japanese means "filled with smiles" and we did, indeed, leave this restaurant with broad grins on our faces, mainly because we had eaten ourselves to bursting point for less than €25 per head.