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The Diner: Intimate set-up and tacos you'll go back for at Asian street food restaurant in Norwich

PUBLISHED: 16:57 29 July 2016 | UPDATED: 17:02 29 July 2016

Blue Joanna restaurant. General manager Ninnie Lear, left, and head chef Tom Thornber.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Blue Joanna restaurant. General manager Ninnie Lear, left, and head chef Tom Thornber. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2016

Inspired by the night markets of Asia and food trucks of America, the demand for street food here at home has rocketed in recent years.

Blue Joanna restaurant. General manager Ninnie Lear, left, and head chef Tom Thornber.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYBlue Joanna restaurant. General manager Ninnie Lear, left, and head chef Tom Thornber. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

It is this market, and a continual move towards tapas-style dining, that the golden triangle’s Blue Joanna taps into.

Its Asian-inspired street food – an “east meets west” menu, general manager Ninnie Lear says - has been a hit with the students and young professionals living in the area since it opened last December, replacing The Last Brasserie.

We visited on a sunny Wednesday evening when – with the University of East Anglia’s graduation week mid-flow - tables were full and al fresco dining was in order.

Inside, vinyl records line the shelves, the blue piano sits by the bar and chilli popcorn – it was always going to be trendy – was served as we ordered drinks (tip: plum wine spritzers).

Blue Joanna restaurant. General manager Ninnie Lear, left, and head chef Tom Thornber.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYBlue Joanna restaurant. General manager Ninnie Lear, left, and head chef Tom Thornber. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The menu is short and affordable with dishes including yakitori mackerel skewers, crispy tofu balls with shitake mushrooms and marinated skirt steak with kimchi purée ranging from £4 to £6 and ideal for sharing between two.

Our crispy pork belly was indeed that, while deep-fried anchovies with chilli mayo, and doused with a generous splash of lime, are well worth a try.

Sides dip to the £3 to £4 mark and include wonderfully fresh hand-cut fries - in their masses - sesame dressed broccoli and wakame and cucumber salad.

But if you’re visiting Blue Joanna, it’s most likely for the Korean blue tacos.

The colour comes from the type of corn, chosen in part to be different, Ninnie tells me, but also to tie in with the restaurant’s theme.

A Korean-Mexican fusion, the tacos are packed with a filling of your choice, salsa roja, pickled cucumber and Asian slaw with a soy lime dressing.

Meat options – pork, beef, short rib and chicken – cost £8, while tofu is £7. Extra meat is available for the particularly hungry, while traditional Korean kimchi (fermented spicy vegetables) is another £1.

Earlier advice on sharing should hereon be ignored – the tacos aren’t huge, and are too good to have between two.

Order one portion each... and debate a second afterwards. Both the chicken and short rib were excellent, though the former edged it, with the sharpness of the Asian slaw and cucumber a welcome freshness.

In the interest of being an eager reviewer, I ordered the panko banana with soured cream ice cream for dessert, despite not liking banana and being warned by the waitress that it probably wasn’t for me. She was right.

While the menu might not lend itself to families, Blue Joanna is a fresh addition to Norwich’s restaurant scene and a delight for foodies, offering plenty for vegetarians and the gluten-free.

The team are keen to please and, while service was admittedly delayed during our visit thanks to a particularly busy night, the intimate set-up made for a relaxing time.

The main dishes were good, but it’s the tacos you’ll go again for. And again.

Blue Joanna is at 103 unthank road. Call 01603 625047 or visit http://www.bluejoanna.co.uk/ ■

It opens from 6pm to late from Tuesday to Thursay and 5.30pm to late on Friday and Saturday. There are live performances on Saturday nights, from 9pm.

• See the paper for our restaurant reviews on the last Friday of the month.

What did we think?

Atmosphere - 5/5

Food - 4/5

Value for money - 4/5

Service - 5/5

Overall - 4/5

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