Nottingham's moody Geisha stylishly fuses modern Asia with the club scene and their pink sake cocktails will soon have you table-hopping

Everyone in Nottingham, it seems, knows everyone else. I have never seen such rampant table-hopping in my life as at the glamorous, just six-months-old Geisha restaurant in the Lace Market. I get table-hopped twice myself, despite the fact that it's my first time in town.

Everyone in Nottingham, it seems, knows everyone else. I have never seen such rampant table-hopping in my life as at the glamorous, just six-months-old Geisha restaurant in the Lace Market. I get table-hopped twice myself, despite the fact that it's my first time in town.

Geisha reflects two significant contemporary dining trends. One is the rampant rise of the Modern Asian dining concept as seen at Chino Latino, Cocoon, Zuma, Pengelley's and the like, while the other is the fusing of bar, cocktails, music and club scene into the overall dining experience. This is, after all, a generation who grew up within a strong local culture of music, clubs, late nights, meeting and mating. Now that they are old enough to want to eat dinner as well, they want to eat it in the same loud, buzzy, dimly lit environment they grew up in.

At Geisha, the menu and the environment are as sleekly detailed and glamorous as each other. The large bar is moodily lit, low-seated and impressively detailed, from one exquisitely mosaic-tiled wall to another. Pretty-boy service is caring and intelligent, and a very large, pink, girly cocktail (rhubarb sake with muddled lychee and lychee juice, £7), offers one possible explanation of the locals' lack of inhibitions.

It's just a few steps up to the dining room, which continues the moody, clubby feel. Flickering tea lights in red glasses, glossy black chopsticks and dramatically elegant wine glasses sit on stained dark wooden tables, while colourful silk bolsters line the expansive booth-like seats like horizontal geisha girls.

There is serious intent here; one of the partners is Ashley Walter of World Service, named Nottingham Restaurant of the Year for the past two years in a row. Head chef Anthony De Sousa also has an impressive track record, having been sous chef at Nobu for three years as well as cooking at Hakkasan and Tsunami. His menu runs from new-style sushi platters to skewers, small dishes (crisp duck rolls), luxurious small dishes (sweet shrimp and oscietra caviar), meat (label Anglais chicken with red curry sauce) and seafood (black cod with spicy miso). While it is easy to be sceptical about the now-ubiquitous Nobu refugee black cod, De Sousa probably has more claim than most to serve it.

The food arrives in gentle waves, on rough-hewn, glazed Japanese ceramics. Eight pale, silky, steamed scallop and squid shumai dumplings (£11) squat on a length of pandanus leaf, topped with a crunch of beetroot and wheels of fried lotus root. Made with a light hand, they are soft and subtle, with a sweet, clean finish. The "new style" sushi platter (£14) is pretty similar to an old-style platter, with its line of five elegantly formed nigiri finger sushi (eel, tuna, yellowtail, salmon and prawn) and six neat, tightly wrapped salmon maki rolls. The "new" seems to refer to the little garnishes of wasabi mayo, flying fish roe and twists of chilli that add texture to what is otherwise fine, classic sushi-making.

Next comes a curious juxtaposition of delicate lobster tempura piled as golden nuggets on a rather thick, sweet, spicy, khaki-coloured Japanese curry sauce scattered with pink peppercorns (£17.50). I don't care for the glug, but the lobster is brilliant - sweet fingers of flesh corseted with shiso leaf and coated with a sheer negligee of lacy, fine, dry, tempura batter. It has me reaching for more of the fresh, melony New Zealand Huia 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (£22.95).

The only stumble comes with a large dish of braised pork belly (£14.50), served on a big plate with steamed baby pak choy cabbage, steamed lotus root and - overkill on the starchy stuff - glazed chestnuts. The pork is wonderfully fall-apart and big-flavoured, like spare ribs without the ribs, but the presentation is plebby Western-style rather than classical.

To finish, a passion fruit chawan mushi (£6.50) is an amusing version of what is generally a savoury steamed custard. It also re-writes the rule books of modern pan-Asian dining by being pretty, delicate and delicious instead of overly western, banal or kitsch.

In other words, Geisha is adorable, and our waitress, Jessica, has been delightful. On the downside, there is a bossy-boots restaurant manager who refused to let us move from the bar to the restaurant earlier than our precise booking time. The management also take on too many big groups. It must be hard to say no to tables of 10 and 16 in a student and sales conference town such as Nottingham but, when there are only 60 seats, it can compromise the experience for others.

Then again, everyone is table-hopping anyway, so the entire restaurant feels like a communal table. I get hopped by the charming Louise from the next table, who wants to know why I am scribbling in a notebook. Then she gets hopped by her hotelier boyfriend and his mates. Then co-owner Phil Duke hops from her table to mine, and we have a chat about how friendly everyone is. It is just as well that Geisha is as good as it is, as I can see myself returning to Nottingham in the near future - if only to catch up with all my friends.

15 Geisha 3 Broadway, Lace Market, Nottingham, tel: 0115 959 8344. Open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Around £100 for two including wine and service

Scores 1-9 stay home and cook 10-11 needs help 12 ok 13 pleasant enough 14 good 15 very good 16 capable of greatness 17 special, can't wait to go back 18 highly honourable 19 unique and memorable 20 as good as it gets

Second helpings: More modern Japanese-influenced restaurants

Pengelley's 164 Sloane Street, London SW1, tel: 020 7750 5000 Even Gordon Ramsay has gone modern Asian, backing Pengelley's in what used to be the old Monte's Club in Sloane Street. Chef Ian Pengelly trained in Singapore, Thailand and China, so there is sushi, tempura and the inevitable edamame, but he hasn't forgotten the rest of Asia. Try fried pork hock with chilli vinegar, master stock squab, sea bass with spring onion and ginger, and dim sum.

Chino Latino Leeds Park Plaza, Boar Lane, City Square, Leeds, tel: 011 3380 4080 The sibling of the original Chino Latino in Nottingham, this is a model of modernity, with its glossy bento-box décor, Latino cocktail bar, and Japanese-led, Pan Asian menu. Head chef Shinji Nakamura used to cook at Nobu, hence the black cod and miso. The sushi is first rate, and signature dishes are recognisable updates of old favourites.

WasabiSabi 227a London Road, Sheffield, tel: 011 4258 5838 Sushi comes to Sheffield. Until Wasabisabi came along, Sheffield had Chinese, curry and kebab houses, but no Japanese. In this vast, breezy, modern restaurant, diners can enjoy the Japanese equivalents of the food they know and love - noodle dishes, curries and skewered yakitori grills. They can sit at the sushi bar or teppanyaki hot grill counter.

E-mail Terry Durack about where you've eaten lately at t.durack@independent.co.uk

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