Still, it would be unfair to exclude Edamame on the grounds that it's good, and I think that enough can be said about our experience there to make a decent review. For a start, arriving always feels like entering someone's front room, as you duck through the tiny hallway into the light, wooden-floored, low-ceilinged dining room, and sit on benches at one of half a dozen shared tables. The atmosphere is cosy, and friendly, without the cramped sharp-elbowedness of a proper canteen restaurant. As you'd expect, there's a high turnover (payment is taken when you order), but you don't feel rushed.
The lunchtime menu is simple, with about eight main choices, some side dishes and a special or two (the evening one is slightly different, and on Thursdays is the much-fêted sushi night). A glimpse of the tiny kitchen makes this entirely understandable. As an appetiser we had some kaiso sarada (£3: this was a special), a seaweed and cabbage salad with a hot horseradish (I think) dressing. As far as I could tell the seaweed was real, and the contrast of textures, between dry-ish cabbage and rubbery, salty seaweed was quite addictive.
Most of the main dishes come with rice and/or miso soup. These were perfectly done: the soup savoury without being too salty, and the rice beautifully light and slightly sticky. The Photographer had chicken katsu (£8.50: chicken breast coated in 'Japanese breadcrumbs' and deep fried, with a fruity sauce for dipping). No spectre of KFC loomed here: the tender chicken was offset by its crispy, greaseless covering.
However, perhaps on a different day, with a different special, I would have been properly impressed (I should point out that once they served my favourite Japanese dish ever, oyako don; I don't think you can get that anywhere else in Oxford). In general, Edamame clearly deserves its success, and even though it will still be busy if you don't, you should go.
15 Holywell Street, OX1 3SA