The Museum Shop, National Museum, Delhi
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Louvre in Paris, The State Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg—all have well-stocked souvenir shops selling books and artefacts, usually in designs linked to their collections.
The Capital’s National Museum finally has one that can hold its own too. The Museum Shop, that opened to visitors earlier this week, has a modest but tasteful collection of replicas of stone busts and Chola bronzes. The shop also stocks craft work from different parts of the country, such as papier mache works from Kashmir and bidri ware from Bidar, Karnataka. There are paperweights resembling Harappan seals, cushions and tote bags with Mughal motifs and pietra dura works in white marble that evoke the Taj Mahal.
Bouquets and bric-a-bac: The Museum Shop at the National Museum. Ankit Agrawal/Mint
The store is an initiative by four women from civil society—Malvika Singh, Mohini Menon, Lalita Phadkar and Neha Prasada—in conjunction with the government-run Handicrafts and Handlooms Exports Corporation (HHEC), and the museum administration. The HHEC has collaborated with designers and vendors from around the country, some of whom have slashed their prices for this project.
The good stuff
The store is small but impressive, especially in contrast to the dated design of the National Museum itself. A 30ft-long painting by artist Premola Ghose adorns the shop wall.
While there are a significant number of artwork replicas, the majority of the store stocks work that gives the shop an “emporium feel”. The National Museum branding is missing, but the organizers say they are working on incorporating subtle branding in the next batch of products.
Smaller stationery items such as pens and paperweights start at Rs90 while the replica Chola bronzes—the most expensive pieces in the shop—go up to Rs4-5 lakh. The cushions and bags are priced below Rs1,500, making for good buys. At Rs1,125 and Rs2,450, the replica stone busts are definitely a steal. They are artworks on their own merit and the Museum Shop is a must-visit if only for these.
The Museum Shop is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, at the National Museum, Janpath, New Delhi.
Edo, ITC Royal Gardenia, Bangalore
Close to a year ago, when ITC Royal Gardenia opened its non-existent doors in Bangalore, the biggest buzz surrounded Edo, the group’s flagship Japanese restaurant, projected to launch by year-end. It is nine months overdue but the delay is explained away by the need for perfection. Edo—the name for the ancient city of Tokyo—is ITC’s first new restaurant brand in eight years and there’s a great deal staked on its success.
From the East: Edo is ITC’s first restaurant brand in eight years.
The good stuff
From crockery to cuisine, and from décor to deportment, Edo (pronounced Y-edo) raises the bar for the Japanese experience in India. It opts for a semi-casual environment—not entirely easy, considering the essentially ritualistic construct of the Japanese dinner. But the smiling waitstaff ease us into the space. If the deep bows and quickfire Japanese greeting startle you, there’s no mistaking the warmth. Even as we admire our square plates, our welcome drinks, a colourless cold tea, and the Japanese equivalent of the amuse-bouche, sautéed spinach with sesame sauce, arrive.
We pore over the hefty menu, crafted by master chef Miyazaki Yoshikatsu, and finally surrender to the staff, only specifying we prefer sashimi over sushi, like vegetables and are quite happy to skip the teppanyaki. The sashimi (we try yellow fin tuna, scallops and black cod) is, quite easily, the best to be had in India: The fish is flown in from across the world thrice a week; the cut and quality are impeccable. The custom-designed Robatayaki grill—a step aside from the commonly seen flat-top teppan—can be temperature-controlled and produces perfectly done meats and vegetables.
We try the Chilean sea bass and black cod, but it’s the fresh shitake mushroom that blows us away. Even hard-core carnivores would abjure meat for mushrooms such as this. For form’s sake, we sample two steamed dishes: Yose Mushi is a medley of seafood and vegetables in a light broth; Una Don comprises steamed rice topped with strips of unagi (grilled eel, whatever Ross of Friends may say). Dessert is something we’ve defined before the main courses—wasabi-and-lime sorbet and sour cherry ice cream—and neither is a taste we’ll forget in a hurry. We also try a few spoonfuls of a seaweed crème brulee and a green tea tiramisu—novel, but we may not go back for them.
But Edo is a resto-bar, so as important as the food is the drink. It’s stocked with the best collection of sake in the country, and also serves Japanese single malts, beer and a delightful plum wine, Ofuku Masamune. Highly recommended.
The 80-seater Edo fashions itself as an izakaya, but it’s not very clear why a high-end restaurant would model itself after a quick-drink pit stop. But if the positioning doesn’t bother the diner, the sometimes over-officious waitstaff can. They take pains to explain every ingredient and every step of the meal, which can be a bit intrusive.
A meal for two, with sake and cocktails, costs around Rs7,000.
Edo is open only for dinner, 7-11.30pm. For reservations, call 22119898 (extension 5120).