I chanced upon Naomi Moriyama’s Japanese Women Don’t Get Old or Fat a couple of years ago and that got me interested in Japanese food and all the healthy cooking ideas associated with it. I cannot be counted as a 100% Japanese cuisine fan (having developed a shellfish allergy recently means I struggle with some aspects of this cuisine) but what I enjoy about a Japanese meal is that dishes are super light and the flavour of a food item is never smothered. And, I love nigiri sushi.
So, I was excited when The Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, announced that it was opening Wasabi by Morimoto in the space that once used to be No. 1, the most rocking nightclub in Delhi. After all, in Mumbai this restaurant is acknowledged for its contemporary Japanese cuisine and has a great selection of vegetarian dishes.
Thank god, the Taj did not try to transplant Mumbai’s Wasabi in Delhi. The eatery here has a distinctive personality. The Sake Bar which, by the way, has a few amazing concoctions — more on that later — is exclusive to Delhi. The private dining alcove is unlike the one in Mumbai, which has semi-tatami (low) seating. The Sushi Bar, tucked at the back, has fresh ingredients flown in daily from the Tsujuki fish market in Tokyo and allows patrons to be served at the bar.
Among the three cocktails that I tried, Kappacooler wins hands down over Saketini and Nippon Mary. This combo of Ichiko Shochu infused with peach fruit, grapefruit juice, kiwi fruit and cucumber is just the thing to beat summer blues with. A delightful surprise was the bartender, who willingly incorporated suggestion after suggestion to spice up the Nippon Mary.
In the hot appetizers section, I loved edamane, a preparation of salted and boiled baby soybeans in the pod, though I was sceptical when the beans were first placed in front of me. The rock corn tempura in spicy mayonnaise was sharp and left a tangy aftertaste. The teppanyaki preparations were fabulous and were accompanied by three sauces (buribop, ponzu and sweet chilli) for those who wanted more flavour. The stuffed kobocha (Japanese pumpkin stuffed with assorted vegetables) was delightful — slightly sweet but piquant. The assorted sushi and sashimi platter, with its edible flowers, was to die for, even for someone like me who is partial to nigiri sushi. The really pungent wasabi root that accompanied the platter was freshly grated.
For those who love spicy Bloody Marys (I plead guilty), Nippon Mary (unless they have since incorporated my companion’s and my suggestions) is a no-show. Even though the bartender tried three versions, the blend just did not work. The tofu cheesecake (with sweet soy milk and fruit sauce) is totally avoidable, too.
Cocktails are priced at Rs600 plus taxes. The assorted sushi and sashmi platter starts at Rs3,500 (usually 8-12 pieces), the teppanyaki lunch set with miso soup and green salad is Rs1,495 while entrees in the lunch menu start at Rs1,125, soups at Rs495, and desserts at Rs375 (taxes extra). The dinner menu is separate.