Big is good. Big is satisfying. Big is an outsized bowl filled with clumps of rice, topped over the brim with meat/seafood/vegetable, all glistening under a generous splash of sauce. The J.W. Marriott’s week-long Donburi festival, which begins on 18 May, offers a window of opportunity to try your sticks out on a type of meal that displaces all reigning Indian notions about Japanese food: that it’s mostly about bite-sized sushi, that it weighs in on the side of undercooked food (though, Sashimi Donburi is an option), and that the achingly beautiful cuisine doesn’t make place for fast food. For Donburi is big (a large-hearted rice bowl is an essential ingredient), meats and vegetables are stewed in sauces, and it’s spooned fast and simply over rice. “Donburi is like an open sandwich on a bed of rice,” says the Marriott’s sushi and teppanyaki chef Antonio Lopez. Lopez and his team have come up with what seems like the simpler side of Japanese food, an easy initiation for anyone who’s just starting out on the cuisine.
The Japanese usually vary Donburi ingredients, depending on the season; so, the Marriott appropriately offers the Kamo Kama Don, seared duck breast with mango, in teriyaki sauce, accompanied by a filling slice of foie gras. Other options on offer at the festival include eel (Unagi Tamago Don) and cod fish (Gindara Don), vegetables (Yasai Kakiage Don), and sashimi (Chirashi Sushi Don), and tofu (Tofu Don).
The good stuff
Since the promotion is on at Spices, the backbone of the hotel’s pan-Asian effort, fresh Japanese ingredients are within easy reach. The sashimi option came with crisp tuna, firm yellow tail, mackerel, and buttery salmon, over delicately vinegared rice, straight off the restaurant’s existing sushi bar. The vegetable tempura was light and crisp, the okra surprisingly unchewy, accompanied by mushrooms, onions, baby corn and a variety of vegetables. The sweet ginger soya sauce coursed its way through the rice, so that every bite was a mix of crisp, salty batter, thick veggie and sweet rice. Donburi is a potted meal for one, so it’s best to curtail ordering any other main course, if you want to finish the whole bowl. This reviewer needed the help of chef Lopez and two of his men to get through the variations.
The Kamo Kamo Don or duck is among the chic meats on offer, accompanied by our present foodie love interest, foie gras. The slices of duck breast (with charred skin) are alternated with fresh, sweet mango, basted with teriyaki sauce. But wait, there’s no time to appreciate the presentation, because the meat can become quite the adversary, toughening up to almost competitive proportions. While that’s always a problem with gamey meat, the duck breast was also quite dry despite the splosh of teriyaki sauce. Also, the sweetness of the teriyaki together with the saccharine qualities of the mango made for an overpowering combination.
The fact that the promotion is at one of Mumbai’s most popular five-stars, means the price range of Rs850 to Rs1,200 per item is not everyone’s idea of a reasonable meal, but the quality of the parts certainly justifies it.
Manju Sara Rajan