Delhi’s Japanese dining scene may have a slight edge on Mumbai’s in terms of numbers, but with the novelty of Tsukiji-sourced seafood wearing thin in recent years, the arrival of Bandra’s Kofuku restaurant in the refurbished Ansal Plaza ought to rejuvenate this genre, with its casual approach to offerings that go beyond sushi and teppanyaki.
Maki In India
Despite the hype, little seems different about Ansal Plaza, which shows, if anything, signs of an ongoing hiatus from public life. After an invigorating romp through the shiny new Decathlon’s floodlit obstacle course of athletic aspirants, we are grateful to step into the the warm tatami-draped, umami-scented interiors of Kofuku and be ensconced in a traditional booth, rather than one of the many empty tables.
It would be wise for first-timers to study the 30-page menu beforehand; it manages to encompass everything from age dashi tofu to zaru soba with remarkable simplicity, but there’s a lot to cover. Our homework gives us more time to ignore our lackluster mocktails—a Frooti-ish Kofuku Special and a cucumber and mint “I Love Kofuku”— and draw, instead, kanji-esque characters with soy sauce on our plates, while contemplating the restaurant’s montages of photographs of Japanese scenes juxtaposed with Japanese painting.
Pleasant, but not as pleasing as the first sight of wafu steak carpaccio, a pink buff beauty of a dish, each piece lightly tanned by grill fire around the edges, glistening in a shallow pool of rice vinegary dressing. The subtle meat doesn’t have a great deal of its own taste, but the texture is perfect. Cherry blossom maki is tasty and pretty, but as Delhi’s sushi snobs have by now learned, unless you’re on the beach, the fish will always be flash frozen and thawed. Still the salmon, avocado, and tuna roll, topped with flying fish roe, will certainly hold its own amongst its local competitors.
Too Darn Hot (Pot)
Our server balks at taking down our order for seafood nabe mono, a table-side hot pot dish usually shared by larger groups, but there are times when duty and greed compel us all. This is a really good choice in spite of its size: laden with shrimp, squid, crab and fish, as well as greens and mushrooms, the soup is delicious, full of crustacean sweetness. The two diners at our table polish it off. It is, however, overshadowed by the much-recommended kakuni pork, a Nagasaki style stew consisting of two blocks of perfectly cooked fatty belly in a simmered decoction of soy, sake, dashi and other magical ingredients, glittering with bubbles of fat.
After all this, it’s best not to ask ourselves how we also managed to pack in two gloriously presented mochi ice cream balls (a bit thick on the ice cream and thin on the mochi), and “dango”, small rice flour dumplings on
skewers, dripping a sweet-and-salty soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame, which comes with a mug of utterly necessary green tea.
Dango and good night: Bombay, your banzai buckeroo will do.
Getting there: Kofuku, BG-09, Ground Floor, Ansal Plaza, Khel Gaon Marg. A meal for two with no drinks costs Rs 4,000.
Accessibility: The restaurant is wheelchair-accessible.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
Originally published in Brown Paper Bag Delhi, January 2, 2017.