Lost in gustation. ♦
Unlike its namesake, Shibuya the restaurant is relatively quiet in its first week of operation. Just a few families and groups of friends occupy the dining room and enclosed balcony of the lower floor. The bar on the upper floor isn’t open yet, but includes a bigger open area for mingling. The laid-back vibe, however, allows us to focus on details: a burnt orange, black and grey colour palate, simplified Art Deco elements like stained glass panels, and splatter-glazed crockery.
Though its primary inspiration is Japan, Shibuya’s menu is a greatest-hits of eastern Asian comfort food—plated beautifully for smartphone-wielding Delhi diners—plus some intriguing riffs on the theme. The attention to aesthetic detail makes sense when food stylist and blogger Simi Kohli, one of the people behind Shibuya, comes up to recommend some dishes. Her first suggestion: refreshing pink nimbu paani, aka “hibiscus lemonade”, which is well-mixed and not too sweet, a promising indication of cocktails to come once the liquor license is in (“soon”).
Fast and Furious
Service is attentive, helped by discreet little buzzers, a smart solution to arm-waving and eye-catching, and the food comes out fast and fresh. First, our dim sum baskets: oh-so-umami truffled edamame dumplings in beet-red wrappers garnished with green soybeans; and spinach-wrapped prawn dumplings, swimming around in spicy black bean sauce.
It’s a good thing the tables are generously sized, because we’ve barely finished these before braised pork ramen appears. We like it better than most versions we’ve had in Delhi: the broth is meaty and clear, rather than the salty, brown, soy-flavoured variety available at restaurants with similar menus. It includes a soft-boiled soy egg too, besides tender slabs of pork, bok choy, shitake and flat noodles. Sweet-and-sour Korean fried chicken competes gamely for our attention, its low heat gochujang glaze demanding a cold beer pairing.
Sake A Chance on Me
A spider roll, with crunchy-fried softshell crab, scallion and tobiko (roe), is next up. It’s pretty and flavourful, though personally we could do with fewer scribbles of mayonnaise—but this is a general gripe against the liberal use of the ingredient. The drizzled mayo is more at home on okonomiyaki—a savoury, griddle-fried pancake that typically incorporates scraps of vegetable and meat—where it melds with the Japan’s popular Bull-Dog brand tonkatsu. This one would go well with sake or shochu, both of which, we are assured, will be making an appearance on the bar menu.
For afters, we’re tempted by a Shibuya honey toast, an over-the-top Japanese take on French toast, but contain ourselves and order lighter coconut panna cotta with intensely flavoured globs of passion fruit and kaffir lime gel. We’re about to get the bill when the toast arrives anyway, a sweet gesture in the form of a chubby tower of bread, moistened with honey, grilled in salty butter, and topped with Nutella and house-made banana caramel ice cream. Take a bow, Shibuya, because we can barely heave a sigh-onara.
Getting there: M-63 Greater Kailash-II, M Block Market. Call 99104-75615; reservations recommended. Meal for two from about Rs 2,000.
This story was originally published on Brown Paper Bag.