Tag Archives: Japanese

bpb Review: Kofuku, Ansal Plaza

wafu-steak-carpaccio

Wafu Steak Carpaccio

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.

cherry-blossom-maki

Cherry Blossom Maki

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.

seaood-hotpot-detail

Seafood Nabe Mono

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)

Kakuni Pork

Kakuni Pork

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

Dango

Dango

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.

Mochi Ice Cream

Mochi Ice Cream

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.

Published: January 2, 2017

Sakura

Authentic, not atmospheric ♦

It’s been 11 years since Sakura first opened in Delhi. Since then, the city’s self-proclaimed “first Japanese restaurant” has opened a branch in Gurgaon, won every food award in its category and, recently, revamped its original location and menu.

The new Sakura at the Metropolitan Hotel remains fundamentally the same after its migration to the first floor. The hotel has preserved its Japanese clientele and flavour even after ending its association with the Nikko chain, and Sakura is still a locus for conducting business over sake. The aesthetic is Japanese contemporary; clean-lined, like the inside of a bento box. The (florescent) spotlight is on freshness and flawless preparation – at a hefty price, of course.

The short sake list is expensive (from R400 a shot), so we stuck to icy Kingfisher, which washes down the food just fine. A complimentary appetiser of bacon, potato, carrot and vermicelli stew took the edge off the stomach-rumbling that the 14-page food menu inspires. Sakura’s offerings are too wide-ranging for an exhaustive tasting in one meal. It’s better to by choosy and come back for more. The take moriawase platter is good value for the quality of fish, most of which is flown in fresh from Japan. The platter includes seven of the usual chef’s selection suspects (six nigiri and a simple daikon roll), but each is perfect: buttery sea bass, a fantastically fatty slice of yellowtail, and prawn so fresh and succulent it snapped apart with each bite. We chose a luscious prawn tempura roll to supplement the platter. The menu sprawls with dozens of variations on a few themes, but the chefs are happy to customise anything to your taste.

For our main course, we picked pork steak with teppanyaki dipping sauce. It sizzled its way to our table on a hot plate: tender, biteable pink-inside squares of meat nestled with broccoli, potatoes and carrots daubed with butter. A bowl of miso was gorgeously gloopy with softened seaweed. And the una-jyo donburi (barbecue eel in a box) was as good as we remembered: two thick, meaty cuts of eel, grilled to perfection in sweet sauce, the skin slightly blackened at the edges, on a bed of sticky rice. Accompaniments include a selection of pickled items, including addictive pickled plum. Scoops of grassy green tea and rough-textured red bean ice cream chased the lingering soy flavours from our palates, along with a free mug of jasmine tea.

Sakura is pricey and not incredibly atmospheric, but the food is really as good, and authentic, as everyone says. We’d suggest going often, but picking just a few items – a soup, a couple of appetisers, or just sashimi and sushi – to sample at a time.

Originally published in Time Out Delhi, February 2012.

Published: February 6, 2012