Nowadays, everyone seems to be a fan of Japanese cuisine. Every restaurant is serving sushi and sake. But there is more to a Japanese meal than just that. Mumbai Food Lovers were invited to a preview of the latest Japanese food menu at Spices, J.W.Marriott, Juhu and yours truly was there to report. Chef Emmel Muya recently got on board the restaurant and has some delicious food up his sleeve. We lucky few got a chance to taste the new menu, and here is what I thought.
Spices at the J.W.Marriott is one of the lesser known restaurants at the hotel. Mezzo Mezzo and Lotus Café are far more popular. I wonder why the discrepancy since Spices wowed me with the décor and food. Done up in red and black, with sparkling, dim lights this is such a ‘date place’. Also they have a ‘Teppanyaki’ counter where you can see the chef preparing the food on the grill and sit around it and have your meal. I don’t know where else in the city do you get to see that.
We were all seated on a large table with fellow foodies and bloggers with sparkling wine to keep us company before the food arrived.
Chef Emmel Muya came to our table and spoke about Japanese food. We learnt about the various kinds of sushi (maki, nigiri) and how it differs from sashimi. He spoke about how Japanese food uses basic ingredients and simple cooking technique. And he emphasized that Japanese food has more to it than just sushi.
We started with some sashimi which is basically thin slices of raw fish which one is supposed to have with wasabi. We had four variants: salmon, cuttlefish, tuna, and yellowtail. Im not a huge fan of sashimi but I enjoyed this nevertheless. Loved the crunch of the caviar sprinkled on top.
Then the sushi rolls were brought on, with wasabi and soy sauce to dip them into. The vegetarian sushi platter contained asparagus, cream cheese variants. The non vegetarian sushi had salmon and tuna rolls. They were absolutely delicious and light. Special mention to the wasabi here, which was quite strong and really hits the roof of your mouth. A very small bit smeared on the sushi was enough to balance the taste.
The Wasabi Tofu and the Wasabi Prawns were the crowd favourite of the night. Succulent prawn and tofu pieces were smeared in a wasabi sauce to make this dish an absolute winner. I loved the addition of curry leaves on the top to give it a desi tadka. Both dishes came on a bed of diced apples to give the dish some sweetness. Go order this- Prawn if you’re a meat eater and tofu if you’re not.
Next we all moved to the ‘Teppanyaki’ counter and were made to sit around the grill. The word teppanyaki is derived from teppan which means iron plate, and yaki which means grilled, broiled, or pan-fried. We were excited for Chef to arrive and start performing his tricks in front of us.
Before that we were served a traditional ‘Wafu Sarada’ which is a Japanese green salad served with Wafu dressing. It is a simple salad dressing made of soy sauce, rice vinegar and vegetable oil. The salad was so light and refreshing. The salad comprising carrot and cabbage was crispy, crunchy and perfectly flavoured by the Wafu. I’m ordering this when I go back.
The Miso Soup is another favourite of mine, and I was eagerly awaiting that. This was a light, fragrant soup with soft tofu pieces dunked inside. I just wish the soup had been warmer. A common factor among all the dishes we tried was that they were light and yet filling. We could try so many courses without feeling full or bloated.
We watched Chef then cook on the ‘teppanyaki’ in front of us. The different smells of the ingredients, sights, and the sounds of the vegetables and meat sizzling on the grill made it a different experience altogether.
The vegetables were cooked in basic ingredients of soy sauce, salt and pepper. I found it a bit too bland for our Indian palate.
The king prawns were then brought out. The babies were grilled on the teppanyaki and cooked in a simple soy sauce. Such a simple yet flavourful dish this was.
The Salmon in Teriyaki sauce was next. The teriyaki is a Japanese favourite, which renders a sweetish taste to the fish. It went really well with the salmon.
The Chicken in Teriyaki sauce was served with Teppanyaki Fried Rice. Absolute comfort food this was – Fried Rice-Teriyaki Chicken. Special mention to the rice, which was the traditional sticky rice used in Japanese cooking.
For dessert there was a Teppanyaki Fruit Salad with Vanilla Ice-cream. The fruits were slightly grilled, and then refrigerated. It was a nice, summery dessert but nothing too exciting. Skip dessert and order another round of sushi instead.
Overall this was a wonderful experience and I was glad I got to taste the new menu that Chef Muya has brought to the J.W.Marriott with him. I recommend going if you’re a fan of Japanese food. Add Spices to your list of places to go to for special occasions. The sushi is absolutely worth it. Sayonara!