In one corner, behind a gleaming glass counter I can see an artist in a chef’s hat rolling out sushi with precision and intense concentration that the art deserves. Right behind me, I can hear the sizzle and boom from the Teppanyaki counter – another Chef whipping up a dish with the theatrical flair that this Japanese form of cooking demands. The primary, open kitchen has an army of diligent chefs, painstakingly stir frying veggies, boiling noodles, or seasoning meat – all under the watchful eye of Commander and Head Chef Liang. There was so much to take in, so much to gaze around at, and so many cuisines to explore at the Pan Asian, at ITC Maratha.
The ITC Maratha, has carved a niche in the Indian cuisine department, famous for the ITC kaali dal at the highly acclaimed Peshawri and Dum Pukht. Among the seven dining establishments that this sprawling five star property boasts of, the Pan Asian remains highly underrated and deserves a spot in the sun. The restaurant is ‘Pan Asian’ in the truest sense, with cuisines from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Malaysia on offer.
“The food here is authentic, and true to their Oriental roots,” claims Chef Liang while we wait patiently for the tasting menu to arrive, sipping on the signature Pan Asian Spritzer – a refreshing melon and sparkling wine concoction. “Flexibility is key while cooking Asian food in India, and one needs to adapt to each individual diner’s palate and food preference. Indians love their spices and sauces, while for an expat from China we need to stay true to the original”, Chef elaborates and I couldn’t insist more.
The mark of a good sushi is good technique and good ingredients – the sushi at Pan Asian had both. A special sushi chef flown all the way from Japan to showcase his magic with the choicest and freshest of ingredients, made this course my personal favourite. Sashimi or slivers of thinly sliced tuna and cuttlefish swam along on our table with plump Nigiri rolls, interspersed with tiny morsels of wasabi and pickled ginger. The Fried Maki Rolls, a sushi-tempura hybrid is a signature dish at the restaurant, and one I’d highly recommend. A crunchy outside, with densely packed shrimp and sushi rice within, dunked in some soy – what’s not to love?
Next up – soup and a trio of dimsums! The Tom Yum at the Pan Asian, is fragrant, hearty, spicy and sinus clearing – everything that a good Tom Yum should be. I am not much of a ‘soup person’ however, so like any good Parsi girl would, I ate up all the sunken chunks of prawn within. All three dimsums I tried – the Crystal Veg, Spicy Prawn Har Gow, and Chicken Sui Mai – were generously stuffed with an external coating that was neither rubbery nor soggy. The Prawn was a winner hands down when paired with the burnt chilli oil, with the bland vegetarian one being the least favourite.
A platter of barbequed pork belly, sauces, and Kimchi arrive on our table with Chef Liang by their side, who painstakingly assembled our Korean barbeque spread for us within a lettuce leaf envelope. A fairly common dish eaten back in Korea, the dish drew parallels with the Mexican taco because of it’s appearance. The spicy fermented kimchi, paired with succulent pork belly, encased within a lettuce leaf made this quite a multi layered dish – one that I’m yet to find elsewhere in the city. The Five Spiced Crispy Duck – a Chinese dish close to chef’s heart – was crisped to perfection. A duck version of Matt, George and Gary’s beloved pork crackling is what I imagine it to be. We wrapped the duck in buttery soft savoury pancakes, drizzled them with hoisin sauce devoured them like no one was watching.
For mains, the delicate Sea Bass steamed to perfection, swimming in a simple soy broth stole my heart. The simple, clean flavours won my heart over with the fish being celebrated as the hero. For mains, we sampled a spread that was truly ‘Pan Asian’. There was a red Thai curry with king prawns, an assorted stir fry of Chinese greens, and a Japanese chicken Teriyaki prepared for us Teppanyaki style. Stuffed to the brim, I couldn’t help but devour this spread with good ol’ egg fried rice by the side. The plate was truly a representation of the diverse Asian cuisines that the restaurant does, and does well!
The dessert platter at Pan Asian goes beyond ‘honey noodles with ice cream’ into an uncharted territory where sago and red bean paste make appearances. Gleaming sago crystals in sweet coconut milk, and beautifully presented exotic fruits lay on my platter. But the Red Bean Paste Pudding was a dish I really enjoyed. Red bean is commonly used in Chinese cooking where the beans are sweetened with honey and then used to make confectioneries. A different flavour profile indeed!
Pan Asian, ITC Maratha, Sahar Road, Chakala, Mumbai.
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(The author was a guest of ITC Maratha and invited to dine at Pan Asian. The views are unbiased and entirely her own.)