I am a huge Japanese food aficionado. I crave sushi in the middle of a random day at work. I dream of beautiful bowls of ramen – each put together so intricately and painstakingly such that they resemble a piece of art. I swear I cried a little bit when I saw the Ivan Ramen episode of Chef’s Table. And Wasabi bhujia is my current obsession in life. You’ll get the drift.
My interest towards Japanese food started after I begun reading Haruki Murakami novels where the author interweaves food so seamlessly into the narrative. My love affair with Japanese food started during my trip to Singapore last year where I ensured I tried the best South East Asian cuisine this foodie paradise has to offer. Lots of sushi, sashimi, ramen bowls, and rice bowls that the locals call Donburi or ‘Don’ were devoured.
I’m always on the lookout for good (re: authentic) Japanese food in the city and there are very few places that serve the real deal. So when The Leela offered to host us for some Japanese food one evening, I cancelled all plans and made my way over to Andheri East. As a part of their recurrent Cherry Blossom Festival, the property is serving up a variety of Japanese delicacies all this month at Citrus – their global dining restaurant. Now while I couldn’t make it for the Cherry Blossom flowering festival in Japan this year, the food festival at The Leela would have to suffice.
The menu spans small eats, sushi rolls, bento boxes and mains such as ramen, donburi, and curry. Plenty of options available in both non vegetarian and vegetarian dishes. While we waited for our sushi rolls to arrive, we nibbled on some Buta Shogayaki – pork slices marinated in ginger soy sauce. Such succulent pork which was full of flavour inspite of being treated so simply. I guess that’s what makes Japanese food stand out – few ingredients, robust flavours, and nuanced technique that goes behind creating each dish.
The sushi rolls that came on next each had the mark of a good sushi. The rolls were compact, clean, perfectly symmetrical and did not disintegrate while eating. The Rainbow Roll was a sight to behold – just as colourful as the different colours of the rainbow. It was fun to bite into each piece of this assorted sushi roll and determine it if contained salmon or unagi or tuna. The Crazy Shrimp Cream Cheese Roll contained prawn tempura, cream cheese and avocado. I would have liked a little more cream cheese atop my sushi pieces, but otherwise no complaints. The wasabi served alongside was pungent without being overbearing – just a punch of heat that hits you at the back of the throat – and complimented the sushi well.
The Miso Ramen bowl that came up next were ramen noodles cooked in a pork and miso stock served with egg and pork rind. The broth gave out a feeling of ‘umami’ that resonated due to the saltiness of the fermented soyabean aka miso and the meatiness of the pork. The Oyakodon was the only Donburi we tried – chicken slices cooked in an egg batter served on rice. This dish maybe a bit bland for the Indian palate, though I’m glad the chef did not adapt it to suit Indian tastes and retain the authenticity of the dish.
The Cherry Blossom food festival at Citrus, The Leela is on this entire month till the 30th of April.
Citrus, The Leela Mumbai, Andheri-Kurla Road,
Sahar, Andheri East, Chakala, Mumbai.
(The author was invited to dine at Citrus, The Leela. The views are unbiased and entirely her own.)