The first time I’d tasted Japanese food was at Seasonal Tastes in Westin Goregaon. At that time, I didn’t really know what I was eating, but it sure tasted sumptuous. However, the sushi was part of a larger, more eclectic meal. The second time I tasted Japanese was a slightly modern version at Kofuku during the Taste of Mumbai Festival Taste Safari and that was fun! However, I had still not sampled anything beyond sushi, till I went with a friend on my one high-end-restaurant-per month-after-pay visit to Aoi in Bandra.
Aoi – pronounced aahwee – is run by the same management of Pot Pourri and Lemon Grass in Mumbai. Tucked away in a little corner at Bandra Reclamation, the place is cosy, dimly lit with lights above each table and offers a variety of Japanese food. The lit up origami cranes overhead particularly caught my eye and I instantly clicked a pic.
The waiter serving us was very helpful and his suggestions excellent. After mulling over the menu for a good 10 minutes, we decided to order one appetiser, a sushi dish, two main courses and a dessert. That was a lot of food, we realised at the end of the meal, since the portions are quite huge.
This is the menu of the restaurant. It opens from the right as books are read in Japan and the the last page also has a glossary of jargon related to Japanese food.
Our appetiser was katsu prawns with Japanese mayo and a yuzu reduction. Katsu means crumb-fried in Japanese. The prawns, uncharacteristically straight, were tender and were complimented beautifully by the mayo (with a hint of wasabi) and the yuzu (a Japanese citrus food much like an orange) reduction.
Of course, we couldn’t not order sushi. On the waiter’s recommendation, we went for the Uramaki or California-rolled sushi with spicy tuna and asparagus. Just as sushi is meant to be, the fish was fresh, the sushi perfectly rolled and the rice just as sticky and flavourful as it should be. We had this with my all-time favourite accompaniments – pickled ginger and wasabi.
We moved on to the main course now and called for the Donburi and the Grill. The Donburi – or rice bowl with veggies – that we selected was a flavourful and wholesome meal comprising chargrilled prawns with white wine and oyster sauce in a rice bowl with stir-fried veggies and shredded carrot. The dish also had some boiled egg, which I personally didn’t think was required. But overall the dish was delicious.
The last part of the main meal was the grilled chicken breast with a white miso and honey glaze and soy miso jus. This was accompanied by mashed potato fritters wrapped in seaweed and fried in panko – something I though was quite ingenious. The chicken was tender and well marinated, but the jus had a slight bitter taste that I just couldn’t figure out. It probably was the miso, but I’m not sure. (Miso is fermented soybean paste). As a result, I preferred the donburi over this.
Despite being absolutely stuffed after eating all this delicious food, we couldn’t resist ordering a dessert. I was quite intrigued by the wasabi cheesecake, but we were sure we wouldn’t be able to eat all of it. So we went for the yuzu creme brulee, despite the waiter having suggested something else. And, this is where Aoi disappointed. The brulee part was perfect and the flavour of the yuzu was not too overpowering. However, the cream was too dense, clotted and wasn’t light on the tongue as a perfect creme brulee ought to be.
Despite the slight disappointment with the dessert, I would definitely visit Aoi again to try out their other dishes. Do visit Aoi and let me know how you liked it. I had fun!