Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

Before that sushi documentary came out, the most well known Celebrity Japanese Chef worldwide was probably Masaharu Morimoto, by virtue of his being Iron Chef Japanese on both the Japan and American versions of Iron Chef. His celebrity status has, naturally, allowed him to open a number of restaurants in different cities around the world - one of them in New Delhi, India - so of course I had to take a taxi ride and get myself seated in a corner of the Wasabi by Morimoto restaurant in the Taj Mahal Hotel.

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

Morimoto is known for creative and modern, almost fusion Japanese cuisine, so it's perhaps no surprise that his restaurant here is as un-traditional as it gets. Bright yellow and red neons light up a modern dining area, flanked by teppanyaki and sushi bars.

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto

I give my orders to the cordial and polite waiter, and take stock of the amuse bouche - a curiously mini sized slice of maki sushi with wasabi mayonnaise. I have to say that there wasn't really anything special here, other than perhaps the tempura battered and deep-fried nori (seaweed).

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Amuse Bouche

If you're a serious sushi/sashimi eater you'll know that any proper sushi place will always serve its wasabi freshly grated off a sharkskin board. The flavour profile of fresh wasabi is simply so different from the powdered stuff - it's more fragrant, more delicate, less pungent, and less likely to overpower the relatively delicate flavors of fish and rice.

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Freshly Grated Wasabi

Speaking of fish, I wanted to go for the sushi set but decided at the last minute on the Assorted Sashimi (Rs 3,850 or SGD 81). There's 2 slices of each of the usual suspects - maguro, chutoro, salmon, scallops, kanpachi - all freshly flown over from the Tsukiji Fish market in Tokyo. Strangely enough though the salmon was smoked rather than raw.

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Assorted Sashimi Platter

Moving on to a hot entree then - couldn't pass up the Ishi Yaki Unagi Bop (Rs 1,800 or SGD 39) - slices of Unagi, garlic and vegetables on rice, served in a hot river stone bowl. I'm not sure if you can see it from the photo but it's a big bowl and there's a lot of rice. Overall while the flavor profile was pretty good, I sorely missed a proper char on the Unagi like the one we had at Zipangu years ago. To me, a good unagi must be grilled, and a good grill means a char on the exterior.

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Unagi Bop

The waiter suggested the Grilled Banana (Rs 700 or SGD 15) for dessert. It's a very filling and very sweet dessert - two bananas grilled and served with candied nuts and dried fruits, lathered with a sweet syrup, flanking a scoop of banana caramel ice cream. It's nice, but it really is too much sweetness for a South East Asian palate.

Wasabi New Delhi by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto Grilled Banana

I wasn't blown away by Morimoto's New Delhi restaurant - although I think that speaks more of the quality of Japanese cuisine we get over in Singapore more than anything. I thought the sashimi was pretty fresh and the other warm dishes were pretty good, but the prices are pretty steep and I'd easily get better food over here with the same kind of money.

Wasabi by Morimoto is in the Taj Mahal Hotel. Reservations probably not required except for large groups - I visited on a Sunday night but the restaurant was barely half full. Non-halal.

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