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Something to go with your shochu
Sakura at The Metropolitan unfurls its summer menu of pick-me-ups that make for a perfect end to a hard working day. A Paljor checks in
Sakura’s name has been engraved in the minds of people who are either in love with Japanese food or are experimental in nature. The décor is minimalistic with red cushioned chairs and sleek, blonde wood along with complimenting, warm hospitality. Their focus is set on fresh, authentic ingredients and a great selection of quality rolls, nigiri and various other Japanese inspired delicacies. It is no surprise then that Sakura still continues to be the essential go-to spot for the best Japanese food.
So when we heard they were putting out a summer spread of sorts, we considered checking in. Consider ordering Shochu, Japanese vodka with pickled plum and warm water. “We have added picked plum to add a savoury flavor to the drink which is enhanced by adding lukewarm water,” shared the manager Ashim Rastogi. When you have edamame beans to go with it, one purely forgets the fatigue after the day’s work. The perfectly steamed young soybeans in their pods, lightly tossed in coarse salt, made for the perfect accompaniment.
Then came the specially arranged bento box that the manager so graciously arranged with a combination of dishes that were fried, grilled, marinated, steamed and simmered. I started with Renkon tofu, which had a perfectly sliced lotus root stuffed with a spicy tofu paste and was deep fried. Seemingly crispy at first, it slowly melted in my mouth. You would expect the sushis to be perfect in this place but a word must be said for the variety of vegetable sushis they rolled out. The first was deep-fried tofu nigiri, then came the one with a Japanese pickle and the last with asparagus. The sushi was fashioned out of the freshest available vegetables, expertly prepared rice and high quality nori. The rice had a sweet aroma and perfect stickiness and was seasoned with an excellent vinegar mixture.
However, I fell for its amazing signature dish, spicy codfish, marinated in a black soybean paste. Then there was the tender and juicy yakitori. Grilled chicken with leeks lightly sprinkled with shichimi, a Japanese spice mixture containing seven spices. The chicken was grilled so perfectly that once in your mouth, you could taste every single fibre and feel the spices almost uniformly. For flavouring, there were two main options, salt or tare, a sauce mixture made from soy sauce, mirin (sweet sake), sake and sugar.
A little factoid about yakitori. In the latter half of the 18th century, a dish called sukiyaki was created which mainly used pork. At the time, chicken was hardly used, having been considered a high class food item. It is said that common people longed to eat chicken, which is why yakitori stores started appearing. At that time, yakitori was made using the sinewy scrap meat that was left over from restaurants, but pork and horse meat was also used. It was after the second World War that broilers were introduced to Japan via the American army. The price of chicken dropped, allowing it to appear regularly in common markets. The cost of yakitori dropped consequently, and due to its good affinity with alcohol, its popularity grew.
Sakura’s Suzuki or Japanese sea bass, lightly simmered in soybean sauce, is equally delightful. Finally, if you are looking for something comforting, then a warm, slurpable bowl of miso ramen soup won’t disappoint you.
Before we knew it, it was time for the house desserts. Not one or two but rather four exquisite flavours of ice cream. I tasted a scoop of each — black sesame, green tea, red bean and wasabi and the one I still can’t forget is red bean. It had a thick texture and the aftertaste is something one can neitherdescribe or forget.
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