The Oxford English Dictionary calls sushi as “a roll of cold rice with fish, sea-weed, or some other flavoring”. Sushi, literally meaning ‘sour tasting’, is traditionally fermented fish wrapped in soured fermented rice. Today it comprises of vinegared rice with fish and flavouring presented with various ingredients, including asparagus and cucumber for vegetarians. The variety lies in the fillings, toppings, condiments and preparations.
I am at The One, the multi-cuisine coffee shop of the hotel to taste the various sushis on offer at their sushi festival which is on from 12th to 21st April 2013, where I meet Chef Masahito Sahito, the Masterchef at the Westin Tokyo, who has specially flown in for the festival. I ask him to enlighten me on the history of sushi. “Sushi is one thing that is totally indigenous to Japan” says he (through an interpreter). “It is a good way to preserve fresh fish. Also over the years it has become a convenient food on-the-go”. I probe further about how it is to be had. Do I mix the wasabi in the soya sauce or have it separately? “Have it the way you love it the best” is his liberating advice. And what goes it with it as a drink? “Sake” is his answer, as he disappears to get us our tasting round.
Soon he is back with many colourful plates of sushi and sake and I get busy with tasting them. We are served the chef’s favourite salmon, tuna and shrimp nigiri platter (Rs 1200) and the veg nigiri platter (Rs 1000). While the fish nigiri has a familiar taste similar to what I would expect in a high end eatery without any notable exception, what blows my mind totally is the veg selection. So far I have held a dim view of vegetarian sushi which typically consists of some cucumber, carrot and asparagus in various permutations rolled into rice and seaweed. However, the one here is so exciting that it totally overshadows the non vegetarian nigiris.
The first one I taste is the pickled green eggplant nigiri, which has a soft and chewy texture, and a smoky, tangy taste that pleasantly lingers in the mouth. The next I pick up with my fingers (by now I have decided to jump right in abandoning my chopsticks) is the shiitake topped sushi which has a perfect umami touch. The most unexpected touch comes from good old mooli (radish) with a layer of freshly made wasabi, which heightens its delightful pungency.
I truly wish that Delhi had more sushi serving places, and more so that the hotel incorporates these sushis in their regular menu, especially for the vegetarians who have so far felt that sushi was a domain of fish eaters. The price is reasonable, though the service could be less lackadaisical.
Rating out of 5
Food: 3.5 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 3.0 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for two: Rs. 3000| Alcohol: Yes | Credit Card: Yes | Timings: 12:30 to 3 PM; 7 PM to 11:30 PM
Address: Hotel Le Meridien, Windsor Place, New Delhi | Telephone: 011- 2371 0101