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13 years ago, The Taj group was looking for a Japanese Restaurant brand to open at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, after several failed negotiation with Nobu, they finally zeroed in on Morimoto. Since then, as written by Mr. Vir Sanghvi in one of his articles, Chef Morimoto is perhaps more famous in India than anywhere else. And why not? Anyone and everyone who is in the food business or is a food enthusiast or even an aspiring 'foodie', is aware of this brand. Wasabi By Morimoto has always been one of those aspirational brands for most (well I can safely say that it definitely has been for me since the time I first passed by the restaurant a decade back in Mumbai). So when Taj Bengal arranged for a pop-up from the 15th till the 19th of Sept 2017, a noteworthy day in the pages of Taj Bengal and I was invited along with few more fellow bloggers/ food writers, my excitement saw no end. That is about me but why should Kolkata be so exhilarated about it, so much so that by the end of the first day, they are already fully booked for both service till the end of the pop-up.
1. Kolkata is short of big brand names when it comes to food. Every big foodie event happens either in Mumbai, Bengaluru or Delhi. We rarely hear of anything of this scale here in the city, where contrary to popular belief, people do spend money. Wasabi is one such name which immediately raised eyebrows of the patrons of Taj Bengal and the event is happening at 'Souk'.
2. Opened 13 years back in Taj Mumbai, Wasabi (as it is popularly known as) has maintained its position as one of the most expensive (perhaps the most expensive) restaurant in the country. It has been recognised by San Pelligrinoas as one of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants in 2016. They also operate at Taj Mahal Delhi, hence the exclusivity. It is also the first Japanese restaurant brand in the country.
3. Morimoto is a worldwide brand name where Chef Masaharu Morimoto, also known as the 'iron chef' has broken all boundaries and created contemporary Japanese cuisine. So while there is a whole array of sushi and sashimi platter, one can expect dishes like toro tartare (which is a tartare of tuna; toro being tuna belly and the fattiest part of tuna), delicate dish like a white fish carpaccio with a drizzle of hot oil, yuzu and soy sauce which immediately melts in the mouth and many more.
4. The ingredients used are of top quality and the sourcing of them is the key. In fact, from the day of opening till today, they have maintained a single supplier from Japan, especially the fish which comes from Tsukiji Market at Tokyo. So even for this pop-up, all the ingredients have been sourced from the same place and hence, the consistency in the quality.
5. Even though there is no concept of Vegetarian Japanese food at any of the Morimoto restaurants, this is the only place where most of the dishes have a vegetarian version, which had been created by Chef Hemant Oberoi and Chef Morimoto himself for the Indian Gujarati and Marwari clientele. So while there is rock shrimp tempura in non-vegetarian, the vegetarian patrons can enjoy rock corn tempura. Similarly, there are fascinating dishes like perigod roll (white asparagus with truffle sushi roll), wasabi tacos with sweet and creamy avocado lined with spicy wasabi mayo and lime dressing, tofu carpaccio with yuzu soy, Wasabi fried rice which is sticky and the fragrance is incredible, Japanese vegetable curry and so on.
6. Japanese Chef Yousuke Matsudka, also known as Chef Joe, who had joined Mumbai Wasabi in 2016 as a speciality sushi chef has come down himself along with Chef de Cuisine Sachin Poojary for this pop up to ensure the authentic experience for Kolkatans.
7. The menu remains 'as is' from the original restaurant and nothing has been tweaked for Kolkata. Hence one can get the most bona fide experience with their signature dishes of Black Cod Miso, Spicy Angel Shrimp, Toro Tartare, Asparagus Tempura, Sukoi Tofu and much more. There are a few stunning desserts too like the Tofu Cheesecake with pineapple salsa which has jasmine flavoured infused and a bite of it is bound to send you to heaven. There is a simple Wasabi Creme Brulee and a very complex Kuro Goma Mille Feuille with fresh caramel and chocolate ice cream (a chocolate lover's delight) and so on.
Dates: 15th September to 19th September 2017
Location: Souk at Taj Bengal
Approximate Cost for two: Rs. 10,000 plus tax
Must try dishes: Aburi Pork Kakuni (melt in the mouth pork belly with mustard miso), Yellotail Jalapeno Carpaccio, Wasabi Fried Rice, Toro Tartare, Spicy Angel Shrimp, Assorted Sushi and Sashimi Platter, Wasabi Taco, Tofu Cheesecake