At a dining table transformed into a makeshift sushi station, slices of carrots, cucumbers and avocado are laid out beside bowls filled with dark sauces and pretty pink Gari (Japanese pickled ginger). The air is laced with a potent combination of aromas that tease the appetite — the fragrance of freshly-cooked sticky rice combined with undertones of soya and pickled ginger. It’s a complete sensorial treat — equivalent to a walk through a healing Zen garden.
With a bamboo mat laid out in front of him, Tikaram ‘Tikka’ Subbu, who learnt how to make Sushi at the now defunct Southeast-Asian cuisine lounge-bar Zenzi, nimbly wraps vegetables and meats into compact rolls, slicing these into eight equal-sized pieces. If you’ve tried your hand at making sushi, you know it’s not nearly as easy as he makes it seem. The man’s a veritable sushi samurai.
Immediately, we find ourselves enquiring about whether the team puts up sushi stations at private parties. Proprietor of the home-run enterprise, Nooresha Kably — her husband Anil co-owned Zenzi and is currently a partner in Bandra’s famed Bagel Shop — offers a quick ‘yes’, briefly telling us about the catering service they’ve been running for a year now. For a live sushi counter, they require a minimum order of 20 rolls and one day’s notice we learn, but the focus of our meeting is the delivery service they’re set to launch.
Subbu offers us a pretty portion of California rolls (Rs 320), Gari flakes draped ever so delicately on one side of the dish beside a tiny leaf sculpted out of wasabi-paste. The roll’s prepared with crabstick, not fresh crab meat, and even as our palate is treated to the glorious blend of textures and flavours Kalby shares, “We use smoked salmon, prawn tempuras, barbecued eel, teriyaki chicken and beef tenderloin in our non-vegetarian sushi rolls. The only ingredient we use raw is yellowtail tuna.” In a city that’s only just developing an appetite for culinary experimentation, this is wise of course. In a subsequent Philadelphia roll (Rs 380), roquette leaves introduce just a suggestion of bitterness that works to accentuate the essence of salmon, and a droplet of sweetish chilli aioli sauce balances the sharpness of the nori (seaweed) so, once again, the dish is perfect in itself. The soya sauces before us sit ignored.
Kalby notices. “A lot of people believe Kikkoman sauces contain alcohol,” she shares. It’s a misconception she has had to clear on many catering assignments. “Many communities avoid soya sauce, confused by the fact that the same company also manufactures mirin, saké and sho-chu-,” she says. If it’s alcohol you’re keen to avoid, she would warn you that the tuna is treated with saké. We wouldn’t recommend missing out on those rolls (Rs 400 for both the lip-smacking yellowtail-green apple version and the even more enjoyable spicy tuna version) nevertheless.
There’s Koi (Japanese for love) for vegetarians too. Philadelphia rolls prepared with asparagus and sweet potato tempura, California rolls prepared with asparagus, avocado and cucumber, Teriyaki Tofu rolls and absolutely divine crispy asparagus and carrot rolls prepared with caramelised onions, chives and lettuce that deliver the sweet-citrus kick of a ponzu sho-yu are all priced for Rs 280 per roll/portion (eight pieces). You can also put your own sushi together combining any of the sauces they have with fresh veggies and ingredients like paneer and pickled jalapeños. But what we really appreciate is the fact that while deliveries require a minimum order of two rolls, you can break this up into four half-portions and enjoy a mini smorgasbord, even if you’re dining alone.
You can reach Sushi Koi at 9821218003 or log onto their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com