Back with a bang
If you didn't get a seat at lauded Japanese joint Izumi in its earlier, 6-table avatar, head to the bigger and better restaurant, now open with a full bar
The year was 2013. It was our first proper date with our partner and in the short time we had spent with him, it had become amply clear that he garnered a severe obsession (induced by manga and anime) for everything Japanese. We were at an expensive and first-of-its-kind Asian eatery in Kolkata that most acquaintances promised had the best Japanese grub in town.
We remember trying the salmon sushi, lacklustre rice rolls served with flat wasabi and soy sauce that lacked brine. At the time, we were hardly equipped to have recognised these shortcomings, and we came away thinking that we just don't like sushi or the cuisine. It took all of five years and moving cities for the "wait till you try good sushi" suggestions to come true. And that change of heart materialised when we delved into a stirring culinary experience at Izumi when it opened near Carter Road in August last year. Not only did we realise that we loved sushi, but we also discovered a new-found love for food from the Land of the Rising Sun. When made well, Japanese fare confirms what is perhaps the most significant adage about food — it takes very few things to make the best kind.
In February this year, we were sad to learn that the unassuming little eatery had downed shutters, for our Nippon-loving partner never got to try their food!
So, when we now hear that it has reopened in another Bandra locale, we are excited to check it out. And while that elation is partly dampened when we are told that there are eight diners before us waiting for a table, it's also oddly reassuring.
We arrive at Linking Road and aren't fussy about being seated at the community table, which is placed in the outdoor seating section before a glass pane that offers a clear view of the open sushi bar. Behind it, we spot chef and co-owner Nooresha Kably toiling away with a smile as she steals glances at diners seated on low-lying bar stools at a table that ascends into the sushi bar. The indoor seating area is spacious, if not sprawling. And while the décor, much like the old Izumi, is still minimalist, the vibe is more spiffy than cute.
Ten minutes later, we move to a private table and enjoy the Nippon sunrise (Rs 600) — a citrus-y and refreshing tequila-based cocktail from the newly introduced bar menu — while we wait for the yellowfin tuna sashimi (Rs 320 for three pieces), chicken paitan ramen (Rs 730), pork tsukemein (Rs 750), tempura prawn sushi (Rs 580) and nitsuke fish rice bowl (Rs 670). The sashimi, rice bowl and sushi arrive speedily and we tuck right in.
Yellowfin tuna sashimi
The sashimi is uncomplicated and serves its purpose as a palate-cleansing first course. But perhaps, next time, we'd skip the dish, and opt for something more filling, considering the prices aren't exactly forgiving.
The nitsuke or simmered fish is pleasantly sweet and soothing, and is served with perfectly cooked sticky rice. But what pleases us without question is the tempura prawn sushi, a burst of flavours served with a robust ponzu and delicate tobiko that complements the crunchy seafood. As we enjoy the classic treat, the paitan arrives. A comforting clear broth served with nori, mushrooms, egg, thin slices of meat and hand-pulled noodles that miss the mark of perfection by a blip; they are overcooked, but negligibly. We end our food-scapade with a full-bodied and creamy bowl of tsukemein ramen. The broth is rich and brimming with meaty flavours, the egg is perfectly cooked and the pork is so tender that this is exactly the kind of dish you crave in sickness and in health.
We leave the restaurant with a sense of pleasure that comes from realising this — our affair with Japanese food, our relationship with our partner, and Izumi as a restaurant, have all come a long way.
AT Izumi, Road 24, Sunrise, Linking Road, Bandra West
TIME 7 pm to 11.30 pm (they will be open for lunch, too, in three weeks tentatively)
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli