Mumbai Food: This Bandra joint is still the best for Japanese cuisine
A revisit to Izumi confirms that it's still the hottest new Japanese joint in the city
On an international flight recently, we watched Ramen Heads, a documentary based on arguably the best ramen chef in the world, Osamu Tomita of Chuka Tomita Soba Noodles in Matsudo Chiba. What effect can a bowl of noodles and soup have on a culture? A rather strong one, it seems, as Tomita takes the viewer across five other ramen joints, delving into trade secrets, ingredients and legacy.
Huge pots simmer for days, deepening the broth as the flavours mature. Tomita relies on his taste buds, adding and subtracting ingredients like fish and whole pig heads. And each day, he mixes different broths to be served with handmade noodles. In the film, people line up at 5 am to get a seat at 6 am, which is when the restaurant opens to serve what started off as a worker's meal. The plot leads up to Tomita planning a 10th anniversary meal. He ropes in Shota Iida, regarded as the number one ramen chef in the Kanagawa prefecture, and Yuki Onishi, the chef-owner of Tsuta, the first ramen shop to receive a Michelin star.We land in a European country hungry for Ramen. As a friend once joked, there is, of course, instant ramen everywhere.
Tempura pumpkin open roll
Izakaya in Bandra
Cut to closer home, and there is a similar option in a sun-kissed bylane in Bandra. Izumi opened only in August, and we still have to wait 15 minutes to get a table on a Monday afternoon. Chef-partner Nooresha Kably, who is an alumni of Yokohama's International Ramen School, has got her sushi bar and 15-seater Izakaya bang on. We are more than happy to hang around in the waiting area, watching the silhouettes of eaters slurping their soba noodles and indulging in fat sushis, helping us build up an appetite for the dishes we devour on our first visit.
The wasabi jelly in the hamachi truffle ponzu ('800) from the kozara (small plate) has a gentle zing that's cajoled by truffle and thin slices of raw fish, and it has bright red chillies and a tarty finish. We fold the nori and bite into the chunky tempura pumpkin open roll ('250), which is bulging with avocado, cucumber, leek and lettuce, and is sprinkled with black and white sesame. The sesame soy adds an element of saltiness.
Hamachi truffle ponzu
Panko-coated prawn cucumber lettuce chilli aioli and yuzu sauce ('580) with seared yuzu mayo and tiny pearls of tobiko (fish roe) is a combination of seafood and lime. But the bowl that bowls us over is chirashi don (scattered rice bowl) with chicken and a gingery teriyaki sauce, with an accompaniment of lotus crisps, edamame and spinach. The velvety sauce is what sweet dreams are made of. The root punch is delicate and lingering.
Last but not the least is the ramen. The vegan ramen ('650) comes with konbu, a soy broth topped with tofu, kikurage (black fungus), spinach, carrots, menma (bamboo shoots), spicy bean, sprouts and leek. The broth holds many secrets and was cooked slowly for hours. We revisit the pork tonkutsu ramen ('720), a slow-cooked bone broth with chicken charsu, spinach, earthy kikurage (black fungus), spinach, menma, leek and nori. We love the oozy tamago (egg) topping.
The black sesame ice cream ('180) is creamy and savoury, and the only let-down are the icicles that scratch our palates. The female protagonist in one of our favourite Haruki Murakami books — South of the Border, West of the Sun — is called Izumi. The story is about childhood sweethearts who realise their love for each other only later in life, but have never lost the vivid memories of each other. The meal also leaves us in love, with vivid memories of soupy broths and sushis.
Time 1 pm to 3 pm; 6 pm to 10.30 pm
At Sunbeam Apartments, Perry Cross Road, Bandra West.
The Guide first reviewed Izumi in August 2018. We conduct select, anonymous follow-ups to assess maintenance of standards
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