When I had the opportunity of dining at contemporary Japanese restaurant Yuuka — spearheaded by award-winning Chef Ting Yen who is also owner of renowned restaurant Oishii Boston in the US — I was delighted and made plans with a friend who has an enthusiasm for foodie adventures that mirrors my own. Walking in at 9, I was in awe of the luxurious restaurant on the 37TH floor of St Regis, overlooking the Arabian sea. The space boasts of Portoro marble, mirrors interplayed with Japanese brocade to form deconstructed origami, and centres around a black and gold reef-inspired wall adjacent to an interactive sushi bar.
Seated at a corner table offering a magnificent view, our Japanese culinary experience began with 'Cucumber Sake'. As we sipped the refreshing cocktail of cucumber-infused sake, mint and lime, the chef brought us a bowl of 'Steamed Edamame' which raised the humble soybean, steamed in the pod and rimmed with sea salt, to epic proportions. Up next was his signature, the theatrical 'Salmon On Fire'. Here, thick bands of the finest salmon, slick with citrus ponzu, were draped over a fire pit on the table; each forkful of salmon, dabbed with raspberry gastrique, melted in the mouth! The gleam in our eyes said it all; the theatrical presentation and contrasting flavour was foodgasm! PS What made it more interesting was its history — it is steeped in inspiration from the Icelandic volcano that erupted years back and led to critical shortage of salmon.. hence Salmon on Fire!
Up next was 'Avocado Tartare', served in a margarita glass on ice, crowned with carrot sticks and corn dashi. If you're vegetarian this would be a brilliant choice! And then the much-awaited sushi platters were delivered. Inspired by Chef Yen's childhood memories, 'Yam Tempura Maki' crafted with sweet potato wrapped in crisp seaweed and rice, garnished with sweet potato sticks, was unlike anything I've had. 'Tiger Tear Maki', with avocado, cucumber, Habanero pepper and cream cheese, was an explosion of flavour. ‘'I have made this for the Indian plate which can appreciate both the spice level and the myriad flavours'' explained the chef. Up last was 'Route 66 Maki' rolled with salmon, crab sticks, cucumber, avocado and spicy mayo. The impact of the first bite launched joyous murmurs punctuated by a nod toward the chef! "Oishi" was the best Japanese I could muster as we wolfed it down in no time!
Though we were stuffed to the brim, the chef instead we have a small portion of his signature entree: 'Grilled Chilean Sea Bass'. He has this one down to an exact science and if you really like seafood this dish is to die for — grilled to perfection, and lightly slathered with garlic and ginger, the plump sea bass dabbed with citrus soy sauce, took dining to the next level. Here, the emphasis was on creating a balance of flavours between the ginger and garlic that appeal to the Indian palate, the soy and citrus, and the sea bass that was roasted on top to give it a crisp texture. Yes, this is one dish I would come back for, time and again.
I must mention here that the credit of enjoying our meal goes to the chef who explained the history and ingredients of each dish served. Time flew by and it was almost midnight when we requested if we could skip dessert and relax with the hotel's signature cocktail 'Mumbai Bloody Mary'. Why? Few know that the cocktail, as we know it today, was born when bartender Fernand Petiot spiced up a tomato juice and vodka mix served at Harry's Bar in Paris, with celery salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon and Worcestershire sauce. Ever since, with each new property launch, this iconic hotel chain introduces a signature Bloody Mary with a tailormade recipe for the region. Here, the Belvedere vodka and tomato juice base, spiced with coriander stems, red chilli, cinnamon, tamarind pulp and kokum juice, rimmed with curry leaves' dust, packs a punch!! Itadake Masu!
— JASMEEN DUGAL
Yuuka, St. Regis Mumbai, Lower Parel, Mumbai