My experience of the Kaiseki style meal at Edo, ITC Gardenia.
Edo turned 5 in December and as a part of the celebration Chef Nariyoshi Nakamura from Tokyo launched a all new menu with his signature recipes. Something which explored Japanese food beyond the fame Sushi and Sashmi, don’t get me wrong I love them, but there is so much more to Japanese food. Like a Kaiseki style meal.
I was lucky to be invited for an experience a Kaiseki style meal at Edo. Japanese Kaiseki is what a pre-plated 5 course European meal can be. The key things being the use of fresh seasonal ingredients to prepare a sequence of dishes or courses. Attention is also payed to artistically plating the each course, sometimes, to masterchef levels. An interesting thing which I was told while dining, by the chef, was that everything they put on the plate is edible and has relevance.
Every Kaiseki meal has a menu that is at Chef’s discretion, so be prepared to be surprised if you take this up. Pleasantly surprised if I may add so!
The meal starts with a very interesting ice breaker, a typical Japanese ritual of serving Sake Bomb at the start of the meal. It starts with a glass of Japanese beer and two chopsticks placed on top, a precariously balanced cup of sake on top of the chopsticks. Just when you are wondering what next, the ritual chant of “Ichi, Ni, Sa, Nya Sake Bomb” (one, two, three, four Sake Bomb) is uttered while simultaneously banging the table next to the glass of beer. The Sake cup drops in the beer glass and you pick it up and take a large swig of the entire cup, much like a shot giving a high (pun intended) start to the meal !
The first course was ZenSai or a selection of appetisers and the plate that came totally took my heart away. I think I should take a moment here to say a few words about the presentation of the food that day. Each plate that came to the table had has gasping about its beauty, on how carefully the elements were placed on the plate, even one of the simpler non plated course had a few details that were brilliant. At one point my son even mentioned that mumma how do we eat this food that looks so beautiful. So coming back to Zensai, the platter had four appetisers served on a bed of ice, garnished with flowers and small jelly bites which were supposed to act as palate cleansers.
The first thing on the Zensai platter was a Tori Gyoza, Mince Chicken and Ginger Dumpling. Bursts of flavour and the dipping soya was so perfect.
The second appetiser as a part of Zensai that day was Chuka Kuragae, Sesame marinated Jellyfish. A surprise since where will you find jellyfish in India. Heck, most people don’t even know that one can eat jellyfish. Now I have eaten jellyfish before, but this fresh sesame and sweet chilli sauce marinated one was perfect and true to Japanese flavours.
The platter also had the controversial yet listed among the top 40 delicious foods. I am taking about Ankimo, we had Ankimo Renkon, Monk fish Liver on crispy Lotus chips. It was my first experience with Ankimo from what I know Monkfish liver is rarely seen outside of Japan and being able to try it in Bangalore was truly amazing. And it tasted so delicate and delicious, the fattiness balancing perfectly with the crunchy lotus stem.
The last appetiser for the day was Kani Salada, Japanese mayo marinated Crab and Flying Fish Roe. Tiny fish eggs, spiraled (Kani means imitation crab meat or fish pressed into sticks, I checked with the chef however they had used crab) and creamy mayo (Kewpie) came together very well for the worthy final appetiser
Along with our meal we sipped some Sake, Sake is a Japanese rice wine either had chilled or warm along with the meal. The thing which makes Sake unique is that it is a wine usually made using beer brewing methods.
For the Sushi and Sashmi course, Chef brought for us Salmon and Kanpachi Sashimi (Thinly sliced Yellow Tail) and Edo Uramaki. The Edo signature rolls have Tuna spiced with shichimi and Kewpie is paire with avocado, it is then encased by a nori sheet and rice. The bright crab meat is placed on the top of the roll as a crowning glory,
The coolest part of having sushi in Edo has to be the fresh Wasabi Root that they grate for you at the table. Almost looking like a tree trunk Wasabi root and the grater that is made of Shark Skin makes me excited everytime I dine there, it’s like a child being happy on spotting the favorite candy.
The next course was the Yakimono meaning from the Grill, now this is what I meant earlier when I said that there focus on Japanese food beyond Sushi. That day I learnt about the Japanese grill called Robatayaki and how it is an integral part of the cuisine. We were served Gindara Misozuke, Mizo marinated Black Cod and Hitsuji, New Zealand Lamb Chops from the grill that day.
The Lamb used a very simple marinade of Sansho, the Japanese green peppers but still packed quite a punch and was cooked to perfection. The lamb was great but the piece of meat that stole my heart that day was the the Miso Black Cod. Hidden behind the lamb, it is easy not to pay attention to the piece of blackened fish. But take my words for it, this is what they had in mind when they said “Don’t judge a book by its cover” because one bite of it and you will be blown away, It was probably one of the best pieces of fish I have had. Beautifully caramelized skin and so soft flesh below. Poetry on plate!
By now I had already approached a state of Food Coma when Chef Kamlesh told me only two more courses. The flavour of miso marinated black cod was still in my mouth and I was wondering if it is a good idea to end the meal with that itself and go back home happy because with that the bar was raised very high and I had my doubts that anything could stand up to it but the next course proved me wrong and HOW. It was Kuro Buta Ni, 24 hour braised Japanese Black Pork in Soy, Sake, Ginger and Root Vegetables. Melt in the mouth meat with such subtle flavours and that broth I could drink it by gallon though it wasn’t meant to be clearly as it was salty on its own. But again probably the best of piece of pork I have put in my mouth in a long time.
The next course was Nabemono literally meaning things and stuff in Cooking pot. It is a popular winter dish in Japan and is typically served in a communal style. The big cooking pot brought to the table and everyone takes an helping. What we served was a version called Kami Nabe, Assorted Seafood, Poultry and Vegetables simmered with Sichimi, sake, Mirin, Kombu in Japanese paper pot. The paper pot is essentially a special kind of Japanese paper (called Washi) which lines the mud pot in which the dish is cooked. Tje paper can actually be put into fire directly without burning. Pretty cool isn’t it? I got curious and did a little research. The secret of the paper it seems is this
The secret lies in a special coating on both side of the paper. The side that has direct contact with fire has a thicker layer of coating to keep the temperature lower than 160 degree Celsius. The application of this special coating will allow paper pots to withstand heat from burning and at the same time cook the food in it.
*Quoted from this website, do check out the link for more information on the paper cooking.
And with this we came to the last course, the dessert. One would thing that after a meal like this why eat dessert and I did have a thought about skipping it but what was on offer was too good to resist really.
Madagascar Chocolate Mousse (made of 77% dark chocolate), Yuzu cheesecake (served with strawberry compote), Kaboocha Kasutera (Japanese semolina pudding served with Gauva sorbet) and Miso Semifreddo. A fitting end to one of the best meals of 2015.
If you want my advice, call them to book your meal experience NOW
ITC Gardenia, 1 Residency Road, Bangalore.
Phone : +91 80 22119898
Cost : INR 4000/++ for the curated Kaiseki meal for one.