One evening as I was lying sated on the floor after a paratha gobbling session at Bobby dhabha, and lazily messaging people on my whatsapp, @aarthipartha (AP) mentioned something interesting. Veg Sushi. It took me a while to realize that no, she did not mean ‘veg sushi’ like veg omlette and that yes, she actually meant authentic vegetarian sushi. I am usually open to trying new things before forming an opinion. This time, even I had my misgivings. Veg sushi, I believe.
Nevertheless, a week later, there I was at Devatha Plaza, a whole ten minutes late to my dinner at Harima’s with AP. Blame it on natural curiosity. More particularly, blame it on AP’s descriptions of japanese food which made my curiosity meter race like a slot machine and come to a halt at a sushi jackpot.
Harima’s is on the third floor (I think) of Devatha Plaza on Residency Road. Happily seated at a lovely corner of the restaurant, I bullied AP, resident Japanese foodie extraordinaire (extra vegetarian brownie points), into ordering for me. After a few tentative ‘would you like x, would you like y’ surveys, AP ordered.
We started with a cold starter – a Hiyayakko. It is a chilled tofu slab – about the size of your nilgiris paneer squares, with a topping of chopped green onions and soya sauce as accompaniement. The dish tastes fresh, and very mild. Apparently in haiku, hiyayakko is a season word for summer. Although it failed to inspire any haikus in me, it sure tasted refreshingly like summer. After I got over the freshness of the tofu and the subtle tastes that my andhra food loving taste buds struggled to discover, I practised streamlining my chopstick management skills on the dish.
Next was a fried starter – Yasai Tempura Moriawase (deep fried vegetables). There was potato, carrot, mushroom, capsicum, aubergine, and a watery dip. I’m not sure what the dip is made of, tasted somewhat like a weak, sweet chili sauce. The crunchy batter lay lightly on the vegetables. The aubergine and mushroom tempura were juicy, lending a salty aftertaste to the nearly perfect coat of deep fried batter.
The Yasai Tempura whetted my appetite and I sat back sipping my mocktail, eagerly awaiting the main course. It made its way to our table, tightly wound spirals of rice stuck on the nori (seaweed) like fat ants on a sugar biscuit.
We ordered three different sushis for the main course. One was with the rice on the outside of the nori and stuffed with avacado and mushrooms, another with the rice and avacoda filling wrapped tightly in nori, and the last with the rice and cucumber filling wrapped in nori. My favourite of the lot was/is the first one – rice on the outside and stuffed with avacado and mushrooms. The vinegar coated rice gave way to the distinct taste of the seaweed which gave way to juicy mushrooms and velvety avacado. The soy sauce dip added to the inimitable simplicity of tastes.
AP drew my attention to the thin petals styled out of ginger and a tiny green lump on the corner of the plate. As carefully instructed by AP, I took a pinprick sized non-amount of the green item on the end of my chopstick and placed it on the tip of my tongue. It was a me meets wasabi moment. The sudden explosion of heat caught me unaware and delighted. Under AP’s increasingly anxious gaze, I tried a black pepper sized ball of wasabi – eyes shut, nose burned, tears streamed down my cheeks and a big gulp of the sweet mocktail did nothing to quell the assault on my nasal passage. It disappeared as quickly as it came. I felt like I had re-discovered OMG Pop-in-the-mouth candy.
I don’t know if the Japanese take kindly to vegetarians (the Japanese food snobs certainly don’t seem to), I am not even sure if sushi is supposed to have mushrooms in it, but oh emm gee, did it taste brilliant! How do you say I am loving it in Japanese?