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In Bloom

Friday, February 19, 2016

With blue undertones that pay homage to the bright blue flower that it is named after, this luxury Japanese restaurant and lounge prides itself on serving what they call ‘liberated’ food. Rhea Dhanbhoora visits Ruka to see if the food matches up to the impressive pitch

If you don’t already know what an Izakaya is, you won’t understand when they tell you that the concept of Ruka mimics these increasingly popular Japanese haunts. While a layman’s understanding is simply gastro-pub, when you step into this impressive looking space, a casual after-work drink is not the first thing that pops into your head.

Décor diaries
Ruka is not a Japanese import, although the ingredients are imported from the country. It’s actually an outlet of a popular restaurant chain from Bahrain.

If you’re expecting ambience that mimics the two most popular Japanese haunts in the city, don’t hold your breath. There will be no silken tunes weaving through the 5,000-square-foot space and nothing about any of the sections is subtle. An open kitchen, a casual bar, flashy waterfalls, large fish tanks — if you don’t like loud décor, you’re going to dislike this. Some may miss the music that sets the tone for a prim and proper sit-down sushi meal, but I for one was not put out by the ‘90s throwback in the background. Occasionally bopping to an old favourite makes it easier to take your sushi sampling a little less seriously — which, in a city of food snobs, is not such a bad thing. But, for those who expect a more formal layout, we see how this could be a bit of a red flag.

Digging in
Great ambience, friendly staff — none of it was going to matter if we didn’t like what we ate, and unlike a few years ago, Ruka now had some pretty big shoes to fill to sit on par with its competitors.

It’s not always fair to compare, but it is impossible not to. Luckily, for Ruka, they started on the right foot with us — with delicious Steamed Soybeans with sea salt.

After picking at these for a while, we moved to a Carrot & Daikon Cake (Rs 350), which didn’t look appetising, but surprised us with a crisp top and garlic-infused filling. The sushi and sashimi counter is an easy one to go overboard at, so remember to skip the maki and head straight for the sashimi — and don’t forget to get seconds of the delectable yellowtail, the salmon tataki and the seabass with yuzu truffle dressing! While they do make decent vegetarian sushi too, none of it really stands out.

Don’t worry about the colour of your soup — they serve a white Miso (Rs 300) that’s peppered with nori and tofu. The Black Bean Sauce (Rs 400) is a definite must-try, especially since it’s beautifully wrapped in well-flavoured spinach, but the Vegetable Tempura (Rs 575) is just okay, although the accompanying soy mushroom broth is a dream. The Rock Shrimp Tempura (Rs 600) on the other hand, was a big winner, especially with its lime and chilly dip. 

The Miso Marinated Cod (Rs 2,275) and Pork Belly Skewers (Rs 475) were delicious too, and one thing that really stood out was the Kamamasi (Rs 925). We didn’t want to dig into a hot pot rice, but the miso truffle butter was so delicious that we kept spooning up the earthy, meaty dish sprinkled with all our favourite types of mushrooms.

It’s also a wise move to order the Silken Tofu (Rs 300), drenched in soy and ponzu and the Blanched Baby Spinach (Rs 450), although the sesame sauce veers a little towards the sweet side here.

Kanpai!
Yes, indeed — raise a glass to their cocktails here! Sure, they have the sake, Japanese teas and an extensive wine list, but skip past all of that right down to the cocktail section and move on from there. It’s interesting that they also serve shochu, which is usually made with rice, barley, sweet potatoes and brown sugar.

It’s not a favourite of mine, but if you haven’t tried it — skip the sake carafe and pick this!

What we did try was a mixed bag. The White Elder Gin (Rs 525) for example, was a heady concoction of gin, elderflower and cucumber, muddled into apple and limejuice — delicious and refreshing. The Spicy Japanese Slipper (Rs 650) was my dining companion’s favourite, but the addition of Cointreau to a melon liquor and yuzu based drink ruined it for me. The Kyuri No Hana (Rs 625) was a favourite — the grapefruit, lime, bitters and Pimms caviar were delicately balanced with cucumber foam. They’ve got a great mixologist on board — you just need to find the perfect fit for your taste buds and he’s happy to help.

Sweet passion
While the desserts are well-presented, none really stood out on their own. Instead, I found myself asking for extra passion fruit foam because I couldn’t get enough of it in the Tropical Chawanmunshi (Rs 375), although the fruits and coconut custard (though melt-in-the-mouth) were just so-so. The Chocolate Hazelnut Fondant (Rs 375) is a gooey, decadent treat, but it’s not a standout dish.

Should you visit Ruka? If your wallet can handle it, definitely. Does it beat out the competition? Not really. But the good thing is that it’s a well balanced blend of hits and misses and if you can enjoy the food without comparing, it’s a fantastic addition  to a growing cityscape of Japanese joints.

Where Ramee Guestline Hotel, 462, A B Nair Road, Juhu
Meal for two Tasting menu at Rs 7,500
Alcohol served Yes (beer from Rs 250 onwards)
Contact 7045593075

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