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Izaya - so much promise, but does not deliver

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Prawn cakes with sugarcane

A new opening by the team that has brought us Joss and Amadeus, Izaya is located at NCPA, Marine Drive, replacing Amadeus. The team bringing us Izaya has a long history in Oriental and Asian cuisine and so expectations from Izaya are high.

The décor leaves a lot to be desired.  It seems a few tables have been put in a barren room with no thought for décor or atmosphere. There is an open kitchen with a 'robata' (robatayaki) grill. However, this adds very little to the atmosphere or ambience.

The menu at Izaya is predominantly Thai cuisine with some Japanese 'robata' dishes. The menu is quite extensive with lots of vegetarian options. 'Robata' is a Japanese grill and worldwide, there are restaurants that specialise only in 'robata' cuisine.  It’s a first in Mumbai and so I was quite excited about my visit.

Crab fried Rice

We started with their 'robata' grill lamb chops, 'robata' mushroom with curried morning glory and 'robata' grill chicken satay. All the above are their specialty dishes. The problem with the lamb chops was the quality of meat. The seasoning and flavor was good, however, there was hardly any meat on the bone, making this dish a huge disappointment. The chicken satay was tender but not adequately seasoned and quite inexplicably was served with pieces of mildly grilled bread.  The bread added nothing to this bland dish. Better satay is available at a number of restaurants in Mumbai. Its disappointing when a restaurant specialising in 'robata' cannot get a simple satay right; I must add however, that satay is Malaysian and so I hoped, going forward, the menu included a good Japanese chicken skewer. The mushrooms were very well done and the curried morning glory was something unique. Izaya’s 'robata' dishes are a poor representation of the 'robata' style of cooking.

For starters, we had drunken prawns and shrimp cakes on sugarcane skewers. It is not the best shrimp cake that I have eaten, but it wasn’t bad. Prawns were overcooked and so did not have the crunchy texture of a good freshly cooked king prawn. The flavors were good and it’s a shame they overcooked the prawns.

Next we tried another specialty of Izaya – 'sa-khoo'. This is almost like a dim sum. We tried their prawn 'sa-khoo' and water chestnut and edamame 'sa-khoo'. The presentation is beautiful. The flavors and texture were not impressive. I much preferred a good dim sum to this variant.

Robata Grilled Chops

For soup we tried their 'tom yum' with prawn and 'khoi soi' with crabmeat. The 'tom yum' was delicious and the portions are generous. The 'khoi soi' lacked the thai spices and flavouring of a good Thai soup.

The most disappointing starter was the 'hamachi'. This was a yellow tail sushi served with red chillies. At Rs. 1700 this is a complete disaster. The fish is drenched in soya sauce, losing all its natural taste and texture. It is almost criminal what they have done with this yellow tail dish.

For main course we tried their lamb with lemongrass, Thai green curry with prawns, trinity of Thailand with Asian vegetables, wok tossed noodles and crab and egg fried rice. The lamb was interesting and something I have not tried before. This is the only main course dish that can be recommended. Fried rice came with crab-sticks instead of fresh crabmeat, which in Mumbai is a cardinal sin especially at high-end restaurants.  In a city where fresh crab is readily available, serving crab-stick as a cheap alternative is poor. The Thai green curry, vegetables and noodles were all forgettable.

Robata - Satay Chicken

Unfortunately, this new restaurant is disappointing all around. Prices are steep, but the dining experience, decor and food too is poor. A meal for 6 of us cost us Rs. 15,000 (without drinks or dessert). On an average of about Rs. 2500 per person, this restaurant does not justify a visit.

I am a great fan of 'robata' cuisine and Thai cuisine but Izaya needs to do a lot of work before it can be recommended or before I return.

Hamachi

Pomelo Salad

Tom Yum Prawn

Drunken Prawn

Sa-khoo

Robata Mushrooms

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