The Sushi and Sake festival at Pa Pa Ya offers a visually stunning and memorable meal
“Raw fish?” That’s the first thing many people ask as they crinkle up their noses in disdain at the thought of eating sushi. The trend has been growing in aamchi Mumbai, however, and several restaurants offer this delicacy. Now, the pan-Asian restaurant Pa Pa Ya has taken it several notches higher, with a Sushi and Sake festival at its Palladium, Colaba and Bandra-Kurla Complex outlets till May 31.
WHAT IS SUSHI?
While the immediate association for most people is uncooked fish, sushi is actually vinegared rice topped with other ingredients; it is sashimi that is slices of raw fish. Sushi, fermented fish with rice preserved in salt, was a staple dish in Japan for a thousand years until the Edo Period (1603 to 1868); the word means ‘it’s sour’, which refers to its preservation in salt.
The sushi eaten in Japan is also simple, compared to the fancier fast-food style varieties available elsewhere. For instance, the Japanese do not mix wasabi in the soy sauce; they want to taste the fresh ocean flavour of the fish. This is one rule you may want to break though; as Pa Pa Ya’s manager, Clayton Fernandes, told us. “Wasabi is not for taste. It has anti-bacterial properties that help when you are eating raw fish.”
THE PA PA YA OFFERING
We visited Pa Pa Ya at Palladium; unlike its Colaba counterpart, which has a serene and semi fine-dine ambience, this is a vibrant, busy restaurant in a mall. The décor was a little overwhelming, with octagonal shapes every which way you turned; they were meant to echo and amplify the molecular gastronomy that Pa Pa Ya has been known for, said Clayton.
The Sushi and Sake festival, designed strictly for non-vegetarians and served at the table, is not the sort of meal you can scoop down in a hurry. Finish what you have to do and then relax as you savour this wonderful meal, with its ingredients imported from Japan. There are five courses, each a visual delight, paired with different kinds of sake that get progressively stronger depending on the ratio of rice used. Give yourself at least an hour, if not more, to enjoy it and leave the restaurant with a pleasant sake-induced buzz in your head.
The first course is the only vegetarian dish—a miso soup, with the broth poured at the table over a bowl that contains tofu and seaweed. Miso paste is a traditional Japanese seasoning with fermented soybeans.
The second course is a Sashimi sampler, with tuna, salmon, scallop and Hamachi, served with Hakushika Honjozo Namachozo sake, a fresh and light sake with a cool aroma and mild taste made with a brief aging period and pasteurisation right before bottling.
The third course is the Sushi Nigiri, with tuna, ama ebi (shrimp), salmon and unagi (freshwater eel), served on a stunning ‘sushi tree’, with Hakushika Yamadanishika Honjozo on the side—described as being made with the ‘king’ of premium sake rice, brewed by a technique passed down the generations.
Nigiri is a long mound of vinegared rice pressed between the palms of the hands, with a bit of wasabi on top, and a topping delicately draped over it. Pick it up between your thumb and finger, turn it upside down and dip the fish side into your soya sauce; it will fall apart if you dip the rice.
The fourth course is where they get inventive. This is the modern sushi course, made to look like burgers, pizza and doughnuts, with salmon, wasabi, aioli and a shichimi sprinkle. Enjoy it with the Hakushika Junmai Taru Sake, which is briefly aged in wooden casks made from fragrant Japanese cedar wood.
Just when you are truly happy with all that sake and the spectacularly presented food at your table, they will serve you Mochi ice cream. Mochi is a soft, pounded sticky rice cake, and makes for a colourful covering around the ice cream with its flavours of strawberry, banana, vanilla and salted caramel.
HOW DO YOU EAT IT?
First of all, forget about the chopsticks. It’s perfectly acceptable to eat sushi with your fingers and in fact, Pa Pa Ya advises you to do so, if you read the little instruction booklet on the table. Also, remember that the wasabi is very strong, so when you add it to the soya sauce, don’t overdo it. We took less than a quarter of a teaspoon and Clayton said it would be too much; he was right. As for the ginger (gari), it isn’t meant to be a spicy addition to the meal, but is, in fact, a palate cleanser between courses.
With all the ingredients imported from Japan, don’t expect this to be cheap. This is a non-vegetarian meal with imported fish and sake so the price is Rs 2999 plus taxes and a 10% optional service charge—and it’s worth every rupee, if you ask us. This is not your run-of-the-mill meal; it’s one designed for memories. Indulge before the sake runs out!