14 years ago, The Taj group was looking for a Japanese Restaurant brand to open at The Taj Mahal Palace in Mumbai, after several failed negotiation with Nobu, they finally zeroed in on Morimoto. Since then, as written by Mr. Vir Sanghvi in one of his articles, Chef Morimoto is perhaps more famous in India than anywhere else. And why not? Anyone and everyone who is in the food business or is a food enthusiast or even an aspiring ‘foodie’, is aware of this brand. Wasabi By Morimoto has always been one of those aspirational brands for most (well I can safely say that it definitely has been for me since the time I first passed by the restaurant a decade back in Mumbai). So when Taj Bengal arranged for a pop-up from the 15th till the 19th of Sept 2017, a noteworthy day in the pages of Taj Bengal and I was invited along with few more fellow bloggers/ food writers, my excitement saw no end. That was about me but why was Kolkata so exhilarated about it, so much so that by the end of the first day, they were already fully booked for both service till the end of the pop-up. Here is what I think.
1. Kolkata is short of big brand names when it comes to food. Every big foodie event happens either in Mumbai, Bengaluru or Delhi. We rarely hear of anything of this scale here in the city, where contrary to popular belief, people do spend money. Wasabi is one such name which immediately raised eyebrows of the patrons of Taj Bengal and the event was happening at ‘Souk‘.
2. Opened 14 years back in Taj Mumbai, Wasabi (as it is popularly known as) has maintained its position as one of the most expensive (perhaps ‘the’ most expensive) restaurant in the country. It has been recognised by San Pelligrinoas as one of Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in 2016. They also operate at Taj Mahal Delhi, hence the exclusivity. It is also the first Japanese restaurant brand in the country.
3. Morimoto is a worldwide brand name where Chef Masaharu Morimoto, also known as the ‘iron chef’ has broken all boundaries and created contemporary Japanese cuisine. So while there was a whole array of sushi and sashimi platter, one could expect dishes like toro tartare (which is a tartare of tuna; toro being tuna belly and the fattiest part of tuna), delicate dish like a white fish carpaccio with a drizzle of hot oil, yuzu and soy sauce which immediately melts in the mouth and many more.
4. The ingredients used were of top quality and the sourcing of them was the key. In fact, from the day of opening till today, they have maintained a single supplier from Japan, especially the fish, which comes from Tsukiji Market at Tokyo. So even for this pop-up, all the ingredients had been sourced from the same place and hence, the consistency in the quality.
5. Even though there is no concept of Vegetarian Japanese food at any of the Morimoto restaurants, this is the only place where most of the dishes had a vegetarian version, which had been created by Chef Hemant Oberoi and Chef Morimoto himself for the Indian Gujarati and Marwari clientele. So while there is rock shrimp tempura in non-vegetarian, the vegetarian patrons can enjoy rock corn tempura. Similarly, there were fascinating dishes like perigod roll (white asparagus with truffle sushi roll), wasabi tacos with sweet and creamy avocado lined with spicy wasabi mayo and lime dressing, tofu carpaccio with yuzu soy, Wasabi fried rice which was sticky and the fragrance was incredible, Japanese vegetable curry and so on.
6. Japanese Chef Yousuke Matsudka, also known as Chef Joe, who had joined Mumbai Wasabi in 2016 as a speciality sushi chef had come down himself along with Chef de Cuisine Sachin Poojary for this pop up to ensure the authentic experience for Kolkatans.
7. The menu remained ‘as is’ from the original restaurant and nothing had been tweaked for Kolkata. Hence one could get the most bona fide experience with their signature dishes of Black Cod Miso, Spicy Angel Shrimp, Toro Tartare, Asparagus Tempura, Sukoi Tofu and much more. There were a few stunning desserts too like the Tofu Cheesecake with pineapple salsa which had jasmine flavoured infused and a bite of it was bound to send you to heaven. There was a simple Wasabi Creme Brulee and a very complex Kuro Goma Mille Feuille with fresh caramel and chocolate ice cream (a chocolate lover’s delight) and so on.
Disclaimer: This post on Wasabi by Morimoto pop up at Taj Bengal was written by me after I had attended the pop up on invitation in September last year but never got around to release the post. The pop up itself was such a big hit that Taj Bengal decided to re create the magic this year too.
Dates for 2018: 9th to 14th October
Location: Souk at Taj Bengal
Approximate Cost for two: Rs. 10,000 plus tax
Must try dishes: Aburi Pork Kakuni (melt in the mouth pork belly with mustard miso), Yellowtail Jalapeno Carpaccio, Wasabi Fried Rice, Toro Tartare, Spicy Angel Shrimp, Assorted Sushi and Sashimi Platter, Wasabi Taco, Tofu Cheesecake