A frenetic pace of existence. An exquisite tradition of design. Exuberantly loud pop culture. And soul-calming natural wonders. Such are the thoughts that invariably populate one’s mind whenever the word Japan is mentioned, whatever be the context.
The “Land of the Rising Sun” is one of the few countries in the world, whose richest export is, without an iota of doubt, its way of life. And that is most gloriously manifested in its food, which also adheres to the time-honoured Ja-panese philosophy — a quest for perfection bearing the fruits of beauty and excellence.
Minimalism is often the operative word in Japanese cuisine as ingredients are not tampered with in the least, thereby allowing their natural flavours to shine through. The squeamish variety would equate that with “raw food”, which is a criminally simplistic understatement. There is so much more to the cuisine.
And the newly-opened Aajisai in Quest Mall aims to bring the bounty of Japan’s food to Kolkata’s gourmands in a luxuriously elegant setting.
The fine-dining restaurant began its journey a couple of months ago and has already raked up a sizeable niche of loyalists. From the house of Fuji and Japanese Forest, Aajisai offers a few unique firsts for this city.
Kaiten Zushi, literally meaning “rotation sushi”, is one of the primary calling cards of the place. The sushi conveyor belt serves up the different dishes one after the other and customers can choose the ones they like — it is fast food sushi if one may say so.
Both the Nigiri (thin slices of raw fish served atop rice) and Maki (traditional roll consisting of fish, veggies and rice, rolled up in sea weed) sushi are highly recommended. From the former, Unagi Nigiri (two pieces of eel fish) and Tobiko Gunkan (two pieces of flying fish roe) are not to be missed if one is of the adventurous sort while from the latter, the Alaska Roll, comprising crab meat and asparagus covered with salmon tempura bits, is a must-have. One mustn’t forget to incorporate that little hit of wasabi paste with their sushi!
Another dish worth mentioning is the Tempura Moriawase (prawn and assorted vegetables fried in a batter) — the crackling exterior makes for the perfect crunch as the prawn melts in the mouth.
The Yakitori (meat on skewers) options are also varied but from them, the Asparagus Bacon Yaki and the Salmon Asparagus Teriyaki stand out. The Sashimi (raw fish with soy sauce and wasabi paste) section overflows with bite-sized deliciousness ranging from octopus and scallop to mackerel and tuna.
The rice-loving denizens of the city need not despair as Aajisai’s fried rice dishes made with Japanese sticky rice, grilled chicken/pork/seafood, eggs, soy sauce and garlic-flavoured butter will surely leave one satiated.
The restaurant also has a separate Teppanyaki section where food is cooked live on an iron griddle. The set menus for dinner and lunch is available in vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian with dishes comprising beef (Indian, Australian and Japanese wagyu), pork (Indian and Austrian), chicken, seafood (prawn and salmon), tofu and asparagus, among others. The Teppanyaki comes with Osuimono (Japanese soup), salad, Yasai Itame (sautéed vegetables), Yakimeshi (fired rice), Yakisoba (fried noodles) and a dessert of the day.
The interiors are wonderfully designed by the Tokyo-based Enomoto Mashahiro with the walls done up in soothing colours. With an area of 1,759 sq ft and a seating capacity of 58, Aajisai spells exclusive opulence like no other but the crowning achievement is undoubtedly their delectable food.