When I received an invite from the wonderful people at ITC Gardenia to give their Japanese fine dining restaurant Edo a try, I was in two minds.
Being a vegetarian, did it really make sense for me to accept a blogger review invitation where most of the dishes would be beyond me? I mean, what would I even talk about?
I was then sat down and made to listen to their spiel – about how passionate Chef Joshi was about his restaurant and his food, how light and healthy Japanese food is, and then the convincing argument – that even Jain vegetarians (one of the stricter forms of vegetarianism) have been able to eat at Edo and still been able to enjoy the food.
So finally got convinced into trying out their set vegetarian meal one rainy weeknight.
A set meal? That seems like a lot, right? And if you know me, you will also know that I am a person of very poor appetite. I enjoy food but I tend to just nibble along the corners, and don’t actually do justice to the food. I am more about photographing and sampling, and less of the eating. Very bad, I know 🙁 , but what to do, that’s me.
But this set meal was really different from all those experiences where I struggled to even get up from my seat.
I left my Japanese meal feeling light yet satisfied. And because each course was perfectly spaced out and very carefully curated, I got a wonderful mix of all the flavors that make Japanese cuisine so unique.
As usual, we started with the drinks, the choice of which I left to the very expert ITC Gardenia staff who have always suggested unusual, interesting, and delicious drinks that pair perfectly with the food.
This time, the recommendation was a sujo bomb, something I’ve never tried before.
This is a popular alcoholic rice-based drink, balanced on a pair of chopsticks over a glass with beer. We then did a small ritual where we had to count to three in Japanese and then bang hard on the table. The drink then falls into the beer glass, and we were then supposed to gulp it down somewhat in the manner of tequila shots.
I loved the drink, but I’ve never managed to do shots successfully without coughing and choking, and so I elected to sip this drink in a leisurely way.
This drink set the tone for the rest of the meal – fun, new, modern, and vibrant.
We decided on cocktails for our second drink. K chose a fruity cocktail, which was nice in a conventional way. I opted for a wasabi-based cocktail to suit the Japanese theme, and it was mind-blowing. Pungent and with a heavy kick, this is the drink I would recommend to everyone coming to this restaurant. Two thumbs up!
Ours was a meal of several courses and here is a brief description of everything we ate.
Kobachi (Wasabi and mint spheres)
Our first dish that we tried with the soju bomb was equally esoteric.
It consisted of just one spoon with a gelatinous looking substance on it, very prettily presented.
I am trying to think back to what my experience was eating it, but since it was just the one mouthful, I can’t quite remember it.
Zensai – Avocado and seaweed, shishito gyoza, horenso goma ae
On to the next course. This was a platter consisting of roasted avocado with a spattering of fried and shaved garlic on top, accompanied by fried bajji type vegetables (the best way to describe it although it didn’t taste like a bajji at all).
This dish was amazing and I especially loved the avocado. At first glance, the fried garlic chips seemed like too much garlic to me, but really, it was just right, and gave the avocado some much-needed flavoring.
Salad and sushi – Tofu usuzukiri and veg California roll
Then came the big guns! This was sushi with vegetables, and just bursting with flavor. So beautifully presented too. That pretty pink thing in the middle of the plate is Japanese ginger, which I tentatively tasted and then polished off. The green protrusion in the foreground is freshly grated wasabi. This was my first time tasting fresh wasabi, and I tell you, it tastes nothing like the stuff you get in supermarkets.
The taste of the fresh wasabi was so much more delicate and flavorful.
Robatayaki – Robata moriawase
Oh my, my. This was again a highlight. I loved the brinjals, asparagus, and the mushrooms which were cooked just so. They were meaty and delicious and such a pleasure to dig into.
Nimono – Satsumaimo nimono
This was a braised sweet potato presented in its own juice. I liked this one, but wasn’t wowed by it.
Syokuji – Yasai Yaki Udon
Don’t have the words to describe this. This dish was easily one of the highlights of the meal for me (another one was the robatayaki). I loved the presentation and taste. No complaints at all, except that I would have loved lots more of it.
Mizugashi – Cheese cake, Goma ice cream, and the Madagascar chocolate mousse
I am not a big fan of cheesecake or ice cream in fancy restaurants (ice cream parlors just do it so much better), but the mousse was mind-blowing, and I ended the meal on the perfect note.
Or did I?
After the meal
Here comes the really interesting part.
Throughout the meal, Chef Joshi came to check on us multiple times. He knew about K’s and my dietary preferences, and how apprehensive we were about trying out a cuisine so totally foreign to us.
He was so kind and so reassuring, and the vegetarian meal was so good, and the presentation so brilliantly exquisite that at the end of the meal, I decided to take a big leap.
I decided I would try actual sushi and sashimi – yes, raw fish! I ventured upon a maki roll, and a salmon sashimi right under Chef’s eyes, hoping I wouldn’t gag and embarrass everyone at the table.
But you know what, they were actually really good! So good in fact that I was raving all the way back home about the texture and taste of the fish while K listened to me blankly in shock.
So does that make me open to non-vegetarian food now?
I think what worked for me this time was the lack of bones and skin in these dishes. So it didn’t really feel like eating fish. Also, the fish at Edo did not smell at all. Will I try sushi again? Definitely under the aegis of Chef Joshi in Edo. He knew exactly which dish to present to an on-the-fence vegetarian.
But in other places, and with other chefs? Well, we just have to wait and see 🙂 .
Mind-blowing dining experience. Not for those on a budget, but if you are looking for a unique and experimental dining option, but under the care of experienced and talented chefs, this is the place to go!
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