Imagine this: you’re a businessman who needs to be away from home and country for long stretches. You come from a land and a culture that is known for its unique food, its emphasis on simplicity of flavors and adherence to norms. Now put yourself in a new country, especially one as chaotic as India, with its myriad colors and regional cuisines, and sensory overload and a bout of homesickness are sure to occur. Enter: Davanam Sarovar Portico Suites in Madiwala to ease your culture shock. This hotel has over 40% of its clientele from Japan, and makes quite the effort to cater to their needs and make them feel comfortable. To this end, there is a specialty Japanese menu, Fukusuke, that has been created in conjunction and consultation with the hotel’s Japanese guests. While at present it’s all part of the single multi-cuisine restaurant, Tangerine, the idea is to create a separate Japanese restaurant down the line. I sure hope that happens soon, ’cause Japanese needs its own space, and taking in the smells of biryani and kebabs alongside this delicately balanced cuisine can put one a bit off kilter. A few weeks ago I made a visit for dinner to sample the Fukusuke menu, and I will admit, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But learning the story and how the menu came to pass, and after eating the food, I think it is a commendable effort and I would recommend it to those looking to get a taste of “authentic” Japanese cuisine that goes beyond the sushis and sashimis, and at a price that won’t break the bank.
So, what did we eat? We started with soup – Miso, but of course – a lovely, flavorful and light Miso Wakame Tofu.
Next up was a delicate and delectable cooked salad, Ohitashi style; spinach with cubes of tofu in Dashi sauce . I could not stop picking at this with my chopsticks – it was so light and flavorful! The chicken gyoza, Tori gyoza, was well done, and the other starter was an interesting take on Goma Tofu, with the addition of large shrimp to the sesame tofu, which was presented with a mushroom and grated veggies salad. The platter of sushi was nice but didn’t leave a mark. The main was a predictable but tasty Tori Teri Yaki, aka chicken teriyaki served with sticky rice and Yasai Iteme, stir fried spinach and tofu and carrots. Given the restaurant’s multi-cuisine status, we were also presented with some kebabs that were decent, but the surprise for me was the cold mezze – the trio of tabouleh, baba ghanoush and hummus were really good, and I would recommend definitely ordering them, when you visit this establishment. Dessert had an element of surprise – Chef created a wasabi ice cream that was rather fun! He also served us a chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream, which he spiced up with wasabi peas – I didn’t leave even one, let me tell ya!
The serving staff need a little work, in that they aren’t that knowledgeable about the cuisine they’re serving. We tried but a few of the dishes on the menu, but enough to get a sampling of what one can expect during a visit. In a town where Japanese cuisine equals high end and expensive, I was pleasantly surprised by the affordable pricing at Fukusuke and the number of pages the menu (printed in both Japanese and English, by the way), boasted. As we were told during our visit, the aim is to serve the in-house guests a meal they would have prepared and enjoyed had they been in their own homes – and we “locals” then are the beneficiaries of this, too! My dining companion had never come across Japanese food, unlike myself, who enjoyed her share of udon, sushi, miso, seaweed, green tea icecream and more in California. He enjoyed the experience and the flavors, and it was fun to view the meal through his gaze rather than my own jaded one.