Yuuka By Ting Yen
7 October 2014
Palladium Hotel, Phoenix Mills, Lower Parel, Mumbai.
Open daily, 12.30-2.45pm and 7-11.45pm.
Palladium Hotel’s new Japanese restaurant is a worthy rival to Wasabi.
Ting Yen belongs to the group of chefs which is pro social media. The Japanese chef from Boston is the face of Yuuka, the new fine dining Japanese restaurant located between the 37th and 38th floors of the Palladium Hotel in Lower Parel. Yen’s food is consciously photogenic, and the tastefully appointed Yuuka, which affords grand views of Mumbai, is as Instagram-worthy as its dishes. The restaurant’s centrepiece, made of wooden planks and bamboo clusters nods to rustic Japan. Its seductively low lighting, sleek marble sushi bar, and meticulously arranged napery, however, invoke present day Tokyo.
Like fellow expat chefs (Ian Kittichai of Koh at the InterContinenal Marine Drive for instance), Yen, who runs Oishii Boston and Oishii Sushi Bar in the American city, is contracted to visit Yuuka once every few months. He’d flown back to Boston when we ate there last week, but commendably there were no major missteps in the meal. Yen’s presentation is fit for television; the dishes are served with a dose of drama, created using ice and fire, edible flowers and fancy cutlery. The superb avocado tartare (Rs 950) for instance looks like an exotic bird in a margarita glass. Carrot chips crest over the buttery body of avocado pulp balanced on a thin sheet of ice meant to be cracked with a spoon. Once shattered, the ice gives way to reveal a rich yellow corn dashi, which adds a boost of sweetness and umami to the chilled and creamy puree of avocado and corn.
The salmon on fire (Rs 1,650) is an obvious head-turner. On the one hand, the appetiser, made up of strips of raw salmon hung on a lemongrass stem over coffee beans set ablaze feels quite primitive. But the delicious citrus ponzu marinade coating the rapidly cooking fish, the smokey coffee bean flavour, and the accompanying tangy raspberry gastrique places the cracking dish firmly in the 21st century. Prettily presented in a hollowed apple, the Moullard duck breast (Rs 1,450) woos the eyes but doesn’t quite tease the palate. The Oishii Boston signature dish had dry slivers of duck served with a portion of sake- and honey-soaked apples and onions, which were far meatier and juicier than the duck.
Sushi fans can sate their craving with the Tokyo style soft shell crab maki (Rs 1,750) in which crab meat, unagi, tamago, and a sprinkling of vibrant tobiko are packed into a crunchy sheet of daikon radish. Yen’s steamed tofu (Rs 1,350) is the thing to get if you’re vegetarian. This elegant entree features a block of milky tofu filled with a goji bean sauce that spills like a rust-hued river on to the white plate. Yuuka’s black cod (Rs 1,450), though listed under appetisers and rather too modestly portioned, still made for a fine finale. The grilled fish had a lightly charred base and buttery finish heightened by a velvety, sweet miso sauce.
Fans of matcha, the powdered Japanese green tea that’s been co-opted by pastry chefs globally, will be let down by the green tea layer cake (Rs 650). Though skillfully crafted with 40 layers compressed like the multi-layered Goan bebinca, the cake had only a scant dusting of the promised powder. Yuuka demands an astronomical price for its culinary delights, but thanks to the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel’s long-venerated though similarly exorbitant Wasabi by Morimoto, it has a ready audience that it can tap.
This review by Purva Mehra first appeared on the Mumbai Boss website.