Kitchen Confidential: Sakura
Once upon a time if one craved Japanese food in Delhi, only one restaurant came to mind. Sakura at The Metropolitan Hotel & Spa has been faithfully serving customers authentic Japanese food for close to two decades. I’m yet to see the real sakura in Japan but that didn’t stop me from visiting the famed restaurant in the heart of the city to try out their new pan-Asian menu.
More than enough Delhi restaurants offer pan-Asian and Sakura too has joined the bandwagon. Its dishes may have been inspired by Thai, Indonesian and Korean fare, but, glancing through the menu, I found they all had a distinct Japanese twist.
Chef Swapnadeep Mukherjee curated a menu of their best offerings that afternoon, and after two hours of telling myself not to overeat, it is exactly what I ended up doing. But, in hindsight, the walk to Connaught Place from Bangla Sahib Road after the feast had me stumble upon a quaint tea place that has since become a favourite.
Sakura’s red and light brown décor caught my eye as I was ushered to a private dining area. A wasabi martini appeared and the show began. The amalgamation of flavours in Asian food is always comforting so when a tasting plate, colour coordinated with white and brown edges, was set before me, I was immediately excited. Ice fish is a Japanese delicacy and not for everyone. Squidgy and transparent, the eel-like fish has a unique taste. In Japan, they are usually eaten alive, and they dance inside the mouth. These lay still and were slightly acidic, but enjoyable nonetheless. The fried chicken, marinated in miso sauce, was both soft and crunchy.
The world has been going ga-ga over avocados and Sakura mixes it up in a salsa with kaffir lime, chilli and onions served with sabudana crackers. Not far behind was another delicious starter—som tam, Thailand’s famed raw papaya salad, with hints of sweet, sour, spicy and salty in every mouthful.
My favourite was the sugarcane prawn served with a piquant green sauce. Minced prawn was set as a corn dog on a sugarcane piece. Served alongside was the vegetable spring roll—poh pia je—well seasoned and crispy. They are always a party hit with a sweet-chilli dipping sauce, a trick I’ve picked up from Nigella Lawson. And at a Japanese restaurant, how could maki sushi not make an entrance? The chef sent a plate of assorted rolls—salmon, tuna, crab, prawn tempura and even bottle gourd. By the time I finished, my stomach said, “No mains.” No one heard it. Chilli garlic noodles, fried rice, Bangkok-style chilli chicken and prawn Schezwan arrived. Of these, the chicken stood out, spicy and yet whitish in colour, pairing superbly with the noodles.
Dessert was off the table, but on insistence, I took a bite of the coconut custard and picked up a piece of date pancake. “That’s enough pan-Asian for the week,” I told myself. But guess what I ended up ordering for lunch the very next day?
Timings: 12 to 2.30pm, 6 to 11pm;
Price: INR 4,500 for two; hotelmetdelhi.com