Tuesday, April 23, 2024

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Zensational experience with Japanese food at The Leela

What comes to your mind when someone mentions Japanese cuisine? To be honest, from all that I have eaten and experienced, I had only known of a handful of dishes that make for a popular Japanese meal.

Be it the Sushi or Maki rolls to Noodles and soup. Ramen bowls are pretty popular you would think. Or so were we made to think. From cartoons to movies and TV shows, it is all we saw. Raw food, raw fish etc.

Recently we were invited to try out a curation of Japanese meal at The Leela Palace, Bangalore at their restaurant Zen which mainly caters and specializes in Authentic Japanese cuisine. As part of the Zensational festival,  apanese Master Chef from Thailand – Chef Panchai along with Chef Dominic, the Executive Sous Chef at Zen an à la carte menu was curated for a short period that brings together the best of the japanese dishes.

The menu is a fine balance between vegetarian and non vegetarian dishes and it is not as though the vegetarian ones are a formality. Each dish makes for a good course. A good 5 course meal.

The meal sets the base with a very tasty and flavourful soup made of  Shimeji (edible mushrooms native to East Asia) and American corn paste with miso. Japanese soups are usually seens as very light, watery with vegetables, however the Miso corn soups hits the ball out of the park with being equally light yet tasty and filled with flavours. It is a thick soup owing to the corn paste but is 100% japanese. 

Next in was a very fresh salad that was bursting with flavours. Baby aragula lettuce with tofu in a Tofu mayo dressing topped with Lotus stem and fried onions. Mind blown? Can you imagine this to be a Japanese dish? From the first bite to the last, it was full of flavour and the mayo with sesame and tofu dressing was cherry on the top. Aragula itself has a distinct flavour and when you add tofu, which are fried in Potato starch, you know that it is going to be a winner. 


For appetizers, I think the weakest in the whole menu was this dish. Baked vegetables topped with a cheesy sauce, did not have any distinctive flavour and the cheese over powered the vegetables. Being the only vegetarian appetizer, it was a bit of a let down. 

Moving on to the main course- The Vegetable Katsu Curry with Rice is simply the best of the whole menu. A flavour we are familiar with, yet unknown to us that it existed in the Japanese setting. Topped with tempura fried asparagus and vegetables, the katsu curry consists of spices that are commonly used in the Indian setup, thus making it very familiar. Cinamon, Clove, Bay leaf etc make as the core ingredients here. Our cultures must have definitely had a exchange somewhere in the past. Not to forget, extremely filling and satisfying. 

To end the meal on a high note, the chefs reserved the best for the last. Truly the biggest highlight of the festival menu is the Ginger and White Miso Creme Brulee. Extremely divine to your senses, the taste of Ginger never felt so sweet! The Ginger ice cream with ginger crumble and the creme brulee make for a long lasting marriage. One that was matched in the heavens.

The pictures do not make justice to what we experienced. But I truly hope all of these dishes make it to the regular menu and make for surprises to people who never thought of Japanese food to be so!

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