Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi : gold standards in Japanese food
One Bangkok trip was all it took for the revered favourite, Thai Pavillion at Taj President to come crashing down to earth. Even a mall food court in Bangkok could take on this mighty giant and leave it gasping! Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi still manages to be the first (and last!) word on Japanese cuisine in Mumbai though. Probably aided by the fact that I haven’t managed a Japan trip yet.
Apparently, the original thought was to open an outpost of the Nobu empire at the Taj. When discussions fell though, the executive chef of the original New York Nobu, Masaharu Morimoto was on-boarded for a Nobu inspired menu. (More on my first Nobu experience at Kuala Lumpur on the 56th floor overlooking the Petronas tower in a later post). Most of their ingredients are flown in from Japan and that makes a world of difference to the taste. Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi is one of the few places to serve up a fresh version of its namesake. Wasabi – grated right at the table! Also the first time I sampled a Shisho or Perilla leaf, a sort of mint, was at Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi.
Taj warmth and a view
The entrance to Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi is through the Harbour bar with its deep red colour scheme and metallic lift taking you up in a stately fashion to Wasabi. The Taj hospitality starts right off with the décor itself – cedar wood warmed by sunlight. The restaurant gets a lot of natural light during the day. The Teppanyaki and Sushi bar take up most of the wall space. The tables are well spaced apart and also little nooks created to give a cosy feel. Ask for a table by the window for a calming view of the Arabian sea and the Gateway of India. The famed Taj service is warm and impeccable, putting diners at ease and helping negotiate the fairly complex menu.
Lunch is a lighter on the wallet and the stomach with the bento box options. These make the choices more finite and easier to negotiate than having to work your way through the menu. Almost like our portioned, multi-course thali.
Miso soupy goodness!
A miso soup is part of the bento – either with tofu or a sea-food one. I think a true test of Japanese food is the miso soup. A first whiff of the tofu-miso soup and a sip later, I knew the food at Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi would be superlative. This one has no resemblance to the dark and heavy broths I had in other places. It is almost milky white with the softest, melt-in-the-mouth tofu pieces in it. The seafood one is even better flavoured with a crab claw adding extra oomph. The soup alone would be enough reason to go back to Wasabi, believe me!
Black cod miso – don’t miss(o)!
And the Black cod miso would be the other reason! I had an OMG moment with the first bite of this. The incredible, flake-apart, moist succulence of the fish! No review can prepare you for this experience. You just have to do this first-hand. The complimentary Sencha tea that our cups are usually topped up with sets the tone with its delicate flavour preparing our palates for the feast to come.
Traditional sushi school
There are 2 schools of sushi – the traditional one which relies on the freshness of the seafood. And the more modern sushi rolls which experiment with textures, sauces and special ingredients. Taj Mahal palace – Wasabi clearly belongs to the former school of sushi. And with my preference for the modern sushi rolls, Kofuku is a preferred sushi destination.
Best sashimi in Mumbai
Wasabi is the pit-stop for some amazing sashimi – possibly the best in Mumbai. So, I unfailingly choose the Sashimi bento on most visits. The Hamachi or yellow tail tuna is sure to satisfy the most exacting Sashimi fiend. The Kakuni – an incredibly fatty, braised pork in a black curry sauce is also part of the Kaiseki Bento.
Omakase – As you like it!
If you are celebrating an occasion, choose the 7 course Chef’s Omakase (means I’ll leave it to you) menu. This allows you to sample all the different meal groups. Amuse bouche, cold and hot appetizer, sushi and soup, tempura, entrée and dessert. This is too much food for me though the son manages to demolish this quite efficiently. Works perfectly for me – slow eating and looking at the view in the meanwhile.
For you, a thousand times over
All this of course comes at a stiff price of 4-6k per head. But for a meal of this quality, I would revisit the place again and again. Whether Wasabi manages a connect with global citizens who travel the world at a young age is to be seen. Its continued existence depends on it! A bunch of old, discerning quality seekers can only carry it along for a few years. Murmurs of the Delhi Wasabi shutting shop have already been heard. Alas there goes my Valrhona chocolate curl! Hope it makes a reappearance in Mumbai – it’s crazy good. A sencha or sake toast to Wasabi’s continued good health!
A sushi and sashimi fiend – check where you can get the Best sushi and sashimi in Mumbai. Also check the review for Kofuku – my best bet for modern sushi. And the latest entrant for affordable (not only) Japanese food – Happy Thai