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Metro watch

The restaurants you need to know about. This month, we do Japanese in Gurgaon, chicken and mash in Bandra and royal kebabs in Bangalore. Tuck in!

     Print Edition: Feb 8, 2009

Location hurts: Despite the wonderful food, there aren’t many patrons
Location hurts
Tokyo Cancelled
After rave reviews in Delhi, Sakura opens a second, bigger restaurant. The only trouble is, it’s in Gurgaon.
Sanjiv Bhattacharya

Another case of overextension in Gurgaon, of ambition outrunning reality. Sakura is arguably the best authentic Japanese restaurant in India, happily ensconced at the Metropolitan hotel in New Delhi. Riding high on its success, it opened a second, bigger restaurant, in November last year, this time with a long cocktail and sushi bar. And yet here I am a month later, on a Friday night at 10 p.m., and the place is empty. Not a soul. Why?

Location, location, location. Perhaps it’s unsporting to pick on Gurgaon, to jump on that already overcrowded bandwagon. But the millennium city is asking for it—no other city is quite so ostentatious in reaching for the skies, even as its feet are sinking in sewage. We endure the drive through cratered streets and screaming hoardings, and find ourselves in a vast, sterile office block, apparently abandoned but for the occasional security guard peering over his scarf. Sakura, on the first floor, is equally stark—the Marie Celeste of Japanese restaurants. Presumably, the idea was that by nestling it within a place of work, it would become the favoured haunt of office-goers. And for lunch, it apparently is— office regulars and native Japanese, who come for a bona fide taste of the old country. But in the evenings, it’s so empty, it’s creepy.

Simply succulent: Delicately skewered kebabs
Simply succulent
The food, however, is wonderful. First, a plate of sushi and sashimi to start us off— exquisite California rolls, coated in crunchy caviar, juicy tuna and salmon and squid. All the fish is fresh and flown in from Japan and the menu is so authentic that the culinary adventurer can go way off-piste and try diehard Japanese dishes like octopus in wasabi, or egg custard or raw tuna topped with grated yam. The hot favourites are all dependably excellent—the tempura, the katsu don, the teriyaki chicken and udon soups. The décor is simple, the service attentive. It really is a slice of real Japan, except without any people. And upon leaving, you can pick up a tremendously informative book to navigate the menu— “Sakura’s Japanese Kitchen”—written by our very own Sourish Bhattacharyya.

It’s a shame that such a fine restaurant should be suffering for the false promise of Gurgaon. But eating out is always about more than just the food, so for now, I’m giving Sakura, Gurgaon, a wide berth. My fingers are crossed, though. The chef deserves better.

Address: Sakura, 1st Floor, Time Tower, Main MG Road, Gurgaon Tel: 95124-4200950/951 Timings: Lunch: 12 -3 p.m., Dinner: 6-10 p.m.
Meal for two: approx. Rs 2,500
Must try: Ginmutsu Saikyoyaki (grilled cod marinated with white soy paste, mirin and sake), California roll, Unagi Nigiri (eel sushi), Saikoro Steak (diced tenderloin)

Fine Dining: Large and opulent, Khansama captures the charm of a palatial fort
Fine Dining
Dine Like A King
Khansama brings you the closely guarded secrets of the royal Indian kitchen.
—Tejaswi Shekhawat

Khansama’s rich repertoire of Indian kebabs and curries is sourced from royal chronicles. Large and opulent, set in wood and stone, capturing the charm of a palatial fort, it allows you to relive your grandma’s bed-time tales. Antique lamp shades create a soft lighting. The low tables are reminiscent of ‘Dastarkhwan’—the princely practice of feasting by laying the repast before the guests. All the food is prepared using ageold recipes from various royal kitchens like the Rajputana, Awadhi, Mughal and Travancore. Specialities are kebabs and seafood. Try the Salmon ki seekh—delicately skewered kebabs of Norwegian salmon cooked to a smoky finish in the clay oven. Or the Tawa masala halibut—masala grilled Iceland halibut fillets. And don’t miss the mildly spiced lamb.

Address: Level-II, UB City, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore. Tel: 080-41114499; 41114466 Timings: Lunch 12:30 to 3:00 p.m.; Dinner: 7:00 to 11:30 p.m.
Meal for two: Rs 1,500
Must try: Tawa masala halibut, Termezi Qorma, Punjabi Zaituni Naan

European-style café: At Bonobo Bar, you can make your own cocktails
European-style café
Monkey Bars
In the centre of bustling Mumbai is a quiet and relaxing European café, a terrace converted into one of the newest restaurants in Mumbai—Bonobo Bar. love. food. Overcomplicated name, but still. The name, Bonobo, actually comes from a breed of pygmy chimpanzees but the owners, Nevil and Sahil Timbadia, say it’s just to arouse curiosity.

The real draw here is the long bar that offers guests a unique chance to make their own cocktails. Whether it’s a mojito or the popular Long Island Ice Teas, you’re free to pour yourself whatever mixes you can handle. Either that, or go for the in-house specialty, the Bonobo Martini, a melon-based offering. Pair the Martini with the smoked salmon crostini or one of the special dishes like Bonobo chicken with mashed potatoes or grilled shrimp risotto. You can’t go far wrong with the food at Bonobo—the desserts are decent, especially the chocolate silk mousse and Banoffee Pie. But be prepared for a crowd. Like all new places in Mumbai, it’s getting inundated on peak nights.

At the Bonobo bar, you can mix your own cocktails. Steady, now. Anamika Butalia

Address: Bonobo Bar. love. food. Kenilworth Mall, Phase 2, Second Floor, Off Linking Road, Bandra (west), Mumbai – 400050 Tel: 022 – 26044040, 26044242 Timings: 7.30 p.m-12.30 a.m
Meal for two: Rs 2,300 (inclusive of alcohol & taxes)
Must try: Bonobo Martini, Smoked Salmon Crostini, Bonobo chicken with mashed potatoes

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