While I’ve been obsessing over some great Japanese food around the city recently, I discovered a hidden gem in my favourite hotel, The Leela Kempinski, Mumbai. Citrus, the twenty four hour café best known for their extravagant and distinctly detailed food and themes also houses a special Japanese corner serving exquisite, fresh and authentic Japanese food.
We all know Japanese Cuisine for its Sushi, Sashimi, Soya and Wasabi and for many of us the cuisine begins and ends with these dishes that are almost synonymous to Japan.
The Leela however, takes their Menu to the next level by not only serving some classics but also integrating it with international flavours. They got my attention with their delectable fusion dishes and wide assortment of soups, salads, small eats and mains.
Without beating around the bush too much let me cut right to the chase. Here’s what we tried and some of my favourites have been listed with a star below too.
★ Tuna Otoro
Otoro is the tastiest and most coveted part of the tuna belly. It is fatty, melt in your mouth and delicious. For the meat cut this precious, it is important to treat it with utmost respect and to give maximum importance to the natural flavour of the fish. That is exactly what Chef Tuanga from Citrus has taken into consideration. This little bite sized plate is fresh and meaty with a dash of citrus. Absolutely beautiful!
A carpaccio generally means thin, delicate slices of meat served with a drizzle of sauce. We tried the whitefish carpaccio and were amazed by its finesse and the flavours of the yuzu-soy sauce. The beautiful platter contained a centre of fresh vegetables held in a ring made from a dehydrated fish net, surrounded by beautiful slices of white fish with an umame flavoured sauce. The sauce had a salty flavour from the soy, citric from the yuzu and a background sweet note as well.
We also tried the Hamachi or yellow fish carpaccio which came with a similar tasting ponzu-soy sauce and was topped with a spicy slice of jalapeno pepper. The fish was fresh, finely sliced and well treated.
★ Shira Ae
This dish did not only make the dish of the day but also falls under my TOP best Japanese dishes available in Mumbai. It consists of minced tofu and spinach moulded together, topped with toasted sesame and steamed edamame beans, wrapped in a ring of Zucchini and served in a shallow sesame sauce bath. If just that one sentence wasn’t intriguing enough, the sesame sauce sure is. It is a thick sauce made of pure sesame seeds and is aromatic, flavourful and a hundred percent delicious. The tofu and spinach have perfect consistency and mincing the tofu is a great idea. Together they are a match made in heaven.
If you love food with different textures this is the one for you. It consists of finely diced avocado tossed in spicy mayonnaise and served on a little bed of crisp rice. The soft and smooth avocado and mayonnaise topped on an absolutely crisp parcel of rice is just the perfect combination of texture and flavour. I definitely recommend this one.
Tempura is a very important part of Japanese cuisine and although we think of it as simple batter fried meat or vegetables, not many restaurants are able to achieve the desired crispness. At Citrus we tried the tempura prawns served with a Spicy Mayo every piece was crisp to perfection. The prawns were large, juicy perfectly spiced and made a great snack!
Sushi and Sashimi
Now for our favourite part of Japanese cuisine, the best known and also the trickiest!
Our platter consisted of an assortment of various seafood sushi and sashimi.
The sashimi served was fresh, skilfully sliced and served along with soy sauce, wasabi paste, pink ginger and fresh vegetables. We got to try the classis favourites, salmon and tuna and also octopus, scallop and crab stick. I specially enjoyed the tuna which was not the typical lean meat but was the special belly portion, as mentioned earlier the ottro. The scallop too was fresh and the meat was sweet.
In sushi we got to try Nigiri, pure rice rolls topped with sliced fish. We tried the salmon, prawn, scallop, octopus and crapstick. My first test for sushi is always the rolling and whether it falls apart when picked up or not. The nigiri was beautifully rolled, not a grain of rice fell apart and as mentioned earlier, the fish was wonderful.
★ Dragon Rolls
Each restaurant has their own version of the Dragon Roll. It is always the star of the menu usually featuring more than one meat or filling. The dragon rolls at Citrus had a filling of eel, prawn and crab and were topped with tempura crisps and drizzled with a sweet-soy sauce. The dish is an absolute cracker and a burst of flavour and texture in your mouth. If you’re ordering just one kind of sushi, I’d say go for this one!
These are what the Veg Dragon Rolls look like. They do not have a seaweed wrapper but a spring onion one instead!
Soft Shell Crab Rolls
My love for crabs is undying and I have a special place in my heart for soft shell crabs. Soft shell crabs are always served as a tempura either dunked in sauce or rolled within sushi. These rolls too featured tempura soft shell crabs cooked fresh and rolled to perfection. The dish was crisp, well balanced and delicious!
★ Hazelnut Mousse
We ended our meal with the delicious Hazelnut mousse served along with hazelnut ice cream, raspberry jelly, a smear of cream and a sesame crisp. The mousse was unbelievably smooth and both the main dessert and the ice cream sung the flavour of hazelnut. The little raspberry jelly was the perfect sweet and tart break away from the creamy textures of the mousse and ice cream and the little sesame crisp tied all the textures together. A beautiful way to end an amazing meal.
We also tried the baked Alaska, a beautiful dish consisting of a medley of ice creams topped with syrups and soft meringue. Unfortunately this dish was a tad bit oversweet for us but we took that in our stride and focussed all our energies on the Hazelnut Mousse.
The Japanese served at Citrus is unbelievably fresh and of high quality. The service is great and the staff is extremely polite and hospitable. A special thank you to Chef Constantine Tuanga who paid so much attention to our comfort and satisfaction.
The restaurant has not only done true justice to the authentic Japanese dishes they serve but have also reinvented many of them and each dish is better than the other. The restaurant is open all days of the week and the food is absolutely wonderful, so if you haven’t been there yet, I’d say it’s about time you do!
Review Credit: Sanskaara Lalwani
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