From Shangri-La with Love – the Japanese Star Festival
The beautifully done up interiors at Shangri-La , with its grand chandeliers which can’t escape anyone’s notice and command your attention, is being outshined by the impeccable and delicious Japanese cuisine here at Yataii- The Japanese restaurant ,which is focussed on celebrating culture and divine love, the festival of Tanabata.
Tanabata (七夕, meaning “Evening of the seventh”),also known as the Star Festival, is a Japanese festival. It celebrates the meeting of the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi (represented by the stars Vega and Altair respectively). According to legend, the Milky Way separates these lovers, and they are supposed to meet or unite only once a year on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month. And the mythology says that if it rains that very day then they will have to wait for another year to meet again.
It is this festival of divine love that Yataii, the Japanese restaurant in Shangri-La is celebrating with the traditional, authentic cuisine that is typically eaten in Japan, this week. The lovely Shamira had invited me and my co-blogger for sampling the food for the tanabata festival and it, indeed, was an exotic sojourn. We were treated to a lavish six course Japanese meal which was not just soothing to the palate but also appeasing to the core. Every course had the choice of two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian dishes.
We started our first course with the age to-fu carpaccio in veg which was tofu, tomatoes with cucumber sprayed with ponzu dressing. While my partner enjoyed the salmon carpaccio that was the salmon, tomatoes, avocado, radish with the ponzu dressing. Ponzu is the traditional Japanese dressing which is used in most of the salads and appetizers and it is soya sauce put together with lime n vinegar, making it tangy which balanced the blandness of tofu. The avocadoes in the salmon added to the richness in the flavour.
The second course was YasaiToubanyaki which was a mix of vegetables and its non-veg counterpart was the Butatobanyaki or the sliced pork belly. Toban-yaki means to roast on a ceramic plate. Ceramic plates continue to emit heat for a long time after removal from their heat. The tobanyaki is traditionally served along with three sauces, the garlic, the pepper and the miso sauce and lettuce. At the insistence of our awesome chef Atsushi Yonaha, who is from Japan and a marvel at his job, we had the tobanyaki in the typical Korean way. So, as he told us, we took the lettuce leaf and spread the sauces over it and then put the vegetable or the meat over it, wrapped it up and as it went inside the mouth, slurp, cogito ergo yum moment, that it was.
The third course was the Toriyakisoba,i.e., chicken with yaki soba sauce with the buckwheat noodles. The veg counterpart of it which I tasted was the Yasaiyakiudon. It was mixed vegetables with yaki soba sauce. Yakisoba is Japanese stir fried noodles. It is served with Yakisoba sauce it is typically flavoured with a sweetened, thickened condiment similar to Oyster sauce. Yakisoba is usually fried with sliced pork and vegetables like cabbage and bean sprouts. It is a very popular casual food (or snack) everyone likes in Japan.
The fourth course was the kawariinari sushi which is sweet tofu skin with cucumber and carrot. The sushi I had was the Toro nigiri sushi. The two sushi which I tasted were Hamachi toronigiri which is yellow tail belly (toro means belly) and salmon toronigiri.
The fifth course was the Tom yum miso soup and tonjirujiru soup that was pork and vegetables, flavoured with miso. Miso soup (味噌汁 misoshiru) is a traditional Japanese soup consisting of a stock called “dashi” into which softened miso paste is mixed. The chef Yonaha explained to me that Dashi is a basic stock used in Japanese cooking which is made by boiling dried kelp (seaweed) and dried bonito (fish). He also told why it is served finally in the meal unlike other cuisines, when soup is where we start from. The fact that this soup is rich in starch and gluten and hence in order to not make us feel full at the beginning, it is served as last but second course. It also helps in the digestion of food we have.
Finally came the sweet delight in the form of matcha tempura ice cream. The hot fried batter coated ice cream, which when the spoon goes in comes out like a glacier, was matchless.
All this while as we celebrated the festival of love, we were given company by the effervescent Aishwarya. Before we left, according to tradition, we too wrote our wishes on the notes and put it on the wishing tree hoping that wishes do come true and true lovers meet somewhere in heavens crossing the Milky Way -may we celebrate life always, May love reign…
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