I am a novice when it comes to Japanese food. Though I relish tempura and an occasional California Roll, I would refrain from ordering sushi for myself, if I had a choice.
My friends have been recommending En and we decided to try their Sunday lunch. The restaurant is part of Ambawatta One along with Lavaash by Saby, which offers Armenian and Bengali cuisine. En, is on the first floor of the complex and offers a beautiful view of Qutub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of Delhi.
It was surprising to notice that the restaurant does not have a typical Japanese interior. The dining area is bright, sparsely decorated with beautiful lights and comfortable chairs and table. The restaurant has retained its heritage building tag and it is visibly Indian. The dining area is spread across half a dozen rooms and offers enough privacy for the diners.
The manager was kind enough to enlighten us a little about Japanese cuisine.
The typical Japanese meal consists of a bowl of rice (gohan), a bowl of miso soup (miso shiru), pickled vegetables (tsukemono) and fish or meat. While rice is the staple food, several kinds of noodles (udon, soba and ramen) are cheap and very popular for light meals. Japanese take great pride in their seafood and a wide variety of fish, squid, octopus, eel, and shellfish appear in all kinds of dishes from sushi to tempura.
Now, here are the dishes we tried. We tried the fresh vegetable salad served with sesame dressing. We also tried tried Red Chilli Beans Tomato Quiche, which was really good. We were served a grilled chicken (almost resembled our Indian Chicken tikka) and a Fried Chicken, which was just ordinary. We also tried the Veg Spring Rolls and Dashimaki (Japanese omelette with fish stock).
We tried a few pieces sushi (makizushi) and they were good. But almost all of them tasted similar. The wasabi, I was told, was made from the wasabi powder and not from the fresh stem. The pickled ginger and the soy sauce did wonders to the rolls.
We tried the soups – the Miso and the Chicken and Egg Thick Soup. The Miso soup is made by dissolving miso paste in fish stock (dashi) and the common additions include wakame seaweed, small pieces of tofu, and sliced aburaage (deep fried tofu), etc. My palette took a little time to adjust to the flavour of the dark colored soup. The taste was so complex – a little spicy, sour and salty – and I cannot pinpoint and explain the exact taste of the soup even now. The Chicken and Egg Thick Soup was far less complex and instantly agreed with my taste buds.
The main course, which was freshly prepared, had plain cooked rice, Yakimeshi (vegetable fried rice) and Yakisoba (vegetable stir fried noodles). The plain cooked rice and the vegetable fried rice were really good with the other dishes we tried. I found the noodles really bland.
The Fiery Shrimp (Ebi Chili) was excellent in combination with the rice. Coated in a fragrant garlic-ginger sauce with spicy chili bean sauce, this mouth-watering stir-fried shrimp dish was one dish which I really loved.
We also tasted the Kinpira and Gomaae, The Kinpira is referred to the cooking style where you stir-fry and simmer with sugar and soy sauce. This one was made with lotus stem and carrots. The Gomaae had the beans mixed with peanut sauce/miso paste and topped with sesame. Again, I find it difficult to really explain the intricate taste, which these side dishes impart. I liked the Gomaae with the plain rice.
For dessert, we had Chiffon Cake, Baked Cheese and Ice Cream, beautifully plated on a rectangular platter.
We also tried the famous Anmitsu, a Japanese traditional dessert. According to me, this dessert embodies Japanese cuisine in spirit. The dessert, which was a served in a beautiful ceramic bowl had a scoop of green tea ice cream with cold agar jelly cubes including a jelly made of water (a transparent cube of jelly!), a slice of banana and a citrus fruit topped with black honey. If you take individual bites of the ice cream, jelly or fruit, it wouldn’t make any sense to you. But, mix it witt the black honey and combine all the ingredients and taste. I bet, you would never have tasted anything like this in the world.
Dining at En is an experience similar to tasting Anmitsu. It is more than sum of its parts! The ambiance, service and the complex food is exemplary and I really enjoyed being here for almost three hours!