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This Lower Parel restaurant blends flavours of Peru with Japanese cooking style

Mid-Day logo Mid-Day 14-05-2022 Sukanya Datta
© Provided by Mid-Day

What happens to the cuisine of a people when they find themselves in a strange, unfamiliar land? Do old food habits fade away or does an intense longing for the homeland compel one to push new boundaries in the kitchen?

Quinotto and seco norteño

The Nikkei cuisine of Peru guards these infinite possibilities, tracing its roots to the turn of the 19th century when the Japanese started finding their way to Peru, in search of employment. Armed with their age-old techniques, the Japanese immigrants started tapping into the bounty of produce the fertile Peruvian soil had to offer. Enter, a dozen varieties of quinoa, over hundred ajís or peppers, and thousands of kinds of potatoes and corn. As the Japanese nikkei — referring to those who migrated from the island country — started cooking up ceviches, tiraditos, peppery sushis and miso soup with Peruvian ingredients, the eponymous cuisine began taking shape. And now, far away in the industrial heart of aamchi Mumbai, Peruvian chef Kinyo Rodas Tristan is invoking Nikkei flavours at the shiny new restaurant Koishii, which opens doors at St Regis in Lower Parel. 

Mango ceviche

Glittering crystal and metal chandeliers lend the 90-seater space, all dressed up in dark hues of vintage mahogany, a soft sepia glow. The sprawling Koishii — a portmanteau of koi (falling in love) and itishi (the feeling of doing something for someone you love) — also houses a live sushi bar, a live robata grill, two private dining rooms and a grand metal-caged bar that stocks Japanese whiskey, umeshu, shochu and a variety of pisco. As we settle into our leather chairs, swooning over the panoramic view of the cityscape, a bowl of mango ceviche (Rs 650) arrives. Chef Kinyo reveals that ceviche is the signature of the cuisine. We’re instructed to mix up the Alphonso chunks, the coconut milk-based sauce, onion tempura and quinoa puffs. The sweetness of the mangoes meets the playful heat of rocoto chillies; this summer in a bowl unravels why ceviche demands a national day in Peru. Next up, goma salad (Rs 650), a mishmash of baby spinach leaves, yuzu dressing, berries and parmesan, feels too cheesy; we’d have liked to dial up the citrus-y notes. Thankfully, the classic pisco sour (Rs 850), while exorbitant, rescues us with its heady tartness.

Rock shrimp tempura

The yellowtail nikkei (Rs 1,250) tiradito, another Japanese-Peruvian classic, disappears within minutes of being served. Delicate and fresh with a soy dressing, the sheet-like fish slices are elevated by crunchy quinoa pops. A row of avocado-cucumber veg truffle maki (Rs 1,050), otherwise par for the course, finds recourse in a robust, pop orange ají panca — a Peruvian chilli — sauce. But our favourite is the rock shrimp tempura (Rs 1,150) with sriracha that’s spicy, crunchy, and 

utterly addictive.

(From left) Smoked popcorn sour; the classic pisco sour. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

As we wait for the mains, a nutty whiskey-based smoked popcorn sour (Rs 950) keeps us company; it comes with its own chakna, a cone of popcorn. A creamy quinotto (Rs 1,250), a cousin of risotto, with mushrooms and ají amarillo, makes for a comforting pick. It pairs well with a light, sweetish yuzu miso black cod (Rs 2,750) and a smoky, juicy shank of seco norteño (lamb) (Rs 2,250). Not one to miss desserts, we wrap up with an indulgent tres leches (Rs 750) that surprises with an icy passion fruit sorbet. As we wrap up our Nikkei expedition with a plant-themed coffee, chocolate and caramel pot (Rs 700), we make a mental wishlist for our next meal at Koishii, this time, hopefully, without the uncharacteristic loud music.

The restaurant houses a neat library nook featuring multiple fashion titles

Koishii 

AT The Penthouse, Level 37, The St Regis, Lower Parel; 7 pm to 12 am  

OPENS May 18 

CALL 8657907732

Chef Kinyo Rodas Tristan

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