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Monday, Aug 19, 2002

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A whiff of Japan

Sushi, miso soup, green tea cake... savour the unique taste of Japanese cuisine at the Teppanyaki at the Cilantro, Le Royal Meridien.

IT'S INTERACTIVE cooking at its best. Gourmets of Chennai, here's introducing you to Teppanyaki at the Cilantro, Le Royal Meridien, Kathipara Junction (ph:2314343). Trust the Japanese to turn a simple stir fry into an unrivalled experience! It was David Kao, Sous Chef, at the other side of the `Teppan' or iron or steel sheet (`yaki' is stir frying).

The menu comes with sushi starters. The cuttle fish one, texture and taste complementing the sweetened sticky rice, overshadowed the fish one. The latter was too strong on wasabi or horse radish paste. The chef got into action by asking us our preferences and thus began the journey through the menu.

The first stop was with the stir fried vegetables. It was as much a pleasure to watch the chef wield his knife, two-pronged fork and two metal spatulas as eating his creations. With the `weapons', he cuts, stirs, seasons and divides each diner's portion into individual plates in a fascinating display of dexterity.

Among the vegetables, sautéed broccoli and zucchini were limp and the mushroom, wan and grey. Kathirikkai in such sophisticated company was a pleasant surprise and even better, it held own its own amongst the `dorais'.

The squids, my choice of sea food, were scrumptious. Again, one couldn't help marvelling at the feel and flavour of the calamari cooked to perfection. The cuisine merely improves on the original flavour rather than drown it. In other words, it is free of the onion-tomato masala that smothers every single flavour in Indian food. Savouring prawns, chicken and beef each one for its flavour was a great experience. The meal was rounded off with miso soup and a choice of rice, steamed or fried. Another side dish was the vegetable salad. The sauces play an important role here. My favourite combo was the onju sauce with a touch of wasabi in it.

Green tea cake was a beautiful way to end the evening. Presented like a gateau, it was layered with lychees, dates and cream. One bite and the flavours burst in your mouth — tea and lychees emanating fragrance, nuts and dates giving body, cream smoothening and enriching the whole. It's pity that the dessert is served only during the week-long promotion.

The usual teppanyaki ending is rather Spartan — a fruit platter. At the end of the meal, it was not merely the body that was sated. Across the hot teppan is an agreeable companion with whom you discuss cooking or merits of the U.S. and Japanese beef, while drinking sake. Teppanyaki is on only for dinner, priced Rs.550 (taxes extra).

MARIEN MATHEW

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