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Here is to Sushi

Though Sushi is fast picking up recognition among diners, the ingredients are not easy to find in the Capital, tells The Oberoi's Sushi Bar Chef Augusto Cabrera to SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY.



Serving sushi... Augusto Cabrera, the Sushi Chef at The Oberoi in Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

SUSHI FOR the majority is fresh uncooked fish eaten Japanese style. Fish eaters Indians are, in considerable chunk, with sea on three sides, endless numbers of rivers and even ponds. (One should see East and North-East Indian traditional houses with ponds as a mandatory feature.)

But uncooked fish? Well, no please. Even dried fish is cooked here in most cases. So, Indians, one strongly guesses, stayed mountains away from Japanese Sushi for the simple reason that it is a rather too fishy affair. Or, smelly is the word perhaps. Doesn't matter if the world kept the drums beating that Sushi is one of the world's most healthiest dishes. Not knowing that one thing that Sushi completely lacks is the smell of the fish.

So, when the novice in us hear about vegetarian Sushi right under our nose, what one thinks of it as "an innovation may be." Pose this query to Chef Augusto O. Cabrera and he would reply: "The main component of Sushi is freshness, the rawness of a food item. So, we use fresh and raw vegetables to make vegetarian Sushi." He puts it so simply that you feel all the more interested in it. This chef at The Oberoi''s Sushi Bar uses avocadoes, asparagus, cucumber, capsicum, carrots, Japanese mushrooms, lettuce and even tofu to roll out his signature vegetarian Sushi rolls. "We procure all vegetables, even asparagus and avocadoes from the local market. With good things locally available, you don't need to import them," he says.

Just three months old in Delhi, Augusto, having experiences in wrapping Sushi in leading hotel chains like Sheraton, Holiday Inn, Le Meridien and Crown Plaza across the Middle East before joining The Oberoi's Mumbai operations to start a Sushi bar there, is already a part of Delhi's connoisseurs' conversations. "We are getting a good local crowd here," he helpfully adds.

Padding up the menu at the Sushi counter, which is a division of the newly-launched multi-cuisine restaurant Threesixty (a classic affair it is with a mind-blowing wine testing room etc) Chef Augusto has for the diners different types of non-vegetarian Sushis like the Nigiri, Sashmi, Battera, Gongunkan, Temaki and Tekke Maki. The chef says the idea is to bring Sushi in all its forms, the prime emphasis being on the quality of the ingredients and consistency in tastes. "We use tuna, red snapper, fresh water eel, shrimps, crab, Norwegian pink salmon, baby octopus, arkshell, scallops, prawns and cuttlefish. While, some of them are procured from the Cochin bay but most is imported stuff," he says. The special Japanese rice that one uses to wrap up Sushi, comes from Japan.

Japanese import

"Even wasabe is imported from Japan through Dubai," adds Augusto. As the prime Sushi ingredients are not local procurement, he has little interest in the city's local markets. "I was always meant to be a Sushi chef," he puts to rest further queries on other cuisines that he might be interested in. Having got into signature Sushi dishes, the Chef says "After Tempura Maki and The Californian Maki, I also have a roll by my name here."

Suggesting a drink to go with Sushi, he hails a cheer for Japanese rice wine Saki. "But beer can also be a substitute." Though interest in Sushi here is growing, he says, most diners walk up to him asking him to suggest what to order for.

So then, the Sushi etiquette, the way to eat it, will take a while to click.

"Sushi is not eaten with knives. It is always served in twins. And, when you pick up a piece, eat it all and no way should it be kept on the plate half-eaten," he instructs.

Well, hint taken chef!

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