A Japanese meal at Citrus

In the cherry blossom’s shade
there’s no such thing
as a stranger.
― Kobayashi Issa

It’s been about five years ago since I visited Japan. The last time I was there everyone was waiting for the cherry trees to start blossoming. Our Japanese hosts would furtively break away to discuss which tree in Tokyo had blossomed and which one was expected to any day.

Cherry Blossoms TokyoOne day towards the end of our visit our hosts were very excited; they had discovered that the trees in the park outside our hotel had blossomed. This was a chance for their guests to share in their national obsession. So on a cold, wet afternoon we politely trooped out into the park to view the blossoms, which, I admit, were quite beautiful.

Traditionally, for hanami, the Japanese Cherry Blossom Festival, special bento boxes are prepared. To reflect not just the blossoms but also the arrival of spring these hanami bento subtly incorporate foods with pink, red or orange hues. Salmon and prawn sushi, pickled plums, carrots, pink-tinged onigiri and pink-hued sweet mocha are often a part of these bento boxes.

I had hoped to visit Citrus to try the special Cherry Blossom Festival menu when it began, but unfortunately with the dog falling ill that didn’t happen. I did manage to make it towards the end of the festival and took the opportunity to try out their regular Japanese menu as well.

The meal started off well. I loved the nutty, sesame notes in the gyokairui sarada, a seaweed and mixed seafood salad with each slice of fish cooked in a different way. Some were served raw, sashimi-style, while others were grilled or boiled; combined with the crisp leafy vegetables it made for a very textured mouthful.

Hamachi Carpaccio, Citrus, The Leela, Mumbai
Hamachi Carpaccio

Next came the karai tarabagani; baked, shelled king crab in a sweet spicy sauce. The crab flakes had the billowy consistency of creamy scrambled eggs and the topping of tobiko (salmon roe) added a subtle touch of fishiness to the sauce.

Beautifully plated, I found the hamachi carpaccio a little disappointing but only because I was comparing it to Megu, The Leela’s Japanese speciality restaurant in Delhi. In the Megu version, the sauce is thick and concentrated while this one, though you could taste the grated ginger and the soy sauce, just lacked the flavoursome punch.

The difference was even more noticeable with the sushi which didn’t quite escape the quality of basic every day, coffee-shop sushi. It was very good quality fish, but against rice that hadn’t been properly flavoured it tasted flat and uninteresting.

Bento Box Citrus, The Leela, Mumbai
Bento Box

Finally, I was served the Hanami bento box. I left the sushi untouched but the other elements in the box were rather well done. The fried tempura-style boneless karagaae chicken was soft on the inside and crisp on the outside. Perfectly cooked, the squid tossed in a mild ginger-flavoured sauce was quite delightful.  The miso soup had nice clean salty and rich flavour, and the spring vegetables were crisp and served in a lightly flavoured stock.

Unlike other five-star coffee shops Citrus has a dedicated Japanese counter and chef and offers a fairly extensive menu including Japanese whiskies. Apart from the sushi which is ok-ish, the other dishes are pretty good and worth trying out.

Citrus
The Leela
Mumbai
Tel: 022 6691 1324

Disclosure
Invited by PR company Yes
Guest of the chef/ restaurant Yes
Restaurant knew I’m a food writer Yes
Meal comped by the restaurant Yes

 

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