Restaurant Reviews/ Reviews

{Restaurant review} Oko, Bangalore and how I have happily broken sushi commandments

Bangalore is blooming beautifully in all shades of red, pink, yellow and purple, the onset of spring painted the city in myriad hues. The shrinking green spaces are sore to the eyes, but still it is thriving bravely in the midst of urban forests. I was extremely happy to be back in the city after a brief hiatus of three years and the first thing that hit me was the mushrooming of self-styled cafe and restaurants who sells everything from Pan Asian to Italian to American. But what took me by surprise in the menu of  Pan Asian restaurants was the newly added sushi sashimi platter boldly printed in the first page of their menu. Sushi in Bangalore? Are we Indians are ready for it?  Eating the fish raw itself is very convulsing for many, but for seafood lovers like me and a sushi fan above all, this was quiet a welcoming surprise to me.

oko restaurant bangalore

When I was invited by the American Express to review one of the restaurant from their list of 30 plus restaurants, I chose Oko because of this sole reason. It serves sushi and sashimi platter. Oko is the pan Asian restaurant of Lalit Ashok hotel groups, situated near Bangalore’s golf course. Nestled in the sixth floor of the hotel with a beautiful eye soothing view of golf course on one side and tree top view of Bangalore on the other side, the rooftop seating arrangement which is opened only in night is truly fascinating, glitzy and has lots of oomph factor to it. The inside was quiet dull in comparison especially if you visit the restaurant in the afternoon.

The courteous and smiling staff welcomed us in the empty dining hall, it looked uninterested at first when I couldn’t spot a single soul there. But then I reassured myself that I have come here to enjoy the food. When it comes to sushi, fewer distractions are there, the better it is. So the empty dining area was in fact a blessing in disguise and I was relaxed that I could photograph the food without disturbing the other guests. As we have made up our mind before coming to the restaurants, we headed straight for the sushi sashimi set. After reviewing the menu in details, we had asked for Oko special set prized at 2000 Rs. This is chef’s special set, a premium selection of sashimi, nigiri, maki and uramaki.

sushi restaurant bangalore

sushi sashimi platter

Before the sushi platter arrived in its full glory, we were served a refreshing fruity colada followed by tom kha kai soup. I was looking for miso soup, most of the sushi restaurants serves it as a side. It acts as a palate cleanser, but when I could not find a one, I had settled for my ever favourite tom kha kai. In most of the places, in India or in south-east Asia, I had tasted tom kha kai in many of its avatars, from curried version  to milky broth. SOme are just so bad that the mere thought of it stir my ‘not so happy’ memories. At Oko, they did the soup just right. The soup was served at right temperature, the flavours were just perfect and it was the best tom kha kai I ever had. The silkyness of milky coconut, subtly flavour with kaffir lime leaves and the galangal, the pieces of tender chicken and mushrooms were cooked to perfection. That hints me enough that the main course would be a good bet.

tom kha kai soup

Tom kha kai

Breaking the first sushi commandments: sushi purists would say when it comes to devour the sushi, never taste it where they serves all kind of cuisine. There are a lot of distractions involved and chef can not do justice to the sushi. For sushi you would need exclusive sushi bar like they have in LA or in NYC else it is a wastage of time and money. Thus I break my first sushi commandments. In Bangalore, getting a good sushi is premium to me. So I just ignored the fact that it is not sushi restaurant but a pan Asian restaurant that serves an eclectic mix of the best from the far east.

avocado nigiri zushi bangalore

avocado nigiri zushi

LA does everything in style, be it inducing the avocado in sushi or inventing the California rolls, the veganism movement has left a lasting impression on the sushi menu. The avocado nigiris are fine example to that. As I have expected, Oko’s sushi platter has good options for vegans. Whatever my food religion, I have specifically asked for the avocado nigiri and the chef has obliged to that. They said, when it comes to devour sushi, you should submit yourself to the master sushi chef completely, trust him and let him do whatever he wanted to do with your food. There are many things that we (the sushi mortals) do not understand completely, unless you are sushi connoisseur in your own right, do not try to use your own judgement. The temperature, the texture, the right flavour, crispness of nori  and many other such things are sometimes just too overwhelming.

sushi restaurant review bangalore

Armed with a sushi handbook on my side (in my mind silly!), as I used my fingers to pick up the first piece of avocado nigiri zushi, the buttery flavour of avocado (just ripe enough) and the vinegared rice has tantalized my senses to another level. Yes, you have read it right, I had used my finger, and not chopstick to pick up the nigiri. Nigiri zushi are soft oblong mound of rice, draped with avocado in this case and bound to the rice with thin strip of nori, sprinkled with sesame seed dressing and fish roe and not tightly rolled like maki, so it tends to break away when you are trying to use chopsticks to hold it.

Next lying on the platter was maki, the Boston roll style with tuna in our case with Japanese seven spices and spring onion. In most of the places where I had sushi, futomaki always remain my least preferred one, as my taste buds preferred the softer versions. Here it was different, for a change the rice was not cold and nori was soft enough and not chewy. It was good, nothing home to write about it though.

bangalore restaurant review sushi

Maki & Uramaki platter

Instead let me talk about my most favourite ones – the uramaki, or the inside-out roll, most commonly known as California rolls. Here rice is on the outside, and nori is hidden inside centered around the fillings like salmon, crab meat and avocado in this case. But what looks appetizing were the generous sprinkle of tobiko, the flying fish roe or ‘poor man’s caviar’. Tobiko adds crunchy texture , and salty taste to the dish, not to mention its artistic flair. The glistening orange color cured roe is sure to win many hearts.

california rolls bangalore

California rolls

Breaking the second sushi commandments: Between the sushi session, I was sampling the sashimi platter which was lying in the corner. I had expected a more decorative and artistic display of sashimi platter, the chef had decided to keep it simple. Since sashimi contains only raw slices of fish and seafood, a little decorative way to display it will make it look more appetizing. The cuts were good, especially the salmon. For tuna i would want it little thinner, so I had dipped it in soy, then wasabi and drape it over with gari, the pickled ginger. With this I had broken another sushi commandment. Never to top the fish with gari, it masks the fresh sweet flavor of fish. you would ask, what is more important in sushi, the freshness of raw fish or the rice? Off course the rice but freshness of fish is as important as anything else, it is the core of the sushi and can make or break the whole experience, fish should not smell “fishy”. And for that Oko has won my accolades hands down.

sushi sashimi bangalore

Sashimi platter – salmon, tuna and scallops

We were almost done when chef Sanjeev had told us that he was going to serve Oko’s signature rolls. Really a nice gesture from the chef and I was brimming up with all the appreciations. Bring it on ‘more sushi’, please.

Sushi chef are considered as an artist in Japan, because sushi is not just about taste and texture, it is also about the geometric arrangements and the artistic display. And chef Sanjeev scored on that when he presented us before beautifully decorated ‘caterpillar roll ‘ which was soon followed by ‘dragon roll with tempura crunch’ waiting in all its glory for our greedy eyes. The caterpillar roll was thing of the beauty (too good to eat!), characterized by rice enshrouded with thin slices of buttery avocado slices, resembling the back of the insect, strips of omelette, pickled cucumber, carrot and daikon making its head and creamy mayo resembling its legs. Even after tasting the full set of sushi-sashimi platter, caterpillar roll was tasting so refreshing, subtle with mild drizzling of sesame dressing, pleasing to the palate and complemented perfectly with pickled slices of ginger.

 

sushi in bangalore

Caterpillar roll sushi

Breaking the third sushi commandments: In between, I took out my camera and started photographing the beautiful artistic display of sushi, thus breaking another sushi commandment. The sushi must be eaten right away as soon as it leaves the hands of the chef. It is all about the right temperature and texture, remember. I like it when chefs are more interactive with the guests, talking about food is as pleasurable as tasting it. Chef Sanjeev had given me good insights on selecting nori leaves and the types they used in the dish. And also shared his views how he loved to prepare sushi with gold grade nori, the highest quality of nori sheets available, thus unleashing his own creative instincts.

 

sushi restaurant oko bangalore

Dragon roll

The ‘dragon roll’ was variation of rainbow roll uramaki, so delicious and aesthetically pleasing. The thin slices of salmon and tuna draped over the seasoned rice, with tempura crunch making the head and tail of the dragon, nestled in the bed of nori with generous drizzling of soy sauce all over it. After the mellowy caterpillar roll, dragon roll was surprisingly mildly spicy and salty with a kick from wasabi and pickled ginger on the sides.

As I was finishing the last bite of my sushi, basking on the afterglow of amazingly delightful sushi lunch, I know I can not buy happiness, but I can buy sushi and they are kinda same thing. Dont you agree with that? The bill rounded off to 4200 Rs, the signature rolls were on the house and then a figure caught my eye 380 Rs Veen Velvet. Since then I was googling it. The elixir of life, indeed.

Amex customers may avail of a 15% discount on the total bill if the meal is purchased with an  Amex  card.

Hope you have enjoyed reading it,

Until next

Sukanya

{Disclaimer: Views expressed here are discreetly my own}

 

No Comments

Speak Your Mind

%d bloggers like this: