In Sector 15 market, lies a quaint little restaurant called Kyoto. It is known for its authentic, homely Japanese food. As I enter, I see a restaurant with modest oriental décor bursting at its seams with hungry gents of Japanese origin.
“99 per cent of our clientele is Japanese,” says Nepal-born Chef Suryanarayan, somewhat distracted, and understandably so, given the teaming crowds eagerly waiting for their afternoon repast. As he hurries back to the kitchen, the chef who started his career as a sous chef in Tokyo, does recommend that I try the daily special bento box as well as a few other dishes.
I settle into the traditional low table and am pleasantly surprised to discover a Japanese menu that goes way beyond the regular sushi and tempura. The first to arrive is the complimentary jasmine tea, mellow and refreshing. Thereafter, the food arrives. The weiner butter sauté (Rs. 180), though as Japanese as Boris Becker, does not seem out of place as a starter. The sausages have a great bite. What is amazing, startlingly so, is the accompanying yellow wasabi. A generous chunk of it in the mouth at first threatens to explode the top of the head, and then leaves the palate tingling for more.
The day’s special is the tenderloin fillet ginger sauté combo (Rs 580). What gets served on the table is a beautiful Shōkadō bentō, a traditional black lacquered Japanese bento box, accompanied by a bowl of fresh miso soup. The server takes off the lid of the box to reveal a collection of dishes, each looking like a part of a colourful and composed piece of art.
The bento box looks very much like the Indian thali in concept, there are many elements to the meal. The miso soup is a wonderful combination of miso paste, wakame seaweed and tofu. The tenderloin is cooked just right, retaining its moist texture. And the there is Tamagoyaki (a type of Japanese omelette), a grilled dumpling with pork stuffing, a combination of chilled black and white soba noodles, a simple chilled mashed potato salad, a regular salad, Japanese sticky rice topped with toasted black sesame seeds as well as a delightful plum chutney and Nikujaga, a dish of carrots, potatoes and onion stewed in sweetened soy sauce. All in all, a feast for the taste buds.
The Tonkatsu (Rs 560), a popular dish in Japan, is a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet sliced into bite-sized pieces is light and crisp. Some other recommendations from the chef are the prawn tempura soba (Rs 480), and ramen in spicy sesame sauce (Rs 380).
The daily special bento box (Rs 580) has exciting options for all days of the week.
Kyoto is a great Japanese family restaurant. The clientele throngs at its doors every noon and before six in the evening, when the restaurant opens. On weekends, Japanese families congregate here and the party atmosphere is infectious. Though the restaurant welcomes all customers and treats them equally, it is not difficult to understand why Indian customers here are an exception rather than the rule. If you would like to consider a change from the usual spice laden oily food of the mainstream restaurants in favour of some light, fresh food with mellow yet wonderful taste and textures, a visit to Kyoto is strongly recommended.