Artful Obento Meals at Edo, ITC Gardenia

Artful Obento Meals at Edo, ITC Gardenia

Edo at ITC Gardenia, Bangalore personifies authentic Japanese cuisine in its classic sushi, sashimi, robatayaki and tempura served artistically in an “Obento”.  Paired with the finest Japanese Sake and whiskies and culminated on the sweetest notes of sinful desserts, Edo’s offerings, perfected by Chef Kamlesh Joshi is a paradisiacal experience.

Review

Uniquely creative Japanese cuisine is synonymous to Edo just like Belgium is synonymous with chocolate excellence. Edo boasts of a menu which offers some of the most delectable Japanese dishes, with produce being shipped in directly from the markets of Japan; where under the careful guidance of Chef Joshi you will find the creative beauty of Japan reflecting in the dishes that reach your table. Needless to say, Edo has retained an unshakeable position as the leader in Japanese cuisine among Bangalore’s fine dining restaurants.

Conceptualized around the theme of a modern stone garden, Edo owes its enigmatic architecture and design to the meticulous work of the renowned Japanese firm of restaurant designers, Super Potato. Edo is structured around three distinctive sections – there is the Robata Counter which happens to be the first in the country, then there is the Sushi Counter which has a lovely stone waterfall beautifying its background and the last section is the tastefully designed semi-private dining spaces. Edo also houses a Sake Cellar to ensure that its bar offerings include some authentic Japanese spirits. I recently had the pleasure of being the guest of Simonti Majumdar, PR Manager at ITC Gardenia, to experience a delightful Obento meal carefully curated by Chef Kamlesh Joshi on a lovely Saturday afternoon.

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Preet Kamal Singh Bedi, Manager F&B at ITC Gardenia with Simonti Majumdar, Public Relations Manager

 

A little about “Obento”:

A work of art, an appetizing display, and a demonstration of care and caring – an Obento frames its contents with culture and tradition and is nurturance in several senses. Originally a meal packed in a box or a takeaway container meant to be a quick and easy way to serve and to eat anywhere; today it has become the symbol of a traditional Japanese meal. But there are so many more stories of history and function that associate themselves with these neat little meals in a box. From Japanese soldiers carrying an Obento to the battlefields, to theatre goers enjoying a performance of Noh or a Kabuki play as they sat in their Tatami-matted spaces enjoying a delectable Obento; this Japanese meal traces its roots firmly into the culinary history of Japan. Today an Obento provides chefs with a playground to display their skills of presentation where they can interweave nutrition with taste and visual appeal to offer a delectable and aesthetically pleasing meal to their recipients.

As I enter Edo, I am courteously greeted by the polite and amiable staff members who guide me to a table that is set up elegantly for the occasion. Enforcing the adage that less is more, the minimalistic interiors of the restaurant have a conventional yet informal touch which splendidly complements the entire décor of the place. As I make myself comfortable, the server suggests I give their ‘Sake Bomb’ a try – a drink that impales everything else available on the bar menu from what I am told. A Sake Bomb is a beer cocktail which garners all its fame from the ritual associated with it. A glass of beer is placed on the table with two chopsticks on the rim. Then a Sake cup filled to the brim with potent rice liquor takes a seat on the chopsticks. My server begins the ritual chant of “Ichi, Ni, Sa, Nya, Sake Bomb” which translates to one, two, three, four, Sake Bomb. This chant is accompanied with a bang on the table next to the glass of beer till the chopsticks displace and the Sake drowns into the beer. I am then instructed to pick up my glass and swig the entire drink in one non-stop movement! Well I couldn’t drink it all at one go, but I certainly enjoyed my meal over this interesting cocktail. If you’re still curious, then check out this video of the ‘Edo Sake Bomb Ritual’.

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Available for lunch only, the Obento at Edo is a single meal serving of noodles, meat or fish and vegetables and decorative garnishing and sauces, designed for the busy executive looking for a quick and satisfying, pre-set quality meal in the luxury of beautiful natural surroundings.

The Japanese are known for their intricacies in food and Edo has wonderfully captured the essence of authentic Japanese cuisine by paying attention to every minute detail, extending to all aspects of plating too. In essence, these artful elaborate Obento Meals that Chef Joshi has created have been designed to be a visual treat, as well as a sensory one. The Obento at Edo is plated imaginatively on a large platter, with the dishes placed in an order in which it is best savoured, with there being no compulsion to follow that order.

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Chef Kamlesh Joshi

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Tanya Dhar with Chef Kamlesh Joshi

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It is often said that a Japanese meal is structured around three core foods which are rice, soup and pickles. I begin my culinary journey at Edo with the Tsukemono {Japanese preserved vegetables} – a pickled salad that includes Oshinko {a pickled radish}, eggplant and cucumber; the primary role of which is to work as a palate cleanser. It has pungency in its flavour and is usually enjoyed best in small bites.  Usually served as a condiment, in the context of larger meals the Tsukemono practically traverses the boundary between side dish and condiment.

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Next on the platter is the light and creamy Kani Salad with its delightful blend of sweet and salty flavours, prepared using julienned crab sticks and Japanese mayo, with a topping of  Tobiko {flying fish roe} – which made for an interesting textural element blending in nicely with the crab. This delicious salad is a contrast in every area from flavour to texture to colour. For the vegetarians there is the Tosaka Nori Salad which is prepared from a selection of five different varieties of seaweed.

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Sushi {vinegared rice that is mixed with other ingredients} and Sashimi {thinly sliced raw meat} follow closely on the heels of the salad. I have some beautiful Sake {Salmon – a sweet and succulent fish that is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and protein} which tastes delicious {Edo also offers the Yellow Tail sashimi}. If you are new to trying salmon, and don’t mind experimenting with tastes then sashimi is the best way to appreciate the fish. Edo serves fresh Wasabi Root that is grated at your table on a grater made of Shark Skin; giving it a much smoother and less pungent flavour.

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My husband and I share a liking for sushi and Edo amplified our experience by serving us one of the best sushi rolls that we have had in a long time. Seasoned prudently with the right blend of ingredients, the sticky signature sushi rolls with cucumber urumaki, salmon and tuna and topped with Tobiko {bringing a delicate flavour and texture to the sushi} are top notch. The Edo Uramaki with pickled peppers and avocado dusted with sesame seeds is the vegetarian option.

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I then turn my attention to a beautifully turned out portion of Tempura {a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried} – fluffy, crisp and with the colours of the King Prawns, Lady Fish and Zucchini Flower peeking through. This is accompanied with the Tentsuyu sauce {tempura dipping sauce} which beautifully augments their flavours.

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As one great dish replaces the other on my plate, I prepare myself for the delectable offerings of the Robatayaki {a method of cooking similar to barbecue, in which a variety of food on skewers are slow-grilled over hot binchotan charcoal}. The grilled Chilean sea bass, grilled chicken and leek skewer seared with salt, pepper and teriyaki sauce are delicious. For my readers who are curious about the use of Binchotan charcoal, I must pause here and tell you all that it is free of chemicals and is nearly smokeless. This charcoal can be heated to very high temperatures (as high as 1000 degrees I am told) and in doing so, the original flavours of the ingredients are carefully preserved. That pure flavour is what sets this dish apart. The vegetarian counterpart includes sweet potato and mushroom among others.

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The next dish which is said to be the shining star of the Japanese kitchen, Chawanmushi {a savoury steamed egg custard}, gets its name from the preparation technique used. “Chawan” is Japanese for tea cup or rice bowl while “mushi” means steamed. The primary flavours in the dish are borrowed from the Dashi, soy sauce and mirin; and even though Chawanmushi is a savoury dish, the texture is similar to egg flan. The one served at Edo had a special treasure of the sea in its midst – shrimp and chicken – adding a beautiful level of complexity and deliciousness to this dish.

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Bringing an end to my Obento meal is the popular Japanese restaurant classic, Syokuji {stir fried Udon noodle with vegetables}. The Syokuji is a well-balanced savoury, sweet and juicy {the sauce}, crunchy {from the vegetables} and chewy {from the udon noodles} meal. And of course there’s the refreshing Miso Soup with Kombu seaweed and silken tofu which is poured from a little kettle giving it a very authentic feel. The appeal of a rich dashi broth is easy to understand, yes?

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For dessert there is authentic Mizugashi or Matcha {Green Tea} Ice-cream served artistically in a sesame praline cup. I’m talking tantalizing flavours – light yet lingering on the tongue. What makes this dessert platter all the more dramatic is the ice bed that the it is placed on. Quite the flourish!

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The Obento certainly brings to attention the nimble hands that have meticulously worked to make the meal so delightful. Be it creative presentation or even the tasteful garnishing, every part of my meal was perfect!

 

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The Vegetarian Obento

 

End note: Trite as it may sound to some, Edo is not just about enjoying Japanese cuisine. This restaurant goes that extra mile in mirroring Japanese food culture by offering not only a superlative dining experience but offering a meal for the senses. But more compelling than the food’s nurturing qualities, for both producer and consumer, is the care taken in the taste and presentation of the dishes. Edo’s warm and welcoming ambience, coupled with incredible hospitality and the the enthusiasm of its staff to serve with an open heart will gently create a feeling of appreciation in you towards those who love to share their love for food.

If you are in Bangalore and want to treat yourself to something very special this week, head to Edo at ITC Gardenia for their Obento meals.

 

Getting there: ITC Gardenia, 1 Residency Road, Bangalore 560025.
Timing: 12.30 pm – 02.45 pm
For more information, please call +91 80 4345 5000

 

*Disclaimer: This review was done on an invitation from the restaurant. Due judgement and care has been applied by the author to remain objective and unbiased in the review.

Photography: Manoj Chenthamarakshan

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* I love bringing together a bunch of conflicting items and weaving my own sense of one-ness to them. *

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