“Eighty percent of the menu is raw,” points out chef Kinyo Rodas Tristan. He helms the kitchen at Koishii, the new restaurant at The St. Regis, Mumbai. Located on the 37th floor, its expansive windows offer unparalleled views of the city. I walked into the restaurant as twilight faded into the night. As if on cue, the bar, which is located near the entrance, came alive with fresh garnishes, the sound of cocktails mixers and glasses with swirling smoke. The stage was set.
Before ordering food, the chef had to explain the menu which offers Nikkei cuisine born out of melding Japanese and Peruvian food cultures. An Eater story points out chef Nobu Matsuhisa, of the famed restaurant Nobu, is ‘an ambassador for Nikkei cuisine’ across the world. Its origins can be traced to the Japanese diaspora who settled in Peru in the late nineteenth century. It’s believed they introduced the fine art of prepping and serving raw fish. The dishes acquired local flavour with tropical fish, chillies and quinoa available in Peru, and gained popularity as ceviche.
A section of the menu is dedicated to ceviche. It’s a dish that contains slim cuts of raw fish, but at Koishii there are vegetarian options too. The mango ceviche with cubes of alphonso and potatoes from Peru, with creamy coconut milk is spiced with rococo peppers, and has an addictive crunch from quinoa puffs and onion tempura. Side note: I spent more time writing about the mango ceviche here than polishing it off my plate.
There is a salmon ceviche spiced with aji amarillo, and combined with crunchy corn chulpe and quinoa pops. Most of the ingredients sound foreign because they are. Aji amarillo is a type of capsicum used in Peruvian cooking, while corn chulpe is toasted corn or maize kernels.
Almost each dish has quinoa in some form, boiled, toasted or crunchy. The Salmon on Fire from the section named Toraditos (loosely translated as Peruvian Sashimi), has a few thin slices of bite-sized salmon hanging over charcoal. They are speckled with white and red toasted quinoa. The Australian lamb chops are paired with a serving of quinoa risotto. Chef Kinyo shares, “Quinoa is a Peruvian product, super flexible and adaptable. I can use it to create various textures and make a dish interesting.”
Apart from serving raw food, there’s a section on the Japanese style Robata grill. The perfectly seasoned lamb chops—a must-try—are prepared on the Robata grill fuelled by charcoal. Think salt, meat and smoke in harmony.
The drinks menu blends the Peruvian-Japanese essence of Nikkei cuisine. Their cocktails are conceptualised by bar consultancy Countertop India, the force behind India’s number one bar, Tesouro by Firefly in Goa. As one would expect, the drinks have flavour and finesse. The spirit forward cocktail, One Night in Tokyo with sake, Yuzu and bitters whets the palate, while the smoked popcorn sour served with a cone of popcorn is a clever play on the classic Whisky Sour. There’s a segment dedicated to Piscos which contain egg white, and it’s a challenge to get this right. Their wine list has renowned brands from Australia, Italy and France, and only three names from South America. It’s a gap waiting to be filled.
The formula to enjoy your time at Koishii is to make a reservation for 7 pm when they open for dinner. While the sky is streaked with the gentle light of the setting sun, get a drink. Start the meal with ceviche and proceed to sushi or dishes from the Rotada grill. Finish with Tres Leches or key lime brûlée, and end the night by saying salud with sake.
Koishii, at The Penthouse, Level 37, The St. Regis Mumbai
Timings: 7 pm - 12 am
For reservations: 8657907732/ 8657907734