Walking down Linking Road in Bandra, you will come across a small place called Sushi Café at a leafy intersection. Further down the same road, is the recently opened Japanese restaurant, Kofuku. And faster than you can say chopsticks, the news is that another Japanese eatery, Aoi, is all set to open its doors by the third week of December on St John Baptist Road in the same suburb.
“Ours will be a small, quirky, 30-seater cafe,” says Aoi’s owner Mitesh Rangras, who also owns the popular pan-Asian eatery Lemon Grass. “I’m a big fan of Kofuku and I love Sushi And More (Breach Candy). I’m happy that there are so many reasonably priced Japanese eateries opening up. The more the merrier!” says Rangras, who clearly seems to think there’s enough demand for the cuisine.
Sushi Cafe’s Vishesh Joshi, who started the place after consulting his friend — a Japanese chef in Barcelona — has a similar view. “We started as a home-delivery
service three years ago, and then opened the café late last year. Our goal is to demystify Japanese cuisine and help people get over the queasiness they feel about eating raw fish,” he says.
You can find either Joshi or his partner, Tarique Rangoonwala, at the café, helping patrons navigate the menu. Joshi recommends starting with a California or Philadelphia Roll and then moving on to the “gutsy Japanese stuff”.
Another restaurateur, who’s pioneering the sushi trend is Kofuku’s Rinchen Angchuk. He started with a company that imported Japanese foods and crockery and supplied them to five-star hotels and fine-dine eateries. “We’ve been importing sauces and spices since 2004. My friends would often ask me to open a Japanese place. So this year, I went to Tokyo for three months for research before opening Kofuku in September,” says Angchuk. “Our food has been appreciated by Japanese expats as well.”
Indeed, on any given day, you’ll find groups of expats enjoying their meals at the restaurant, which has Japanese-style floor-seating and bamboo screens.
Out of the box
Since Japanese food has become more accessible now, you no longer need to have tried it abroad, or be able to afford five-star prices. “We get students, working people and even newbies who want to know what it’s all about,” says Joshi.
Bento boxes, too, are catching on in the city. “Right now, we only have Bento boxes for pick-up, but we’ll start delivering them by January,” says Angchuk. Rangras plans on serving Bento boxes with a western twist. “Maybe I’ll serve deboned chicken wings marinated in Teriyaki sauce in the box,” he says.