One of the best ways to explore any country’s food culture is by dining at local street joints. And to experience Japanese cuisine, one should dine and drink at izakayas. It is sort of a Japanese gastropub that serves alcoholic drinks and small plates. Inspired by the same, Koox at Novotel Chamiers Road has brought the same experience to Chennai through a month-long food festival curated by chef Umesh Singh. The menu has various Japanese specialties like kushiyaki, yakitori, ebi tempura, sushi and so on.
We began the meal by tasting sushi from their simple sushi platter. Negi tempura rolls and creamy truffle crab rolls with a dollop of wasabi are definitely a good start to the meal. This was followed by ebi (shrimp) tempura served with tempura sauce. Supreet Roy, General Manager of Novotel Chamiers Road, joined us and shared the reason for hosting the food festival. “We are hosting this food fest to create a unique Japanese street food experience among the Asian dominant restaurant market and a unique experience for Chennai market which is a great culinary destination,” he says.
While serving starters, the chef quipped that the menu was finalised after a lot of research and the team also sought suggestions from Taga Masayuki, Consul General of Japan. “He gave some suggestions and spent time with the chef tasting the dishes and helping with the ingredients. The menu was created keeping in mind the street food of Japan. We wanted to bring the izakaya experience to Chennai,” adds Supreet.
Their asparagus bacon wraps and chicken yakitori are must-try starters. Taga Masayuki, Consul General of Japan, who was present at Koox, tells us that yakitori is an authentic traditional food in Japan. “It’s a traditional staple dish that goes well with any drink. There is a huge demand for traditional Japanese dishes like sushi, tempura and so on. When the restaurant contacted me for food tasting, I suggested a few changes to the chef and he incorporated them. I am glad that they have also added some dishes for vegetarians,” says Taga Masayuki.
Chef Umesh Singh, who mastered the Japanese style of cooking, started his career as a management trainee and apprenticed under Japanese chefs - chef Masayoshi Takamatsu and chef Tomoyuki Yoshinaga - in Wasabi, Taj Mahal Hotel, New Delhi, for seven years.
For the main course, we had innaniwa noodles and chicken curry. The one-pot meal was filling and delectable. For hard-core pizza lovers, the chef has added two pizza varieties – mushroom and tuna pizza. If you are interested in experiencing izakaya-style dining, then don’t miss this food festival that’s on till October 31.