With one foot firmly in tradition, Chef Amory D’Souza’s Asian restaurant Yaki Zushi in Porvorim is also experimenting with futuristic techniques like a 5-in-1 barbecue contraption that looks like an alien spaceship.
In the nearly 200-year-old, post-office red house on the Porvorim-Sangolda road (North Goa), it can be a patchy bit of time travel with owner/chef Amory D’Souza. There’s a warm-hearted story from the past about Andrew D’Souza, the patriarch, who cooked a riveting success story with seven restaurants across Goa. And then when Chef Amory lets you peep into his phone’s photobook, there’s a gigantic futuristic 5-in-1 barbecue contraption that looks like an alien’s starship. That barbecue gizmo is still being perfected; so are the experiments with how to turn meat so succulent that it will bring all gourmands to the yard of Yaki Zushi, an Asian restaurant in the post-office red house.
At night, it is easy to locate Yaki Zushi. The huge neon signboard beckons. The pathway is flanked by golden-coloured, two-wheeler tyres nailed on walls. In their hollow bellies laze potted plants. At the entrance, a large golden Buddha sits in padmasana while long wispy leaves of the cat palm fan the moths away. Divided into three parts — restaurant, courtyard and private dining in the front portion of the red house — Yaki Zushi does not ooze sophistication. The interiors of the restaurant are homespun — bamboo panelling, dracaena in brown beer bottles on the windowsill, modest chairs and linen. But when you step into the courtyard, it is easy to forgive the ordinariness of the other half. Fairy lights snake around a tall tree and recorded music adds to the mood. There’s, literally, a breath of fresh air and stars add to the prettiness of the space.
Of course, the food is far from ordinary. A mix of Japanese, Thai and Chinese, the spread is lavish — 10 to 15 types of sushi (price range: Rs 310-Rs 585) every day. Once every quarter, Chef Amory hosts a food festival wherein the sushi count goes up to 30 types. There are four types of ramen (Pork Tonkotsu, Chicken Shoyu, Prawn Miso and Exotic Veg Ramen; price range: Rs 425-Rs 530); 10 types of soups with vegetarian, chicken, seafood options (price range: Rs 175-Rs 225), Gyoza (dumplings, price range: Rs 315-Rs 445); Dimsums (price range: Rs 295-Rs 425); Stewed/fried wontons (price range: Rs 210-Rs 470). There’s a long list in the main course (rice, noodles, Hoya beef, Shitake chicken, Phuket fish, Mapo tofu, to name a few) and bar menu (do not miss the Creme de Strawberry, a dessert cocktail). For those who cannot fathom the basics of a particular dish, the menu’s descriptors come handy (forgive the spelling errors, though).
“Our sushis are very popular, so are the date pancakes, chocolate wontons, coconut smoothies, cucumber coolers. Our chocolate-based cocktails have several loyal takers,” says Chef Amory who was selected for the Taj Group’s Management Trainee programme after a bachelor’s degree in hospitality. He later also did a bartender’s course.
“Due to my experience in various departments in the Taj, I picked the framework of running an establishment. A major part of that experience was in the kitchen of Tamari, a speciality restaurant where my skills as a chef were honed and chiselled,” adds Chef Amory, who used the experience to open Yaki Zushi immediately after the Taj stint.
As Chef Amory went on a long narrative about the difference between sushi, sashimi, and nigiri, I asked him what his favourite dish to cook was. “I have to take my legacy forward. If I indulge in the kitchen, everything else will flounder. Running a restaurant entails so many things; the kitchen is merely one of them. These days I’m also trying to set up a food delivery mechanism throughout Goa,” adds Chef Amory who runs two other restaurants in Goa — A Lua Merces, and A Lua Verna, both serving Goan cuisine.
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Do you cook at all? I repeated the question. “I no longer have time to cook. I know about all the dishes but I hardly wear the apron to cook. I can look at the kitchen’s garbage and tell you what’s been cooked and when. I can dip my finger in a broth and know how perfect/flawed it is,” he says with the conviction of man who is out to conquer the world.
Between talking teppanyaki and Yaki Zushi’s signature cocktails, Chef Amory brought bamboo in. Not in a soup bowl or tossed in fried rice but as his life’s philosophy. He compared his life to the story of the Chinese bamboo tree. The bamboo does not grow much in the first five years. But the farmer does not give up, sedulously nurturing the plant. After five long years, the bamboo miraculously grows 60 feet in five weeks. “That’s my story and that’s the story of Yaki Zushi that was founded in 2015. Like the farmer, I nurtured it. And look, where it is now,” Chef Amory beams with a hint of earned pride.
Many months ago, when I had first stepped into Yaki Zushi for dinner, I had ordered Tofu Chilli Basil (tofu fried crisp and tossed with mild spices and basil sauce) and a bowl of vegetarian Udon. I have already picked my dishes for the next dinner at Yaki Zushi. And I have to admit, even though I’m not a meat-eater, I am waiting for the futuristic 5-in-1 barbecue gizmo to be functional. Not for anything barbecued but to watch it work!
Yaki Zushi, 83, Porvorim, Sangolda, Goa 403511; Ph: 7498907910; Timings: 12 noon to 11 pm