A beautiful marriage of Japanese methods and Peruvian flavours, the food at Koishii is glamorous with clean flavours.
At least a hundred and fifty years ago, a modest migration of Japanese workers and their wives to Peru resulted in what we now celebrate as Nikkei cuisine. And Koishii is just the latest entrant on this niche but booming scene in Mumbai.
Housed on the 37th floor of The St. Regis, Mumbai, Koishii is an elegant and sophisticated culinary and bar space. Luxury and premium quality is at the forefront of all they do here. It’s evident from the moment you take in the wooden accents and 16 ft high ceilings. The staff is on something of an autopilot, programmed to ensure you have the most flawless experience possible.
But as always, it simply comes down to the flavours on your plate. The menu is divided into the usual sections one would expect at a Japanese fine-dine, but the offerings are a mix of classics and something new.
For the uninitiated, this cuisine offers the literal translation of the word. Nikkei, or someone from Japan born outside the country, offers you the best of Peruvian ingredients in some thoroughly Japanese cooking. Over the last few years, notable figures like Chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s acclaimed Nobu chain has played a big part in putting these flavours on the global map.
And now with Koishii, Peruvian chef Kinyo Rodas Tristan has brought these unique flavours to Mumbai. The impressively sized restaurant offers a variety of dishes from its three kitchens, namely the hot kitchen, the sushi counter, and the robata grill. Diners also have the luxury of two private dining rooms for special occasions or simply a quiet meal.
As we pore over the appetising options, we’re offered a bottle of some truly divine sake with the promise of exploring other flavours as soon as we’re done with this one. And that doesn’t prove to be too much of an issue, what with the smoothness and all.
Spurred on by the incoming inebriation, we dive headfirst into the Nikkei styled menu. A sight and thought that immediately arrests you is the Mango Ceviche, presumably added to satiate vegetarian cravings. Here’s where you’ll spot the first of many quinoa puff citings, complemented beautifully by some chilled coconut milk, rocoto chilli, onion tempura and of course, sweet mangoes. It’s a little reminiscent of gourmet style mango chaat with tart and sweet flavour profiles, definitely nothing to complain about.
Theatrics run high on the menu at Koishii, as embodied with the Avocado Tartare and Salmon on Fire. In the former, diced avocado sits atop some ice, which breaks to reveal a creamy corn dashi sauce, parsnip chips, and shallots. It’s a fun bite, but still basically fancy guacamole. Then again, all fine-dining is essentially just fancy something, but that’s a conversation for another time.
The Salmon on Fire is placed on a spit over a literal flame, with a dry rub, some Yuzu Kabayaki sauce, and a raspberry gastrique. Something about fresh and top quality salmon with big flavours always slaps. The Gochujang Pork Ribs, on the other hand, aren’t the worst, but nothing to really write home about. The meat is beautifully cooked and tender as expected, but the flavours seem to miss the mark of greatness by simply being average, at best.
We couldn’t miss out on the Hamachi Ceviche, of course, easily my favourite dish of the night. The fish and flavours are fresh to the T, and mixing it all with the Leche de Tigre, lettuce and corn makes for a bite that just pops in your mouth. If the familiar ache of citrus notes at the back of your jaw is something you crave, this dish needs to be on your radar.
We also sampled the Rock Shrimp Tempura from a rather basic Tempura section. The crisp was textbook, but the sauces served on the side were almost too boring to even consider. The Veg Truffle Maki is a good option for someone craving a basic roll minus the meat, with flavours that you’d pretty much expect. Even the Truffled Toro with seared fatty tuna, black true, shrimp tempura, cucumber, and caviar is exactly what you’d expect. That’s not to say it fails to impress, but it doesn’t manage to make a lasting impression either.
For those who struggle with choices, Koishii also offers a special Omakase menu that complements the selections of the main menu. As with most tastings, it’s the lure of small plates that prevents you from sampling the mains, but we’re hoping to check out everything from the lobster to lamb shanks next time.
Isn’t it amazing when a satisfying meal goes to the next level through the dessert course? Unfortunately at Koishii, you might not chance upon that experience. The promising looking Green Tea and Banana Cake with coconut ice cream and hazelnut sauce leaves you hunting for the green tea. And while Key Lime isn’t part of my top three preferences, I was hoping the Key Lime Brûlée might change that. It didn’t.
Given the vastness of the menu, it may perhaps take a couple of visits to Koishii to solidify an opinion. For now, the courteous staff, interesting cocktails and sake selection combined with a few interesting small bites will have to do.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
One dish we loved: Hamachi Ceviche
One dish that didn’t work for us: Key Lime Brulee
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