The experience at Tsubaki is a bit of a mixed bag. With its highs and lows, they’ve definitely got a few interesting things going on!
Japanese cuisine is having a big moment in India, and we’re here for it. Post pandemic hope coupled with easing restrictions has the restaurant industry making up for lost time fervently.
Of all the new eateries, Tsubaki sits neatly between luxe and intimate. With red and gold embellishments, the space invites you to glam up without really asking for it. The restaurant sits in a rather unsuspecting lane in Worli and doesn’t immediately catch your eye. Spread across three storeys with its own hydroponic garden, however, there’s a lot going on behind the huge doors.
Named after an exotic flower, Tsubaki’s garden is a beautiful extension of their floral inclination. In the hydroponic garden you’ll find rows of fresh radish, mustard, amaranth, and green pea leaves for the kitchen. The ground floor is also home to the kitchen where chefs work their magic.
An elegant dining room awaits you on the first floor. An open sushi kitchen here adds both warmth and theatre. Finally, the topmost level is a low-lit lounge replete with a bar where you’ll encounter some interesting cocktails.
As we take our seats in the lounge, I can’t help but get a little overwhelmed by the mirrors. They come in all shapes and sizes, and can prove to be a little distracting from the otherwise comfortable interiors of the restaurant. Although the dim lighting could take some getting used to, especially if you happen to visit on a relatively quiet day.
At the time of our visit, it had been a minute since Tsubaki’s launch, so alcohol options were limited. However, we did order a few cocktails at our server’s suggestion. Entitled Summer Touch and Dark Matter, these cocktails were visually engaging and delicious to boot. The latter is easy social media bait, with its smoky charcoal and floral elderflower combination, paired with some bubbly champagne. The Summer Touch reminded me of cocktails that seem refreshing at first, but don’t linger on either your palate or mind once you’re out the door.
However, at the heart of any Japanese establishment is some great food. Chef Ganesh Sonari’s menu is a masterclass in variety and composition. A rather extensive masterclass at that, a personal pet peeve for someone prone to getting overwhelmed. The seemingly endless dishes are classified into gyozas, cold appetisers, soups, sushi, small and large plates, rice and noodles, and desserts. Whew.
Sensing my angst, the servers immediately swooped in to rescue me with a number of interesting suggestions. We started off with the Prawn gyoza, which comes with a fun condiment line-up including scallion and chilli oil. While the gyoza itself wasn’t anything to write home about, the condiments were packed full of flavour and something I could honestly have had by itself.
The Philly Cheese Bird Eye gyoza, if nothing else, is definitely a conversation starter. The pink and white pillowy dish looks pretty and is stuffed to the rafters with warm melty cheese. If that’s your thing, you’ll love it. Personally, I couldn’t get myself to reconcile with the one dimensional cheese burst my mouth hadn’t signed up for.
Inspite of the vast menu, I fought the failing battle to explore as much as I could. The Crispy Shiitake wasn’t terrible, but didn’t really have enough substance to warrant a standalone dish. The Yuzu Togarashi Calamari was also underwhelming, with both aforementioned flavours missing. Points for crispy batter though, if that counts.
Just as things were starting to look grim for the evening, a couple of dishes managed to come to Tsubaki’s aid. The Prawn Tempura was textbook; crispy, airy, and sumptuous. It’s served with matcha powder and white pepper powder alongside a dipping sauce. The servers sound us off on the best way to create the ultimate bite, an optional and forgettable step.
Japanese in India is still incomplete without some sushi and sashimi. Tsubaki recognizes that, and offers diners a wide variety of options irrespective of your dietary preferences. There’s truly something for everyone, as we learned through devouring the Scallop Maki Roll, Spicy Tuna Roll, and more. While the former was a chef recommended dish, the delicate nature of the fish was completely lost in preparation.
What won the dinner for me, however, was the Salmon Carpaccio. Paired with the spicy tartness of thin jalapeno slivers and a creamy sauce, it’s the perfect balance of flavours and textures in every bite. 11/10 would recommend.
As you might have surmised by now, we were too stuffed to explore the large plates. However, we braved the Nasu Dengaku, a braised eggplant generously slathered with miso. If you love natural sweet and savoury flavours, eggplant, or are just in the mood for something different, definitely give this a whirl.
It would be criminal to attempt to leave Tsubaki without trying the ramen. And so we did, indulging in a big bowl of Spiced Chicken Miso Ramen. The broth itself is hearty and warm, but reminds you more of a Thai inspired coconut curry than anything Japanese. It’s delicious though, so that’s a win. Be warned though, the portion size is enough for two and then some.
Cracking our spoons through the innovative Wasabi Creme Brulee was the perfect way to end the meal. The sweet and pungent nexus comes through with every bite, making this a dessert I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
Which is not something I can definitively say about the rest of the experience, although it did have its highlights.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
One dish we loved: Salmon Carpaccio
One dish that didn’t work for us: Philly Cheese Gyoza