Off late, the Mumbai food scene has seen the launch of a crazy number of “Pan Asian” restaurants. The basic rubric to be classified as a Pan Asian restaurant here is to offer sushi, dumplings and noodles as a part of their menu, with some places doing a better job at the actual execution than most others.
But to someone who lives and breathes South East Asian food, the absence of Korean and non-sushi related Japanese fare at these eateries has been all too evident and that is why the newly opened Shizusan succeeded in catching my eye with items like Ca Phe Da (A strong, sweet iced Vietnamese coffee), Okonomiyaki (A Japanese savoury pancake) and Kimchi Jjigae (A spicy, tangy Korean noodle soup) on their extensive and positively mouth watering menu.
I finally succumbed to the visual temptation, that is their Zomato page and five of us decided to visit the place this Saturday afternoon. The lazy lunch lasted almost four hours with random conversations, a fair bit of alcohol and yes, lots of food.
Shizusan roughly translates to “map collector” in Japanese, the underlying theme being the rendition of delicacies from travels to a multitude of Asian countries under one roof. There’s a particular old world feel to the entrance of the multistorey-ed yet compact place nestled right next to the rest of the mall, with wooden windows painted red and an imposing painting of cherry blossoms on the building.
The restaurant follows a Japanese shophouse concept, which divides its offerings between a main dining and sushi section downstairs and a dedicated bar and sake room upstairs. The decor is simple and understated, a bunch of wooden tables and an 18 foot long sushi bar lit by the Vietnamese lamps fashioned with fabric overhead.
Amidst all the talk and the extended time it took us to make up our minds, this is what we ordered:
The sweetness of the orange with the mild flavour of the lemongrass actually made for a very interesting combination in this Singaporean inspired mocktail.
DIY Island Tea
A unique take on the regular LIIT, you’re given a hip flask with the mixed alcohol and a trusty cola can on the side to “DIY” your drink to preference. There was nothing very standout about the taste however.
A gin based cocktail, while the menu promised us notes of lemongrass and cherry, you’re hit with the strong flavour of cucumber in every sip. While refreshing in the beginning, it does begin to develop a bitter aftertaste as the drink sits which wasn’t very enjoyable
The restaurant’s take on a Mexican Michelada, it sadly lacked all the elements that makes a Michelada delicious- the tanginess and spice from the lemon juice and hot sauce and the salt needed to bind all the aromatics together.
In addition to the drinks on their menu, they also have a Moonshine/Hooch option which contains a bunch of personally curated and stocked alcohol that varies from time to time. We sampled an orange whiskey and a bhut jolakia spiced gin from their collection this weekend, both of which were delicious.
Colourful and very visually appealing as the name suggests and the avocado was fresh and not browned by the time it reached our table. However a traditional rainbow roll has the fatty salmon to balance the meaty tuna and fresh cucumber and the salmon on this roll sadly didn’t live up to its role.
Soft Shell Crab Tempura Roll
A decent attempt, the crab was light and crunchy and the ponzu based mayo provided much needed acidity to the roll.
Tofu Tempura Roll
As much as there was nothing to fault, definitely not the best tofu based roll we’ve tasted and that may just be because the tofu was barely present among the bunch of other ingredients within the roll, the tobanjan mayo and shichimi peppers sprinkled atop.
Shrimp Har Gow
A regular at most Pan Asian joints, Shizusan’s version had light and steamy dumplings with perfectly cooked shrimp within. The dumplings were even better with a dash of the lovely chilli oil at the table.
Xiao Long Bao (Soup Dumplings)
The famed soup dumplings were one of the main reasons I was drawn to this place as its not served in most other spots. A soup dumpling is traditionally filled with meat and gelatinous soup cubes which melt into a hot, delicious broth inside the steamer. While the chicken inside was tender, there was NO soup in ours! Pretty much defeats the purpose of ordering a soup dumpling, honestly.
Pork and Jalapeno Gua Bao
The braised pork was tender, the japaleno provided a kick without being overpowering and the apple slaw gave a sweet crunch between bites. The bread was soft and doughy, and sweet enough to complement the savoury pork well.
Jajangmyeon (Korean Black Bean Noodles)
I have to preface this by saying I have been obsessed with Korean food over the last one year and do a lot of Korean experimentation in my kitchen with authentic ingredients painstakingly sourced from outside India. And what they served us was sadly NOT Jajangmyeon.
Jajangmyeon is this savoury, oily black (and I really do mean black) bean sauce with succulent chunks of pork, cabbage, potatoes and onions ladled on white, thick hand pulled noodles and a garnish of fresh julienned cucumber. Its simple, not spicy and nothing like the dish on our table as good as it tasted.
The noodles we got were good-spicy and flavourful, with small chunks of stir fried pork and spring onions. But sadly, as enjoyable as it was, knowing what a black bean noodle should be kept me from really savouring it. Oh well.
Thai Pad Kee Mao
A version of the much loved Pad Thai, but with green peppercorns, the noodles we got were a decent try- with the Kecap Manis and garlic shining through, but it was missing the tang from the white vinegar, the fresh crunch from the sprouts and the green peppercorn flavour wasn’t too evident.
The service was polite and unobtrusive, possibly a little too unobtrusive towards the end as we desperately called out for the waiters to give us the bill. I really did love the concept of “community based serving” wherein the waiters do not serve you the food on your plate. It gives you the freedom to reach out for things at convenience (and in my case take my pictures without feeling pressured to rush the job at hand)
To sum our meal there, Shizusan has a great concept and a lovely menu in the works. What is required however, is some care to the intricacies and the authenticity of the varied cuisines they promise to offer. Service is also an important aspect that will require some tweaking on their part.
I understand my issues were fairly uncommon- because the food was good, but being well acquainted with the dishes on offer, not what is traditionally expected. And that would explain the otherwise rave reviews for their fare. However, a little attention to detail could really go a long way and this place definitely has the capability to upstage the current Pan Asian kings in Bombay in some time.