The cherry blossoms may have fallen for the year, but our palate aventure culinaire is forever on the rise. Japanese rating high on our supper wishlist this week, we weaved past the Delhi-Gurgaon peak traffic to Nagai, the restaurant showcasing traditional fare from Japan with influences from around the world. Hailing from Ibiza, the venture showcases Chef Reina Nagai’s journey and her travels through modern contemporary dishes. The eponymous space with statement embellished geisha murals boasts of an on-point menu that’ll take you across the world in a yakatabune.
As the Tom Yum Soup hits the table and the waft of lemongrass captivates our senses, Chef Reina introduces us to the concept behind the menu, “Nagai is born from a combination of my life in Japan and the travels that came after, all adapted to please the palates of international travellers.” The bowlful is a refreshing change from the classic with a subtle hint of chilli complementing the strong citrus aroma, “It’s my take on the Thai tom yum soup with mellowed down flavours,” she adds and we’re sold. Next in, the Caramelised Lotus Stem embodies traditional Japanese flavours with sweet and soy juxtaposed with the bitterness of sesame. The humble dish had us appreciating the beauty of this bold & straightforward cuisine.
“Street food in Bangkok or a ceviche on the beach in Tulum, inspiration is sprinkled throughout my life and these moments spark my creative juices. It’s an alchemical process where the flavours of the world are at my disposal to play with,” shares Reina as we devour the Chicken Skewers with teriyaki sauce. The perfectly smoked and succulent chicken won us over, but the teriyaki sauce lacked a hopeful punch and wasn’t as thick or sticky as we’d have liked. Accompanying the banter and appetisers, Nagai Gin Fizz hit the homerun with fresh citrus juices and just the right amount of sweet (we say this keeping our zany love for GinTos aside).
As full-time sushi aficionados, there was no way we would wrap up the meal without chomping on some rolls; and with a green light from Chef Reina, our next course was called out as Prawn Dragon Rolls. Crafted with exceptional skill and boasting of an ideal ratio of rice to seafood, it was the crunch lacking in prawns and punch in wasabi that let it down. A small glitch to overlook for a roll replete with well cooked seafood and creamy avocados. As we gobbled our way through the roll, the pairing with sake had Chef Reina reminiscing about the genesis of her love for Japanese rice wine, “Travelling through Japan, a friend invited me to visit a sake brewery in Kyoto and I loved the experience. I’ve been back twice since, visiting sake breweries on the North Island of Hokkaido and have come to love the different, wide range of tastes and textures of the drink.”
The pièce de résistance, Ceviche Nagai is a burst of freshness in a spoonful. The seafood cured flawlessly with judicious amounts of lime and soft hints of ginger is everything you need to #BeatTheHeat. The statement touch of Chef Reina is evident in the dish and the ace quality of sea bass and prawns had us raving about it through the night. A few more specks of ginger and chilli and we wouldn’t have stopped for weeks.
Closing the night shift with Dark Chocolate Semifreddo, Chef Reina shares what inspired her to open doors in Gurugram, “The Indian palate is becoming more open to different cuisines, there is an explosion of Japanese restaurants and sushi is now quite popular in Delhi. The city is still getting to know the difference between quality of rice, seaweed, and fish as well as getting hooked on the freshness and healthiness of our cuisine.” The semifreddo, though slightly melted, spiced with cinnamon and served with dark chocolate bits was the perfect adieu.
#DSSCTopTip: Say hello to Akshay Mohan (part-owner) while you’re here, he will take you through the journey with invaluable insights that allow you to enjoy the food further.
Head to SCO 305, Ground Floor, Huda Gymkhana Road, Behind The Pllazio Hotel, Sector 29, Gurgaon and enjoy a meal for two at Rs. 3,500 approx.
Image Courtesy: Nagai Gurgaon