The benefits of Japanese food are aplenty. With so many people turning ‘health conscious’ Japanese cuisine is one good option.
As I left the restaurant, I made a mental note to make use of the chopsticks that my friend had brought for me from China. I always promised myself to use them, emulate the masters on TV who use the two sticks so effortlessly; but with me it was a different story. I still remember, my first love for Japanese concretized with Osin. Remember the Japanese, soap opera, NTV aired many years back? The younger versions of my sister and I, two of the regular viewers of Osin, made every effort to have our rice with the sticks (our own chopsticks) as homage to our favorite TV show. But never could I master the skill of eating with chopsticks.
The restaurant that made me time travel is Shogun the Japanese Restaurant at Babar Mahal Revisited. This is the story of nine college friends who wanted to do something collectively. When they met after 20 years or so during a college reunion, the nine shared a common passion—to do something, go into business together. Shogun—the Japanese Restaurant was on Sale. They didn’t hesitate a moment and bought the place. The irony in the story is that though the place has been reopened, many people think that because it was shut down for a brief period between handshakes of the old and the new owners; the public came to the conclusion that the place does not exist anymore. But it is very much alive and kicking.
Out of the nine partners, Binod Mohan Shrestha who had experience working in a Japanese company and also ran a travel agency entertaining Japanese tourists, looks after the functioning of the eatery. He looks Japanese and can give you a class on Japanese cuisine. Even Deepak Man Shrestha, one of the partners who had joined us in the session often times sought his friend’s assistance. Deepak is in pharmaceuticals and the other members are into finance, import and export and other business ventures.
I knew about Sushi alright but apart from that, I didn’t know anything and I was to meet the people who run a Japanese restaurant and hopefully taste some of the popular items. “I am astounded by the general observation that Nepalis today are into exotic cuisines; they want to try different things but leave Japanese cuisine aside,” sulks Binod. That was one of the first things we discussed. “They think that it is very bland,” adds Deepak.
Nepalis are into spicy food; thus an encounter with Japanese food leaves us uneasy. We have all kinds of spices in our food that a little less use of coriander or garlic or onion makes our curry tasteless. We have a habit of finishing a whole jar of ginger powder in a week, at least in my house. And Japanese food is about raw food items devoid of any of the spices we have grown up devouring and loving.” What people fail to understand is that Japanese food is one of the healthiest. Japanese people prefer to go with natural/organic substances as much as possible—less heat, less spicy. Each cuisine has a separate dipping sauce to compensate for the otherwise bland taste of the food,” Deepak remarks as if he is reading my mind.
Sushi is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of anything Japanese but other items like sashimi and tempura have come out as strong contenders. Shogun imports all the raw fish like salmon, rainbow trout, macaron fish and seaweed from Bangkok and Japan while the rest comes from the local market.
Tofu found a whole new meaning at Shogun. Earlier I just had the regular kind—the ones easily available in the market and thus I wasn’t very keen on trying it. But ever since I tasted the first spoonful (because I didn’t use chopsticks and had to rely on the fork and spoon) I have been a tofu fan. It was soft and very kind to my palate. It just melted in my mouth and though we had many servings thereafter; nothing could beat it. The taste of tofu lingered on. They even serve Silk Tofu but I saved that for next time. I also learnt that ‘Boiled Spinach with Sesame Sauce’ is popular with Nepali customers and after I was acclimatized to the same, I knew why. Of the many servings that were had that day, only Butter fried Salmon contained significant calories.
These days, business is very volatile and one cannot depend on foreign customers only. The same goes for Shogun. “Relying only on the expatriate community and Japanese customers will limit our business. Hence, we are targeting the Nepali people who could cram our place every season,” says Deepak.
When they took over the restaurant, they tried to keep the original feel of the place intact. Thus the chef (who worked at a Japanese restaurant at a 5 Star hotel in Dubai) was the same, so were those who waited on tables and other members of the staff. The interior was kept the same except for some minute changes. The authentic taste of their Japanese food has been maintained as far as possible. The menu for Nepali customers is different and made up of selected items that are especially palatable to Nepalis.
Know the Menu Better
Sushi is a Japanese dish consisting of cooked vinegared rice which is commonly topped with other ingredients, such as fish or other seafood, or put into rolls. Sushi that is served rolled inside or around dried and pressed sheets of seaweed (or nori) is makizushi. Toppings stuffed into a small pouch of fried tofu is inarizushi. A bowl of sushi rice with toppings scattered over it is called chirashi-zushi.
Sashimi is thinly sliced, raw seafood. Many different kinds of fresh fish and seafood are served raw in Japanese cuisine. Sashimi, while similar to sushi, is distinct for the absence of vinigered rice. Sashimi is usually beautifully arranged and served on top of shredded daikon and shiso leaves. The sashimi pieces are dipped into a dish of soya sauce before eating. The daikon and shiso can also be dipped in soy sauce and eaten; both have a fresh, minty taste. Depending on the kind of sashimi, wasabi or ground ginger may accompany the dish and can be added to the sashimi as a condiment.
Tempura is a Japanese dish made up of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried.
Wasabi is Japanese horseradish. It is most popular in the form of a green paste used as a condiment for sashimi (raw seafood) and sushi. However, wasabi is also used for many other Japanese dishes. It is a root vegetable that is grated into a green paste. In supermarkets, wasabi is widely available as a paste or in powder form. Wasabi powder has to be mixed with water to make a paste. It has a strong, hot flavor which dissipates within a few seconds and does not leave a burning aftertaste in one’s mouth.
Privilege Cards: ‘Privilege cards’ entitle you to a 15% discount on food and 25% on beverage. Card holders can bring their own drinks, no corkage charge, and if anything is left over, it’ll be stored till your next visit.
Lunch box (Bento box): light, faster, healthy disposable lunch box. Delivery service is available. The box contains rice, pickle, green salad, meat, fish item, miso soup and soyabean.
11 - 2:30pm—Lunch time
5:30 - 9:30pm—Dinner time