Review: Aajisai's Udon Matsuri festival offers some fresh, unpredictable authenticity
It didn't take Kolkattans long to warm up to the smarter and scrumptious Udon. The Japanese wheat flour noodle is fast replacing ramen and flat white noodle as the go-to comfort food this winter. Japanese fine diner Aajisai has come up with the Udon Matsuri festival (on till February 14) to help you explore this delicacy better. Udon is also a huge hit with the vegan crowd as it is one of the few noodles besides soba which doesn't usually need eggs for preparation, although some eateries do use eggs to make them.
Aajisai’s menu for the festival has a focus on flavours because Udon itself is subtler in taste than most staples which makes it easier to pair it with seasonal veggies or slow-cooked sauces. The menu for the first edition of the Udon Matsuri festival has a focus on the Yaki Udon which is a stir-fried entree with a soy-based broth, which lends it the tepid brown colour. Udon is also lighter and more digestible than most noodles, which is what makes it so popular in Japanese izakayas or gastropubs, as it can be a filling appetiser as well.
We started off with the colourful Yaki Udon in Black Pepper Sauce. The entree was prepared like a simple stir fry, featuring seasonal vegetables like red and yellow peppers and a snappy black pepper sauce made in-house. The chef's special sauce has an uncomplicated peppery relish, which elevates the profile of the Udon.
One of our favourite options from the menu would be the Vegetable Curry Udon, which mainly features the good ol' Japanese curry served on a bed of Yaki. The broth of the Japanese curry usually has a distinct and overwhelming aroma of its own, which takes over its velvety taste. For this entree, the chef used tonkatsu sauce, white pepper and butter, which adds an umami-like intensity to its notes. You can pair it with something a little edgy, or sesame-spiked.
The Chicken Tempura Yaki Udon could be your safest choice as it features all our beloved ingredients; the noodle itself is not chock-a-block with spices which is great as it gives your taste buds the room to savour the meat. The tempura-battered fried chicken is perfectly cooked, and the entree is a good way to go if you're looking for something easily palatable.
It was very hard not to love our next selection - The Ebi Katsu Yaki Udon has a vibrant and prolific flavour profile. And to be honest a juicy, panko-coated shrimp can fix almost anything. You'll love the balance of textures between the crispy panko and the succulent, spiced shrimp. This one is also loaded with veggies like cabbage, carrots, babycorn, and it alone can satiate the hunger of two people on a mid-work lunch.
We also found a Tensoba noodle as part of their menu, which is quite rare to score in the city. The Kaisen Ten Yaki Udon is a pan sautéed entree with Japanese soy and vegetables served with seafood tempura, and could be an adventurous option for seafood-lovers. Price for two: Rs 1,500