Binge on Aki Bay's delicious new bento boxes the next time you crave for Japanese food in Chennai
If you’re a fan of wasabi — this is going to rock your world. Chef Muthukrishnan at Aki Bay in RA Puram has been playing around with this much-loved condiment, made with Japanese horseradish, and developed a recipe that has now worked its way into their dessert section. And even though we’re told what it is — we still gasp in delight when it arrives at our table, in a gorgeous understated, pastel green: ‘Lo! A giant-sized slice of Wasabi cheesecake!’
On first taste, it sits beautifully on the tongue, lush and smooth. A moment later, we are hit out like a gunshot from 1917 (the movie), with the beginning of a heat — that has running for the hills — or in this case — our handy ‘wheat tea’. Several chugs later, and we realise that our meal companion has polished off said wasabi slice without so much as a cough or sputter. So you might have mixed opinions at your table too. All said and devoured, kudos to the chef for this innovative experiment.
Control your tempura
We move on the meatier part of the new introductions in the menu — the star of them being, bento boxes. We’re told, you can decide whether you want three compartments or five, all customisable to preference. Ours arrives with Sticky rice, Goya Corn Tempura (deep-fried bitter gourd and corn), Chicken Karaage (Japanese deep-fried chicken), Ebi Karaage (fried prawn) and Tsukemono (pickled vegetables). Crunchy, vinegar-y, succulent and juicy — we get a layered experience of tastes and textures as we eat.
However, our favourites, which we now know by-heart to order for next time, turn out to be from the appetiser section. Don’t miss the Maguro Teriyaki (grilled tuna with soy sauce and sweet rice wine), which refuses to let you put your fork down. Also ‘deep-fried sushi’ — what a revelation! We were served the Oshikuru maki (cucumber, rice, wrapped in seaweed) with oodles of crunch. Garnished with miniature cubes of red and yellow peppers, this plate was popping with colour.
On the flip side, our much-anticipated Pork Korokke (croquettes) had more potato than pork and was a bit of a let down. And later, the Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake), which looked glossy and impressive, was more visually appealing than tasty. Overpowered by mayo on top, and squidgy chicken bits underneath — perhaps the only bit we liked were the delicate onion flakes as garnish.
Fortunately, all was redeemed when the pièce de résistance — a rich, creamy, white chicken broth of Tori Paitan Ramen made its way to our table. This isn’t new on the menu, but by golly, we had to order some! After all, who goes to a Japanese restaurant and leaves without slurping on that magic noodle broth, now world famous.
Meal for two is INR 1,000. Bento boxes range from INR 180 to INR 450, and can be ordered online.