Chennai's newest Japanese restaurant Oyama serves up great sushi in the comfort of your own 'room'
We’re about to shop online for a kimono. Why? It was the only thing missing from our immersive Japanese luncheon recently. A drive down to Gandhi Nagar, Adyar quickly transports us far from Chennai, as we set foot into Oyama, a new outfit for expats in the city. Quiet and minimalist with wooden and bamboo interiors, every group gets a separate room divided by sliding doors (fusuma) in this 1,700 sq foot restaurant. And if you really want to go all-out for an authentic experience, you can request their traditional tatami seating section, where you can dine cross-legged on a floor cushion. We’ll probably reserve this table once the kimono arrives.
Hot and cold
For the moment however, we zip into our platter of sushi instead. Norwegian salmon enveloping sticky rice with just a hint of soy sauce and wasabi turned out to be our go-to, while the more adventurous can opt for Maguro Sashimi (raw tuna slices). Noodles come in two variants: hot and cold. We dive into a warm bowl of Curry Udon (shorthand for udon noodles and a mild but salty Japanese curry) and minutes later a cold Zaru Soba (buckwheat noodles paired with soba sauce, sesame seeds and a sprinkle of spring onions. The latter would be a nice respite on a hot summer afternoon.
However, if there is one dish we would go back for — it is the crunchy-on-the-outside and juicy-on-the-inside chicken thigh skewers (Yaki Tori). No fuss, deep-fried with salt and served with lemon wedges for those who know to embrace that tang — this appetizer is the opposite of steamed and healthy — but certainly worth the calories. While the Beef Yakiniku Don (a rice bowl topped with stir-fried beef with Yakiniku, a barbeque sauce sourced from Japan, is a close second.
Thank you very 'mochi'
Owner Rex Andrews, joins us, as promised for dessert. This comprises an assortment of Instagrammable Mochi ice cream scoops (swaddled in rice cakes) and a lighter, healthier Anin Tofu (made from almond milk). Over spoonfuls of sweet, chilled goodness we find out that 66-year-old Rex has travelled extensively and lived around the world, and his last venture was a fine dining restaurant in Bangkok, before he decided to move back home to Chennai. Along with partner S Sadiq Hussain who has 18 years in the hospitality industry (stints with The Raintree and Kyung Bok Jung in Vietnam) under his belt, the two are keen to fill the gap in the market for a growing expat populace. Apart from imported sauces and meats ranging from cuttlefish to octopus from South East Asia, Rex tells us that with the lockdown upon us, he hopes to shift his focus to the homesick expat. “We are in the midst of putting together a more robust delivery fleet to cater to expats who might take some comfort in meals that remind them of home during the lockdown.”
Meal for two INR 1,300.
Photos: Debadatta Mallick
We like: Ample parking and private dining
Flavour first: Yaki Tori chicken skewers, crunchy and succulent
Shutterbug: Mochi ice cream: so colourful and pretty!