So Mr. Small won his first inter-school quiz contest on Thursday – and requested a celebratory dinner for Saturday evening. Now do my kids want to eat Happy Meals at Mickey D’s? Of course not (I’d disown them if they did). KFC? Nah. Erroneously assuming that his parents stash piles of money under the mattress, he wondered whether we could fly back to Bangkok to eat some of the delicious street food we’d sampled there.
As he watched us convulse (me in laughter, The Spouse in pain), he swiftly changed tack and suggested something closer to home: Dahlia, the unpretentious Japanese eatery on Church Street. Which, we found to our distress, has closed. For good.
On to Harima, then.
Boldly Going Where No Sushi-Lover Has Gone Before…
Miso shiru (miso – fermented soy beans; shiru – soup) is the most basic Japanese soup, made from a light stock of bonito (a kind of dried fish) shavings and kelp, seasoned with miso, and containing tofu and seaweed. It’s very hard to mess this up, and thankfully, Harima doesn’t. It’s hearty and warm and good, and perfect for the cooler weather Bangalore’s been seeing over the last couple of days.
Translated roughly, butaniku means “pig meat”; shoga means “ginger” and yaki, of course, means “grilled”. While Harima’s pork shogayaki was tasty, with thinly sliced pork grilled in a light, tangy, teriyaki-reminiscent glaze, there didn’t seem to be a hint of ginger in the mix. The butaniku is definitely yaki-ed, but hey, where’s the shoga? Here’s a recipe you might want to try.
The portion was more than generous, though, with the four of us each being able to get an ample quantity. The shredded cabbage with which it’s traditionally served in Bento boxes took away some of the saltiness and added a nice fresh flavor and some crunch.
Teppanyaki: Iron Plate Grill
Our seafood teppanyakis arrived next. In Japan, teppan refers to an “iron plate” (indeed, our seafood arrived still sizzling, on a round, cast-iron plate of the kind we’re used to seeing “grilled sizzlers” being served on), and is traditionally grilled on a heated, flat, iron griddle.
Because this form of cooking enhances the intrinsic flavors of the meats and vegetables being grilled, light seasonings, super fresh ingredients and grill plate that’s hot enough to sear them quickly are the hallmarks of a great teppanyaki meal. I’d have preferred to actually see the food being cooked, but that isn’t an option at Harima.
Each teppanyaki portion arrives containing onion rings, thinly sliced carrots, and a generous two pieces each of:
- pink salmon
- large prawn
- shiitake mushroom
- white-meat fish (my guess would be snapper)
Now the thing with any grilled meat or vegetable is to get it off the hot grill plate quickly, to stop the cooking process. This is especially true of seafood.
Giant Vacuum Cleaner and I manage to do this, and find that the scallops, the prawn, the pink salmon, and the calamari are perfect – tender, moist, and flavorful. A quick dip in the accompanying sauce is all the seasoning it needs. The shiitakes are smoky and juicy too. By the time I get to the white fish, though, it has overcooked itself on the griddle – its edges have burnt. The Spouse and Mr. Small have even less luck – in waiting for it to “cool down a bit”, they neglect their teppanyaki so long that everything overcooks.
Over the years, teppanyaki-style dining has evolved into a form of performing art involving a dexterous display from a specialty chef. Watching the chef has become as much part of the teppanyaki experience as eating the food. Sadly, you can’t experience this eye-popping combination of jugglery and culinary skill anywhere in Bangalore – or at least, not to my knowledge.
Till someone “imports” a teppanyaki wizard, enjoy this video (it’s long, but definitely watch up until the first 2:30 minutes… if you’re like me, you won’t be able to stop gaping after that!):