Sitting around the table, and sipping a chilled drink, we look longingly at the steaming bowl of broth bubbling away in the hot pot in front of us. The hot pot sits on a glowing base, and the broth looks mostly clear and inviting. A plate of vegetables and protein await expectantly on one side. I am slightly disappointed to see that there is no beef (which is the thing I like about a good Shabu Shabu), but oh, well, I believe I will settle for the Tuna Tataki today.
Soon, the broth is ready. Meanwhile, D and I sneakily pick off strips of pink salmon and tuna and little curls of cuttlefish from the dish, dip it in the gorgeous soy-mirin dipping sauce, and deposit them straight into our mouths. We love our sashimi, and yes, wasabi is optional.
Chef Jerry Bernasol has made a light dashi stock, and he stirs in the firmer vegetables first, which would take more time to cook. He adds some chicken sliced fine to it, which would lend flavors to the both. Mostly bonito-based, he explains that the accompanying sesame sauce, soy-mirin sauce, and the egg yolk are all supposed to be added to the broth before consuming, depending upon the taste buds of the eater. As he speaks, he spears slices of leeks, shiitake and button mushrooms, onion rings into the broth, and stir rapidly.
On my request, he puts a slice of tuna in the broth, swirling it around for 10-12 seconds, and then quickly remove it to my plate. I savor the buttery tuna, barely cooked on the outside and all pink and beautiful inside, with a smidgen of the Shichimi Togarashi lying innocently on one side.
Once cooked, the protein and vegetables are ladled onto our bowls. The dashi stock is mild and a little bit of soy sauce just improves its flavors. The vegetables are perfectly cooked, and the fish flakes at the touch of my chopstick. I relish the curls of the cuttlefish and dip them in more egg yolk, then rapidly finish the broth.
D calls the soup nourishing. I agree. We both look at each other with a secret yearning for a couch or a bed to sleep on. This is soul food – something that feels like a healing touch to me, after the long month of severe eating out, especially all the junk I could get.
|Tom Yam Mor Fai|
The table is quickly cleared to make way for a new pot filled with broth. Our eyes widen as the Thai Tom Yam Mor Fai starts brewing in front of us. This Asian beauty is spicier, with a broth fragrant with Lemongrass and Thai basil. Chef Promod Sinha quickly introduces the vegetables – fresh lemongrass, basil, bokchoy, mushrooms, fish and prawn in it. The sauces are changed too – a sweet Thai Chili and a hot Chili Paste replaces the soy and sesame paste. Some jasmine rice is served alongside, to be enjoyed with the broth.
|Chef Jerry Bernasol|
Chef Jerry explains the nuances of Thai food, which is definitely more spicy and fragrant than the lighter Japanese fare. He stirs in the vegetables first, then adds the protein in. The broth here is better with rice, and the rice bowl is frequently reached for.
|Tom Yum Broth|
We are at this point beyond full, but the Chef has one last hurrah for us. He promises us a dessert platter with all the cool trimmings.
Dessert Trio is a pretty affair and I demolish it with gusto. There is some coconut jelly on top, followed by a bowl of wasabi ice cream in the middle, and a bowl of chopped fresh fruits at the bottom. It is all very refreshing, although I am not a fan of bringing wasabi and ice cream together.
|Green tea Ice Cream|
Oh hello, Liquid Nitrogen! The last dish that comes out from the kitchen is a Green Tea Ice Cream, and the aesthetic beauty of it is overshadowed by my greed to get one more spoonful of the silky green tea ice cream, mild and delicate and possibly the best way to end the meal.
The hot pot meals are available at Pan Asian ITC Sonar all through the cold winter season and a meal for two will cost 3300/- plus tax from 12.30 to 2.45 pm (lunch) and 7.30 to 11.45 pm (dinner).
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee dined at ITC Sonar at the invitation of the management.