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    Yataii — the Japanese restaurant at the Shangri La — brings its signature and classic food to Bengaluru

    Food9Lead4It’s brand new, and you can tell from the spanking new crockery and the slightly anxious temperament of the servers. But that Yataii plans to give Japanese food a special place in the city is evident from its menu and the enthusiasm in the kitchen. It’s also not just about sushi, something that most people tend to forget. Japanese food goes beyond slivers of raw fish and sticky rice. At Yataii, therefore, you’ll find more than the regular Bento box, or rolls and nigiri.
    Over a rather long lunch (I have never found it this hard to stay awake after a Japanese meal) we travelled from traditional Japanese teahouses, to some of the more popular modern renditions of the cuisine, and I must add here, that the meal had more hits than misses.
    Okonomiyaki — the Japanese pancake — might not look as delicate as some of the sushi we are used to admiring. But the kaisen okonomi, stuffed with shrimp, squid, red snapper, and lobster, and topped with bonito flakes is delicious. This pancake, with the added flavour of the short yet memorable bite of the shichimi (a seven-spice powder), is a meal in itself. Made on the teppan, you can watch it being put together in front of you. For vegetarians, the pancake is a good choice too. The three varieties come stuffed with different options — vegetables, soy bean curd, sweet potato, mushrooms, etc.
    The ebi or prawn tempura (which isn’t exactly an uncommon dish) is served a little differently here. Most restaurants serve it with a spicy mayo, which seems to be a common favourite, but here it’s served with a soy dip that is further flavoured with grated radish. And you know the drill — eat it while it’s still hot. You let the prawn rest, and the batter gets soft. Near perfect, the ebi tempura tastes as good as it looks.
    The katsudon, a deep-fried pork cutlet, and egg served atop sticky rice, is almost like comfort food. And while it might be hard to visually distinguish all the ingredients in this one, this basic dish is worth relishing. The rice, which is usually cooked in broth, adds plenty of flavour as well. You can ask the chef to make it with chicken.
    There’s a lot more on the menu — sushis that look and taste quite different, and served with dips that the chef has created, beautifully prepared nigiri, sashimi platters where the meats are slightly torched before serving (so that they don’t taste raw), and grilled meats with teriyaki sauce, and so on.
    But before you do anything, begin with the welcome cocktail — a vodka and cranberry-based drink that’s spiked with a bit of gari (pickled and sweetened ginger slices).
    Approximately Rs 2 500 plus tax for two. For dinner only (open on Sundays for lunch). Details: 080 45126450

    — Priyadarshini Nandy

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