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Nihonbashi, which means, I believe, a bridge to Japan, has a reputation for quality Japanese food in Colombo. I tried the compact, well serviced outlet at Odel (Alexandra Place), for a quick lunch. Sushi Ashai, an assortment of rolls, 10 in all, three salmon, three cucumber and three tuna, all quite small, with a larger California roll was on my Rs. 880/= platter.
The experience of Sushi rolls is about texture as much as taste on the tongue; in a basic roll there are three textures – the outer wrap of seaweed which is like melting paper on the tongue, the soft, mushy rice – which is sweet and sour, and then the filling, say fish or cucumber. If it’s raw fish, then it’s the sushi rice, and the hot and salty wasabi-soy sauce dip you make in the little bowl that brings out the flavor of the fish, because raw fish can be so subtle and delicate in flavor you can miss it altogether. I worked hard at this at the Hilton’s Spices Buffet (Rs. 2,250/=, reservations recommended), where I tasted, and then blind tasted with the help of my lunch partners, repeated helpings of the tuna and modha, which were on offer. The modha on offer had a firmer, much firmer texture than the tuna, which was softer on the tongue, but more tart. They both had a fish flesh taste, which is quite different, being far more delicate than the cooked product. Neither was fatty or buttery; high grade tuna, cut from the belly of the fish will be fattier and have a more robust taste. Certainly as advertised, the tuna in the Nihonbashi rolls was richer and fattier in taste, but it is the salmon in both places, that is really worth your while – which I found a taste treat. The salmon in the Nihonbashi rolls was raw. At the Hilton, they served marinated, raw salmon. The fattiness of raw salmon is a cross between butter and bacon on the tongue, and the sweet-sour marinade just made it extra-ordinary. Something like a slice of bacon fat, lightly cooked, with a sweet sour sauce. You don’t really need wasabi or soy with this; the chef recommended a dill mayonnaise sauce which was soothing, but added little else. Also on offer at the Hilton was smoked seer, with a light touch of chille coriander on it. Seer, actually has a little bit of flavorful fattiness, underlined by the smoking; the coriander highlights were welcome, but the salmon was best.
There was also a roll on offer with tuna, cucumber, crab stick, pickled radish and spinach. Again, even though smaller and much more expensive, the rolls at Nihonbashi were better, the tuna was fattier and much richer, and the marinated cucumber was more complex, with a slightly bitter after taste and a more pronounced crunch.
Pradeep Jeganathan was born and raised in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he lives and works. He began to cook when he discovered, as an undergraduate in the US, that MacDonald's was terrible. He continued, when he realized that girls like a guy who knows to cook. After he took up photography as a hobby, he got into shooting food. He has eaten a lot of cold meals since, but he hasn't stopped, because taking a photograph, helps him remember what he's eaten. (He eats a lot, and some times, he forgets). His food photos have been published in a variety of international and Sri Lankan print magazines and web sites and his food photo/recipe columns have appeared Zero77 & Spectrum ("Achcharu") and will soon appear in Ink. He's been a featured chef on ETV's The Home Gourmet, his cooking and food photos have been the subject of a feature article in Sri Lanka's Sunday Times; his food blog has also been featured in Femina.in -- the Indian women's magazine.