Food spot: Rahul Verma relishes an array of delicious vegetarian and non-vegetarian sushis in The Park Calcutta’s pan-Asian restaurant Zen

Even some years ago, sushi and sashimi were complex tongue twisters for most of us. Then, when the top hotels started preparing these Japanese rolls for us, some of us baulked. Raw fish? Ugh, we said.

Well, that was then. Today, you even get fast food sushi in some of Delhi’s malls. And even in a city such as Calcutta (where, alert readers will remember, I was a couple of weeks ago), small sushi joints have opened up. And now the two words come tripping off our tongues with alacrity! Of course, sushi is not necessarily raw fish, though sashimi is. You also get vegetarian sushi to keep vegetable lovers happy. Essentially finger food, sushi can be of various kinds, and are served usually with some soya sauce, a bit of wasabi, and some pickled ginger.

I fell in love with sushi the first time I had it at Sakura in New Delhi. I continue to love the taste of the small sliver of something like tuna or salmon fish, covered with vinegar-flavoured rice and seaweed (or nori). During my Calcutta visit, I had some delicious sushi at the pan-Asian restaurant Zen, put together by my friend, Sharad Dewan, area director, food production, The Park, Calcutta.

Let me tell you what I ate. I had some tuna sushi, Californian maki roll, creamy salmon roll, yasai roll and Californian cheese sushi. The maki roll (this one with a filling of crab) is a smooth roll, with the vinegared rice — and not the nori — forming the outer layer. Yasai roll is a vegetable roll, prepared with asparagus and other greens.

Each item was delicious. I love salmon, and the creamy salmon roll had just the right flavours. The tuna, with its meaty flavour, gave a distinct touch to the sushi. The sushi looked beautiful too. The tuna fish sliver came in the shape of a hat, which had been placed atop a roll of rice.

The cheese and the asparagus sushi were interesting too. I quite liked the taste. The crab in the maki roll was sweet and tender, but the wasabi that it had been flavoured with went right up my nose and gave me quite a start.

Sushi tastes best when eaten with your fingers. The touch of the nori or the rice is as important as the taste. A roll should ideally be a mouthful. Pick it up gently, smear it with a little bit of wasabi (be careful there — the flavour is so strong that horseradish feels like candy floss in comparison), dip it lightly in the soya and pop it into the mouth. The ginger slivers act as a palate cleanser and help you digestive the sushi.

Of course, sushi is also very light — and most healthy. The fish has to be very fresh, though. A piece of fish that’s a day too old can ruin your sushi experience.

Chef Dewan’s sushi was perfect. I overdid on the food a bit, but still felt light and happy after the meal. Sushi does that to me.

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