I love a bit of drama in my food, don’t you?
An elaborate feast, laid out with much fanfare in gleaming traditional brass or copper ware, like for the ‘Sajan Goth’ of Rajasthan or the ‘Jamai Shoshthi’ of Bengal. A whole giant aquarium of LIVE fish, crabs and lobsters to choose from in a seafood restaurant. A steady stream of molten chocolate, melting a hole through a chocolate disc as it is poured onto a layered Lava Cake. An eyebrow-singeing Flaming Jaeger Bomb cocktail. Or a BBQ Chicken served in a Cookie Jar, billowing with smoke!
This last dramatic scene came to life at the Robatayaki Festival at Joss a few days ago. Remember the Yellow Pages ad where they play ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’ as the National Anthem for an athlete from ‘Robata’ about to receive his medal at the podium? Well, this has nothing to do with goof-ups, or athletes, or even countries ;)
Robatayaki or Robata is a kind of fireside cooking which originated on Japanese boats where fishermen would skewer their fresh catch of seafood, and slow-grill them on hot charcoals while huddling around for heat on cold wintry nights. Much like our very own Sigree! From fishing boats, to swish Roabata bars in Japan, to upmarket restaurants around the world, this style of cuisine has had a fascinatingly quick and successful journey to stardom. And Farrokh Khambata, a star in his own right as one of the most successful food entrepreneurs of Mumbai, realized the value of giving this trendy food experience to the city’s foodizens at Joss, now housed in a quiet, expansive corner of Santacruz West.
Theatrics were very much in evidence in the dishes that were part of the Robatayaki menu.
Apart from the aforementioned Cookie Jar Yakitori Chicken, other delicious smoky offerings on the menu were a Turkey Bacon Wrapped Prawn, a Shiso Pork Belly, a Spicy Yuzu Shitake Mushroom & Asparagus, a Sesame Tofu and a Farm-2-Table Vegetable Grill with Chilly Parmesan. Alas, the intriguing Jingisukan Crushed Beef, inspired by the legendary Genghis Khan, was off limits due to the beef ban L But there were ample cocktails to drown our beefy sorrows in, the most quirky one being the Smoky Cosmopolitan, served in a specially made all-glass tobacco pipe, spouting smoke as you puff on the pink liquid within!
And then of course there’s the signature Big Bang Theory dessert – an elaborate ‘cosmos’ of sauces and berries and whipped cream and nuts, created as a centerpiece on your table by the Chef, with a quaint Meringue Cake as the centre of the universe, cracked open to release the luscious berry-filling inside for everyone to exclaim and pounce on! Who wouldn’t want THAT for a birthday celebration?
Generally speaking, test tubes and dry ice are not really my thing when it comes to food. More often than not, meals made with molecular gastronomy principles are abysmally portioned, leaving you hunting down the nearest Shawarma kiosk in the middle of the night! The portions here are thankfully fuller, and the profusion of flavours and textures, much like their hearty Korean dish Bibimbap, really hit the spot. So if a little smoke-and-mirror magic can evoke wide-eyed wonder in kids and adults alike, and make them whoop in delight, then I am all for the drama… and a rousing curtain call!