Juhu Tara Road is a glittering maze of retail shops, high-end hotels, and restaurants serving cuisines from across the world. Gliding past some of them, my taxi drops me outside Hyatt Centric Juhu which looms large amidst the smaller eateries and shops around it. The sound of glasses being clinked is coming from the newly-revamped Sesame restaurant inside the hotel, which is my destination for the night.
On entering the warmly-lit space, I was almost distracted by the marble floor reflecting the crystal accents and coloured ceiling lights. The tables are aglow with the light from miniature glass lamps. Plush seating in muted pastels and glass panels on one end of the dining space sets the tone for the evening as I settle down to what I hope is a smashing meal. In one corner of the dining area, the open-air kitchen gives me a glimpse of the chefs at work.
During lunch hours, I am told, the ambience is more casual; but at dinner, it is classy and luxe. Not only are the table arrangements and lighting different during the day, even the food and beverages menu are completely separate. With his extensive experience in Japanese cuisine, executive chef Rahul Srivastava is keen to showcase what he calls a ‘theatre of flavours’ offering Japanese and Pan-Asian dishes that are not just a visual treat but a sensorial delight as well.
Scanning the elaborate small plates section, I notice that it has an equally impressive number of vegetarian options. With a prominent Jain and vegan community in the vicinity, it makes sense too. I start with a mouthful of the watermelon tataki that resembles salmon on the plate, topped with truffle miso and ponzu jelly. Crunchy green apples lend a tartness to the sweet watermelon–a winning combination.
The chef recommends trying the hamachi carpaccio, which looks simple enough but explodes with a burst of flavours in the mouth with its topping of wasabi salsa and truffle ponzu complementing the fish.
The mushroom gyoza comes with a delicate filling of shiitake, cabbage, and spring onion with a dash of soy and vinegar. It may not be the most visually appealing dish on the table but the aromatic filling has an addictive umami taste, making me reach out for it again. The crispy futomaki age, on the other hand, is filled to the brim with avocado, spring onion, spicy mayo, radish, shiitake, and cucumber. Crispy from outside, the server recommends consuming it while it is still warm with the sweet soy sauce for dipping. The umami flavour is prevalent here too but with a hint of sweetness from the soy. A few other dishes that deserve a worthy mention are the Thai stir-fried morning glory which is a Thai plantain cooked with fresh green chilly paste and garlic, complementing the Jasmine rice, and the Malaysian nyonya chicken curry made with fresh turmeric.
The drinks programme finds a worthy mention here too. With names that seek inspiration from the state of Maharashtra, the mixologist has used local ingredients and infused them with some Japanese ones to balance the flavours. I am hesitant about ordering Lonar made of sparkling wine, berry sorbet, and a mixed berry liqueur assuming it to be cloyingly sweet, but turns out to be a refreshing pick-me-up with a kick of tartness from the berries. A friend orders Fifteen Sixty–inspired by the year Maharashtra attained statehood–but her experience is hampered by the big cube of ice and the difficult-to-hold heavy glass. Once transferred to a slenderer glass with less ice, the Umeshu, gin, sake, sparkling wine, and yuzu come together in a harmony of flavours. There is also a separate section of zero-alcohol drinks, with names that pay an ode to its affluent neighbourhood.
The trick to enjoying a complete meal is to leave just enough space for dessert. Sesame seems to have covered a lot of ground with their offerings–from a fresh berry and yuzu sweet treat to decadent chocolate flavours. I recommend the White Chocolate Blondie which comes with a creamy smooth butterscotch ice cream. It sizzles as the hot caramel is poured on top. Just the way this evening has been!
Address: Hyatt Centric Juhu, Juhu Tara Road, Mumbai
Dinner for two: Rs 1,800 to Rs 2,200