The 37th floor of The St Regis hotel at Lower Parel is the place you visit for a magnificent view of the Mahalaxmi Race Course and the sea that lies beyond. However, now there is another – might we add, indulgent – reason to climb up to The Penthouse at Level 37 of the hotel. The all-new culinary and bar Koishii has recently opened its doors to the public, offering Nikkei cuisine, a harmonious blend of Peruvian ingredients and Japanese techniques.
What’s the connection between Japan and Peru, you ask? Well, it so happened that a large portion of the Japanese diaspora immigrated to Peru during the 19th century for work. “Not finding traditional Japanese ingredients used in their dishes, they started using their cooking skills to prepare dishes from Peruvian ingredients. Different varieties of chillies, potatoes and corn among other ingredients found their way into their food and that is where Nikkei cuisine was born,” Peruvian master chef Kinyo Rodas Tristan tells us. Over the years, this cuisine has gained international recognition and continues to make headlines for the right reasons.
The look and feel
There is a distinct sense of understated opulence that greets you as you step inside the dining hall. The gleaming lights from the crystal, wood and hand-forged metal chandeliers light up the interiors with soft hues and you start noticing the various elements that add up to the visual drama. The metal cage bar on the left has an enviable display of whiskey, gin, vodka, cognac and rum brands and as senior bartender Zac Abbot informs us – one of the finest collections of mezcals and tequilas as well. A cozy library alcove in one corner of the bar beckons you with its soft lighting and comfortable seating.
Apart from the main dining hall with its part modern, part elegant aesthetics and 16-feet high ceiling, there are also two private dining halls that allow for more intimate gatherings and an on-display robata kitchen and sushi counter. Antiques, artefacts and books have been aesthetically placed across the restaurant.
From the bar
Attention to detail and a sense of urgency are two of the elements in Japanese bartending, Abbot tells us, and both are on display as we soon get to witness. The bar menu has at least five sake cocktails with the standout being One Night in Tokyo, a drink we want to have every night. What makes this drink with tequila, sake, yuzu and orange bitters crisp is the crystal-clear cube of ice with the logo of Koishii stamped on it. Not for the weak-hearted, we advise you to sip this potent potion slowly.
The Nikkei Fizz, with Pisco, berries and lychee puree, has a cloying sweetness that doesn’t do much for our taste buds but The Classic Pisco Sour with its slightly tart and sweet blend more than makes up for it. Doing away with artificial flavours, using sous vide syrups and focusing on fresh ingredients – Koishii’s bar offerings pack a flavourful punch.
If you are not in the mood for cocktails, choose from a variety of Shochu, Umeshu and Sake as well as other liquors on the bar menu. Mocktails, teas and coffee are also available.
From the kitchen
Fresh and seasonal ingredients are also what Chef Kinyo wants us to savour when indulging in his offerings from the Nikkei cuisine. If it’s to do with Peru, we know there will be ceviche but what we don’t expect is a beautiful vegetarian ceviche to arrive on the table. The Mango Ceviche with chunks of mango, avocado and coconut milk delivers the right mix of sweet, tart and spicy flavours. The spice from the ricotta chilli and the crunch from the onion tempura and quinoa puffs adds different textures to the dish.
The Crispy Chicken Karaage comes with three different types of dips and has a Yuzu dressing for added flavour. In Lima to Tokyo, Scottish Salmon, Corn and Avocado is drizzled with hot sesame oil, lending the dish a smoky flavour that works in its favour.
The Cream Cheese Smoked Prawn Maki is rather a disappointment and falls apart on the plate when we try to scoop it up. A twist on the classic risotto, Koishii’s Quinotto looks like art on the plate but is a tad underwhelming when it comes to flavours. But if there is something we wholeheartedly recommend – apart from the delightful Mango Ceviche – it is the Nikkei Aubergine from the robata grill. The dish consisting of eggplant, red radish pickle, Napa cabbage, Nitsuke sauce paired with delicious Kokuho rice has everything going for it.
Skip the Tres Leches from the dessert menu and order another plate of the Mango Ceviche.
Highly recommended: if you want to keep it light, the Goma Salad with yuzu dressing and berries should be your go-to dish.
If you must try their sake cocktails, the Cherry Blossom with dark rum and cherry syrup will set you in the right mood.