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Restaurant Review: Tsubaki, The Japanese Restaurant With A Hydroponic Garden

There’s a robust vegetarian menu too with fab sushi and gyoza.

Nivedita Jayaram Pawar

As a food writer, more often than not, readers, friends and family have one question for me: Where should I eat right now? They want to know what's new, what's hot? Which is the ‘it’ place of the moment. For them, I have the answer: Tsubaki. This newest Japanese restaurant in Worli, Mumbai is both delicious and striking.

Ambience

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Named after a beautiful Japanese flower, Tsubaki is spread over multiple levels. The ground floor is where the chefs work their magic in the kitchen. The ground level is also home to a hydroponic garden that grows fresh radish, mustard, amaranth and green pea leaves for the kitchen. The first level is home to an elegant dining room. The open sushi kitchen here adds both, warmth and theatre. The topmost level is a low-lit lounge where the bar stools provide front row seats to watch bartenders caress bottles of sake, fine wines and spirits as well as shake up smokey cocktails. The atmosphere is laidback and unpretentious, but luxe at the same time. 

The food 

Chef Ganesh Sonari’s menu is a masterclass in variety and composition. The boisterously dressed Tsubaki salad, with lettuce, spinach and truffle oil, is a great mood-setter. But the showstopper is the fiery tofu khimchi soup that is an explosion in my mouth! But a little bit of perseverance gives way to the calming earthiness of nori sheet, sublime tofu bits and crunchy veggies. 

If you are looking to douse the heat go for the playful and brilliant cheese chilli gyoza. These little pink and white parcels are a textural triumph. Just pop the whole thing in the mouth and enjoy. Ordering another portion to eat straight after finishing the first is completely acceptable. These gyozas are that good! 

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Sushi can make or break a restaurant specialising in Japanese cuisine. Combining the freshest and most pristine seafood together with perfectly vinegared rice and sleek Japanese aesthetics is not easy. Chef Sonari’s years of experience with Asian cuisine reflects in the sushi at Tsubaki. Start with the prawn tempura maki which is plump and tender and coated with crunchy tempura bits. The cucumber and cream cheese maki rolls are another delectable morsels. 

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The avocado mame roll is clever. Why? The nori sheet (an edible seaweed) is replaced with tofu skin for vegetarians. For drama choose the assorted nigiri platter which arrives in a boat. Also, take a pause and taste the wasabi—it is pungent but with a gentle sweetness, unlike fake wasabi which burns.

Mains include the smoky and caramelised Nasu Dengaku—eggplant slices brushed with a sweet miso glaze. Other options include a Chilean seabass in black bean sauce and a katsu curry with panko chicken. They’re not the best but they are simple, unfussy and satisfying. Pair these main course dishes with the aromatic and sticky Japanese koshihikari rice. 

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The dessert menu is short but satisfying: coffee jelly, wasabi crème brulee, profiteroles, chocolate yuzu crepe cake and Japanese cotton cheesecake. But my favourite way to end dinner was to finish the last of whatever remained in my cocktail glass. In this case it’s a beautifully balanced watermelon and gin cocktail with hints of curry leaf. 

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There are few things in life that are as satisfying as leaving a restaurant ‘little bit too full’ thanks to the food that simply had to be finished in its entirety. Head to Tsubaki and you’ll be treated to that exact experience.

Location: Desai Oceanic, Worli, Next to Worli village bus depot, Mumbai. Tel: +91 7304940815

Timings: 12:00 noon  – 1:00 am

Price for two: Rs 3000

Photo: Tsubaki Mumbai
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