Kiku - an old wine in a new bottle

The walls industrial grey, murals in gold with a hint of black, fur­niture oak wood and cutlery all black, this is Kiku for you, the new Japanese restaurant at the Mari­ott hotel Islamabad. This new kid on the block is actually an old wine in a new bottle, as it is at the same location where the good old tra­ditional Japanese cuisine Sakura was. Kiku, a name drawn out from the Japanese flower chrysanthe­mum is a symbol of longevity and peace and so was the gastronomi­cal experience at the eatery. “Every dish at Kiku’s pays homage to the Japanese culinary heritage while staying local to its original recipe” claims the master chef of the newly opened restaurant Mr. Mario.

The Kiku chef use representa­tion as an artistic medium to pro­duce the dishes that mirror the beauty of chrysanthemum flower. Savor food that has stood the test of times from traditional sushi to the exquisite artistry of Kaiseki.

The restaurant can accommo­date approximately 50 plus diners at one time and also offer a private room for business lunch or a pri­vate dine. Chef Mario who is at the helm of affairs is basically from Philippines but his birth places overshadow his 20 plus years ex­periences around the world in Jap­anese gastronomy. “Sakura was a very traditional Japanese fine din­ing restaurant whereas Kiku is a fusion of classic and contempo­rary. The menu has many dishes to the likes of spicy tastebuds as per Pakistani standards”, answers the maestro when asked, why Kiku?

From original Miso soup to Spicy Seafood Miso soup, regular Tuna Nigiri to Tako Octopus, Ginda­ra Black Cod Sashimi to Hamachi Yellow tail Tuna, it was indeed a sumptuous transition.

It was a party of four and the or­der was per appetite and calories. We started off with spicy seafood Miso soup and Ramen. It was the broth which differentiated the taste since the appearance looked identical.

Spicy seafood Miso soup, lived up to its name. It was spicy to a lev­el very much acceptable to the Pa­kistani tastebuds and for original miso soup, one is always asking for chili dip. The meat portion was too rightly balanced, as the bowl was floating with calamari, salmon, prawns and squids. It was priced at Rs3100, which for Mariott hotel seems pretty reasonable. Ramen was chicken flavored which made its taste polls apart from seafood broth. However, noodles, Bok choy, and other green herbs were com­mon denominators in both start­ers. The idea was not to spoil the appetite so we all agreed to share one salad for all and chef Mario recommended Volcano Salad. Boy o boy, it came loaded with Avoca­do, Salmon, Prawn and Edamame, tangled in Iceberg and laced with Spicy Mayo. It was a full meal hand down. It would have been nice if avocado was married to prawn alone for this conciliation. 

The weight watchers would have enjoyed the chewiness of avoca­do and crunchiness of prawns in­dividually as too many cooks spoil the broth. 

Dining in a Japanese restau­rant, it is sinful if Sushi, Nigiri and Sashimi is not on the list for start­ers and the three T’s: Tempura, Teppanyaki and Teriyaki from the main course.

The first three pages of Kiku’s menu boasts some of the most in­dulgent Sushi, Maki and Sashimi offerings. Chef Mario it seems have gone beyond Sushi to offer exemplary contemporary delica­cies in the likes of Volcano Maki, Samurai Roll, Hamachi Yellow Tail Tuna, Ika Squid, Maguro Tuna and a promiscuously Kiku Platter com­bo. The grey stone slate carrying the signature items from the Sushi bar looked like a perplexing ran­dom cluster of components mak­ing up in innards. Tastebuds were not ready for what was to come. The platter bites melted in mouth with Ingredients aimlessly float­ing around bursting in aroma. 

Chef de cuisine deserves a round of applause for his craftsmanship at the Sushi bar. 

It was time to try our luck on the Tempuras, Tepyanki’s and a few items from Robatayaki sec­tion on chef’s recommendation. Prawn tempura was the obvious choice but for infusion purpose, Octopus Tempura was also in line. Both fried meaty high end sea­food representatives were con­sumed in nanoseconds by the hungry diners. The prawn tempu­ra was crispy, fluffy and shattered in the mouth whereas Octopus was chewier but with a last long­ing taste left on the palette. 

Following the same methodolo­gy, both Chicken and beef teppa­nyaki were ordered from the roba­ta grill. Surprisingly beef chunks were bursting with unusual fla­vors as compared to chicken scor­ing a higher grade. The sauce was the same so were the green veggi’s in both teppanyaki’s.

Macha Ice-cream and Tempu­ra ice-cream ordered from the dessert pages played host to the sweet tooths but both were termed as an “acquired taste” unanimously. Japanese tea “Ocha” was the finale of the show and the whole dining experience, worth writing home about.


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