Dear Reader, 

It’s great to be back here to speak to you again. In this post, I want to talk about the cuisine of Asia and in particular that of Japan. It is indeed fascinating to see how widely Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Japanese cuisines have disseminated across the world. But what fascinates me even more is how the Indian gourmet has taken to the cuisine of the rest of Asia. 

Many of my Indian friends will probably admit that they’ve tasted Chinese cuisine even before having explored the major regional dishes of their own country. And while for long the only kind being served was a standard toss-up, it was only a matter of time before the well-travelled Indian sought out back home the same authentic tastes he enjoyed on his visits to East Asia. No approximation would do. It needs to be said that few fine dining establishments could stand up to the high demands for authentic traditional Far Eastern cuisine. 

A few of my friends have observed that restaurants often choose to take the middle path and adapt the tastes of a cuisine to suit local tastes. But I’ve always thought that such an approach unwittingly robs guests of the very adventure they sought to take into the authentic tastes of another tradition. It is for this reason that Pan Asian is an instant draw for connoisseurs who seek an unmediated culinary experience of authentic East Asian cuisine. Similarly, My Humble House has carved a niche for itself in giving expression to the very specific, poetic culinary development referred to as neo-Classical Chinese – an experimental interpretation of traditional Chinese cuisine. 

It’s clear that creating the authentic Asian culinary experience is no mean task. Going by our own experiences, I can tell you that it had taken arduous research into every aspect of ingredients, preparation and presentation. And perhaps no other cuisine demands so much attention as Japanese. I have been a big fan for several years now and I know more than a few acquaintances who regard Japanese cuisine as the gold standard. 

I’ve also had friends say that they considered the Japanese cuisine experience too remote and intimidating even before they began – ‘How to start? What to order?’ I have to admit, few traditional Japanese restaurants in town have done much to keep the reservations of prospective customers at bay. The ones that do, however, do not serve traditional Japanese cuisine. Yet, I noted that globally the situation had moved on. 

On my visits to Japan, I noticed that the formal kaiseki restaurants were not the only gateway to the Japanese dining experience. Also, globally, Japanese cuisine has become more accessible and less exclusive. Sushi, for example, which was for long positioned as an exclusive dish in the West, was already shedding such trappings by the 1990s. As it became more popular, it became more easily accessible to the mass market. 

The trend I have picked out today is towards more relaxed dining and it struck me that the informal approach of most restaurants in Japan, suited the yearning among many in India for an authentic Japanese fine dining experience that put them at ease. That is exactly what has inspired ITC Hotels’ tribute to the exquisite world of Japanese cuisine: Edo at ITC Gardenia in Bengaluru. 

Edo is an expression of Japanese dining that is simple and fun, while remaining true to the authentic treatment that defines traditional Japanese cuisine. The waiters here are also more than eager to give you a historical background to a ritual or dish. Many people coming away from an evening at Edo tell me they are drawn in by the easy ambience straight away. It's quite relieving to drop in after work and sink into an energetic buzz from guests who may be seated variously at the robatayaki counter, sushi/sashimi bar, the larger dining space, the open air dining area or any of the private dining rooms. 

There are also the rituals the guests can be witness to, including the matcha tea ritual and the perennial group favourite – the sake bomb. You can direct the course of your own meal or settle down to a set menu or a bento box meal. A bento box is similar to our much loved tiffin lunch box. When served in Japanese restaurants, its compartments may be packed with various items: appetizers, tempura, sashimi, gohan miso and seasonal cut fruit. It’s fascinating to behold and a pleasure to tuck into. 

Edo has been described as the first traditional Japanese restaurant that’s directed at and attracting both Japanese and Indian guests, and going by the response from the city of Bengaluru, the magic of Edo is certain to make its way to other cities soon. At ITC Hotels, we are honoured to be torchbearers of that special light from the Far East, the glow that puts guests at ease and in charge of an experience that is at the heart of luxury. 

It has been a delight sharing with you the warmth of ITC Hotels and I look forward to reading your comments. 

Nuggets from my Japan travels
Sushi was originally developed as a way to preserve fish.
In Japan, the most prized sushi ingredient is the fatty cut of tuna.
In sushi restaurants in Japan, wasabi is also referred to as namida which means “tears”.
The wheat-based noodle known as udon was brought into Japan from China by 
a Buddhist priest.
The cuisine from the island of Okinawa is regarded as the healthiest in the world.
The island of Hokkaido is famous for its innovative ice creams in bean and lavender flavours.
Omurice is a version of an omelette made in Japan that contains meats, vegetables, fried rice or noodles.
The Japanese came up with takeaway meals known as bento, as far back as 
the 12th century.
Most meals in Japan are served with green tea which is considered the national beverage.
Hara hachi bu is a common saying among Okinawans. It means “Eat until you are 80% full”.

 

The Inspiration for EDO 
Perfecting the art of Japanese after hours
Strangers who have travelled far, 
The friends with a welcome smile, 
All sorts of people who come and go 
Meet at this merry stile — 
They meet and feast awhile.
 - Adaptation of an ancient Japanese poem
Set to the fine aesthetics of a Japanese stone garden, Edo bears the name and inspiration

of an era of enchantment centred on the idea of a floating world. A world in which abundance combined with the good life to give rise to

a glorious flowering of the arts and culture. From this idyllic world emerges a celebration of the after hours as exemplified in 

this izakaya – your destination for vibrant conviviality with friends over good food and drink.Behold a celebration expertly crafted by Japanese Master Chefs and guided

by the pure spirit of enjoyment.We invite you to experience Edo – dedicated to perfecting the art of Japanese after hours.