October 16 was my birthday. And even though I love the fanfare of celebrating birthdays, this year I choose to have a much quieter celebration with the person I love (still learning to love) the most – myself. And what better way to kick off my TABLE FOR ONE segment with a dining experience that was special, empowering, and delightful (if you skip the confusion of finding it – teething problems I am sure, but my advice is don’t follow Google Maps – you won’t get there until its rectified).

So, what is the restaurant I choose to celebrate my birthday at? It had to be the recently opened (October 13) Japanese eatery – WAKAI at Fort. I know for a first review for my Table for One segment, this might not be ideal as it’s a bit on the pricier side, but then again, my birthday comes once a year and I wanted to make myself feel special and indulgent – and I did this unapologetically.

I have never dined at any of Morimoto’s restaurants before (neither in Dubai nor in Bombay), but if you enjoy Japanese food, you know his reputation precedes him. So, when a young boy, just starting out, learns and works under the tutelage of Morimoto for 15 years, finally hangs up his chef apron to chase a dream that many chefs have – of creating their own dining experience at a place they can call their own – you know Wakai, with Chef Parvez Khan at the helm won’t (at least one can hope) disappoint.

I went for lunch so missed seeing all the neon lights in all its glory, but the minute you walk in you have a contemporary Japanese vibe. It’s a split-level restaurant with the mezzanine housing the live sushi and alcohol bar, while downstairs you have a relaxed dining space. The ceilings are pasted with posters with a fuchsia neon light installation with the name of the restaurant hanging down from an installation of a cluster of umbrellas. Manga imagery and anime characters adorn the breadth of the walls with a contrasting contemporary geometric floor design all echoing the contemporary Japanese influence I believe they were after.

So, what did I celebrate with?

For starters, I had the Chicken Kaaraage in a spicy negi sauce. Negi has a strong garlic-like aroma and flavour and is one of the most versatile ingredients in Japanese food. It is considered to be as important to Japanese cuisine as the tomato is to Italian cuisine. It is commonly mistaken for green onions, are actually a type of leek. I enjoyed the crispness of the chicken at the bite and then the softness within which was complimented by the garlicy onion negi sauce.

For my mains, I had to try one of the classic dishes – Black Cod Miso. Of course, the black cod would have been imported and much care would have been taken to retain its freshness through the marination process which could last a few days and hence the price. The deep flavour of the miso marinade came through and the buttery flesh simply melts in your mouth.

For dessert it had to be something chocolate. I went with the Homemade 70% nama chocolate. What it was, was art on a chocolate on a plate With Sao Thome Chocolate ganache, chocolate soil, chocolate sable and seasonal berries. Nama in Japanese actually means ‘raw,’ but I believe here it refers to the pureness and freshness. With the array of berries, each bite of the very intense and complex taste of chocolate gave it a wonderful different flavour and the different textures of chocolate only added to the range.

Wakai brings the sophistication of flavours from a five-star restaurant to a more casual hip environment with prices that I believe would justify the freshness and import duties that the restaurant would have to shell out to bring the authentic ingredients into Bombay.

This three-course meal cost me Rs. 4000+ (did not include alcohol or any non-alcoholic drinks). It may not be a restaurant I could afford to indulge in a regular basis, but it is definitely one worth saving towards and enjoying for a special occasion.

Ease of booking a Table for One: 🍽 🍽 🍽 🍽 🍽

Service and attentiveness: 🍽 🍽 🍽 🍽

Comfort level: 🍽 🍽 🍽 🍽 🍽

Location: Wakai, 4 A, Raja Bahadur Mansion, Next to Plenty Restaurant, Mumbai Samachar Marg, Fort Mumbai Telephone: +91 97699 99918 Open from 12 NOON – 10 PM

NOTE: I ate at WAKAI on my OWN time and money. The views and opinions expressed on this blog are truly my OWN.