Recognised as one of the top 100 restaurants in the world, Wasabi By Morimoto at The Taj Mahal Palace is not only India’s best Japanese restaurant but is probably one of the best restaurants in India.
It was always meant to be so. From the moment Chef Hemant Oberoi felt Mumbai was ready for Japanese food he was clear he would create a world-class restaurant. He knew that his clientele was already familiar with Japanese food and were regulars at top-end Japanese restaurants such as Nobu in New York and Zuma in London.
Under the guidance of Masaharu Morimoto, who had helped set up Nobu and was successfully running his own restaurant in Philadelphia, Wasabi By Morimoto was launched, not as a traditional Japanese restaurant but as one that offered modern Japanese food.
With two chefs from Morimoto and an Indian team that had trained at Morimoto and in Japan, where they learned traditional techniques and familiarised themselves with local ingredients, Wasabi opened in 2004 to critical and commercial acclaim. It remains the only restaurant in India to serve freshly grated wasabi.
Wasabi’s unique feature is the strength of its vegetarian menu, created entirely by Chef Oberoi. It is probably the only Japanese restaurant in the world that offers vegetarians so much choice. The tomato carpaccio with yuzu and soy dressing, topped with a wasabi and yuzu sorbet, is outstanding.
Unfortunately, it bore the brunt of the terrorist attack on the Taj in 2008 and was completely destroyed. It re-opened in 2010 with a new look. The spiral staircase has been replaced with a bright red lacquer stairway and a glass-walled lift. Upstairs, the pale green walls and dark, mood lighting has given way to a bright and cheerful room.
The best tables are the ones alongside the windows overlooking the Gateway of India, with bar seating available at the sushi and teppanyaki counters. In one discreet corner is a semi-private dining table in the shape of a giant silver ball.