Saturday, December 15, 2012

Wasabi by Morimoto Taj Mahal Mumbai

This is my 200th post! I never thought I would last so long. But I am still as enthusiastic about writing today as I was 199 posts ago.

There are so many thoughts going thru my mind simultaneously that I do not know where to start. If this post reads a little scatty or disjointed, please excuse me.

A few basic facts and prejudices. Neither HRH the Queen of Kutch nor I have much regard or respect for any of the restaurants in the Taj Mahal or the Taj President in Mumbai. They are uniformly over hyped, careless, riding on past glory, and in an international context, useless. Really useless. There is no value for money and service standards are abysmal. The food generally is a joke. If you think I am being overly critical or harsh, do read further and have a look at the photographs. After that I am sure you will be convinced. You must have read my posts on Masala Kraft and Thai Pavillion. If not please do read them before going further. I would not pay for a meal at any restaurant in the Taj hotels in Mumbai.

Having set the tone, on Friday, HRH the Queen of Kutch’s Aunt, a mega lawyer, invited us for dinner to either the Golden Dragon [the Sichuan Chinese Restaurant at Taj Mahal Mumbai] or Wasabi by Morimoto [the Japanese Restaurant also at Taj Mahal Mumbai]. We chose Wasabi, the darling of the sophisticates in South Bombay, the haunt of internationally travelled Jains, Khandelwals and Shahs. Wasabi is also the darling of the Kriplanis. Anyway, the plan was to meet in the lobby of the Taj Mahal at 7.45, wet our whistles at the Harbour Bar and go to our reserved table at 8.30. Since we had to travel the longest distance, naturally, we ended up in the lobby first and sat at a sofa to wait.

What a glorious sight awaited us. A very dodgy young lady was sitting in front of us in a rather casual way, her feet on the sofa and sandals on the floor busy texting. I was flabbergasted!! I apologise for the quality of the photograph but it was taken from HRH the Queen’s mobile phone. This in the lobby of an iconic hotel. Where was the staff? Could one of the several black suited men not walk up to her and ask, `are you waiting for someone?’ or `do you need any help?’. I would not put my feet on my sofa at home. Here was someone in the Taj putting their feet up on a public sofa!! What happens to someone who sits there after she vacates? Phew!! Bad start. Blood pressure rising.

Dodgy lady - feet up

Soon our host and other guests arrived and we retreated to the famous Harbour Bar. The Taj website says of the Harbour Bar “A stylish and sophisticated retreat for a drink or an informal meal, Harbour Bar first opened its doors to the discerning Mumbai gentlemen in 1933 and has since played host to decades of high-powered rendezvous”. It goes on to say, and I once again quote from the Taj website “This historical prestige is reflected in the center bar, a solid carved piece of white marble that denotes the potency of a bygone era but boasts a fresh new face for Mumbai's new generation of movers and shakers.” At 8.00 pm on a Friday night in South Bombay during the NRI season the Harbour had just one shaker – the cocktail shaker. There were also about 4 slow moving movers – the waiters. It was dead as Kasab. Poor joke, poor taste, but I could not resist that. Anyway, we were having a merry time enjoying our libations, so the host requested the restaurant reservation to be shifted to 9.00 pm from 8.30 pm. Smarty pants waiter comes up and says that we have to surrender the table at 10.30 pm as they have another seating. Blood pressure rises further. Why did they not tell us this when we booked at 8.30 that there was a 2 hour turn around slot? I said that we would leave by 10.30 if they served us quickly and did not muck about. The cheek of the man!! Blood pressure rises further.

At 9.00 pm we went to Wasabi which was a level up [I mean that physically]. The restaurant was empty. I asked sarcastically if we could have the table or did they want it back at 10.30, no problem they said, you can have the table. Two tables occupied of which one was by Raymond Bickson the Managing Director of the Indian Hotels company. All waiters attention was focussed on, yes, Mr Bickson. How typically Indian. Ignore the paying customer and curry favour with the boss who is eating free. It took a few attempts to ask for a drinks menu, a food menu and finally place the orders. Just when placing the order, our waiter magically disappears while HRH the Queen is mid sentence. Mr. Bickson wanted some salt I presume. Drinks ordered and food ordered. My beer turns up and the rest of the drinks take eons. Restaurant still serving only 5 other people!

Then up comes an Amuse Bouche a good 45 minutes after we were seated. A square cube in a very large plate. It was a UFO, unidentified fried object, which is what most Amuse Bouches in India are. I ask, `is this vegetarian?’ Yes is the answer. So I probe further `is this Jain?’ ‘I will check’ was the reply. I have still not got the answer! Anyway, we ate it. Some sort of deep fried starch – Yam or suchlike. Non descript with as much character as boiled rice.

The UFO - Amuse Buoche

The Host and HRH sister are vegetarian. So they ordered as their starter, a bowl of boiled Edamame Beans. Maybe this stuff thrills vegetarians, but there is just so much excitement one can have with plain boiled beans.

Boiled Edamame beans

HRH the Queen ordered what is regarded as a special dish at Wasabi – Rock Shrimp Tempura with Spicy Mustard. Large helping, crisp batter, light batter but unfortunately after Mr Bickson asked for the salt, the salt did not go back to the kitchen. After lashings of salt the dish improved. Again, nothing out of the ordinary, just straightforward deep fried Shrimp Pakoras with a sweetish wasabi. No hint of a spicy mustard kick at all.

Rock Shrimp Tempura

I ordered another speciality as my starter. The Salmon Avocado Tacos. This was a dish that would warm the cockles of Tarla Dalal except it had Salmon. A mini Taco shell filled with chopped Salmon with sweet Mayonnaise and garnished with a slice of Jalapeno. The dish was conceived for a children’s birthday party, it was infantile in the extreme. Now here is something that I found peculiar. It’s an accepted convention that whatever is placed on a plate should be edible [toothpicks apart]. This includes garnishes. On picking up a Taco I noticed a small cylinder on the plate which had been placed to hold the Taco shell upright. I put this in my mouth thinking it was edible and would be a sort of savoury biscuit. It turned out to be pieces of wood. Shocking. Have a look. On seeing this, blood pressure rises further.

Salmon Avocado Tacos

The wooden chips supporting the Taco

For our mains, the Host ordered Asparagus Youganyaki – Flambé Asparagus on Volcano Stone. This comprised of a few Asparagus stalks, onion and red and yellow peppers placed on a heated stone. The waiters then poured some Brandy and flambéed the dish. I could not believe what the Host was eating. It was like a half dish, no starch no protein just some cheap vegetables besides the Asparagus. It was like a garnish you get with a steak that had been turned into a main course. I thought this was like going to Kobe/Yoko Sizzlers and telling them I want a sizzler with only onion, capsicum and asparagus. I want no chicken, steak, potato, noodles, paneer or cutlet of any sort. Just a tiny portion of sizzling vegetables. Amazing, wonders never cease. You can really doll up any rubbish and serve it to Vegetarians and they are happy so long as it sizzles, sings or dances, comes in a fancy container or is crunchy or better still spicy.

The final burnt offering - Vegetables, onions basically
HRH Sister ordered Cha Soba which is Chilled green tea noodles with chopped scallion, sesame seeds, fresh wasabi, dashi - soy sauce for dipping. All she got was a fake bamboo dish with gluggy lurid green noodles. The look of horror on her face was priceless. What would have been acceptable was if the two dishes, the Soba Noodles and the Asparagus were combined in some sort of way. The Asparagus dish had no staple or protein and the Soba Noodle was only staple with no vegetable. Do people really pay for this kind of food?

Cha Soba Noodles. 

Those two dishes were enough to instil the deepest fear in me. I had ordered Surf & Turf. This was a steak and two tempura prawns. The plate came was so large that it covered my entire section of the table. The steak was reasonably good meat. However the sauce on top was sickly sweet, really really sweet. The jumbo prawns were MRF Tyres. I could not eat more than a quarter of this dish. Mind you, no vegetables for me. Why? I have no idea. I know food can be sweet, Gujarati food is sweet, but this food took the biscuit, it was almost like a dessert, it was that sweet.

Surf & Turf

See the size of the plate

HRH the Queen of Kutch ordered Miso Marinated Black Cod. This was probably made in the Balrampur Chinni Factory, it was that sweet. The Cod had a most peculiar texture, probably because of the marinade. I am being kind here. It’s also possible that the Cod had been cooked to death and the texture had nothing to do with the marinade. The Cod was on a plate with a horribly sweet sauce squirted all over. The plate also had what looked like black olives. I tasted one; it was some sort of bean that had been cooked in sugar syrup. Ghastly.

Miso Marinated Black Cod 

All the food was rubbish, sweet, childish, incomplete and misconceived. I cannot believe anyone paying for this. While writing this I decided to look at the prices of Sushi at one of the better know and more expensive Japanese Restaurants in London. Umu which has one Michelin Starr is in Mayfair which is one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods. I am setting down in a table the prices of similar Sushi in the two restaurants. You should find it illuminating. I am not going to explain why I am doing so. Just compare and ask yourself, what the heck is going on? This information is from the respective websites of Wasabi and Umu. I am adding 30% to the Wasabi price to include taxes.

Wasabi price in Rs
Wasabi price in GBP @ Rs 85
Umu price in Rs @ 1 GBP = Rs 85
Umu price in GBP
Ika – Squid
Ikura – Salmon Roe
Hotake - Scallop
Uni – Sea Urchin
Unagi - Eel

Needless to say, we had no dessert. Also needless to say HRH the Queen and myself came home hungry and fairly angry.

The service was uncaring and jerky. In a restaurant of this standard not having all people’s food being brought out at the same time is unacceptable. 3 of us got our food more or less at the same time, while the host had to wait eons for her wretched Asparagus to turn up. If you left the restaurant to go to the toilet, your napkin was left as is. No one folded it away to indicate the diner is missing. This is something that any reasonable restaurant in the West would do. Why the Taj has to be like this I cannot for the life of me understand.

In conclusion, we all had a fantastic evening despite the food and service. The food was an absolute disaster, every dish was bad. I know that I will not visit the Taj to eat. If someone invites me, I will go only after having failed to convince the person it’s a bad idea.


  1. Boy, that sounds like a gastronomic nightmare.

  2. Im really sorry, but if you didn't like the food nor the service, you have no taste, and should not be in any position to talk about food. i have been at wasabi, and i loved every single dish, especially the black cod, infact after that experience i am serving that dish in my restaurant here in the UK.

  3. Frightening experience. What's happened to the Taj's service?

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