A restaurant dining app which really helps one crack a sweet deal.... At Shizusan Shophouse & Bar with Eatigo

Hibachi Rice and prawns in XO chilli sauce at Shisuzan, Mumbai

In search of some Far Eastern Zen

The name of Shizusan Shophouse and Bar, as a place to try out Japanese food in Mumbai, had often popped up in my social media feed as well as during conversations with fellow food loving friends.

After meaning to do so for a while, I finally made it to the thirteen month old outlet of the restaurant chain at Phoenix Mall in Mumbai’s Lower Parel a couple of afternoons back, and here’s what I found out.

The food, from what I tried out, was pretty top notch. The service exceptional and there’s a specific reason why I say that as you will see towards the end of this post. The ambience was cheerful but not cheeky. The place is owned by the people behind the Phoenix Malls and the Chef is Paul Kinny. 

Oh, and it offers a lot more than just Japanese fare!

How I got a 50 per cent price off through Eatigo

It was quite easy to download the Eazigo app
Booking through it was very hassle free too

My decision to go to Shizusan was triggered off while trying out the Eatigo dining app. Turns out that you get some interesting dynamic discounts while booking a restaurant through Eatigo. ‘Dynamic’ as the proportion changes by the time of the day. In less busy hours, it goes up to as much as 50%

I had to buy a new pair of shoes the other day and thought of going to the Phoenix Mall. That’s when I saw that Shizusan was listed on the app then decided to check it out too during my shopping trip.

The app was easy to download on the phone and the process worked seamlessly. When I checked at 10 am on Thursday, I saw that they had a 50% discount at 12 noon and 12:30 too for Shizusan and then the discount dropped to 20 and 10%. 50% seemed too good an offer to skip and I booked myself for the 12:30 slot. I reached about 15 minutes late due to the slow traffic at the Dadar bridge but still got the discount as I reached before the next slot begun. I informed them about the booking before I was seated and the rest was seamless.

That peaceful easy feeling

The restaurant got filled up post 1 pm

The restaurant was relatively empty when I reached but got filled up as the afternoon progressed. I hate eating in empty restaurants but no such problems here.

I was seated in a table which I later realised was perfect for Instagramming and I made the most of it. There was a big window beside me, which offered lots of light and that as any food blogger will tell you is our idea of heaven. 

The table for Instagrammers to look out for

The overall ambience of Shizusan had a warm and inviting feel to it. The aromas that welcomed one when one entered, made me smile. It smelt like my sort of place. I love Asian food after all. The table had a rather old school sunmica-like surface. I later learnt from the waiting staff that the food at Shizusan is meant to represent what you get on the streets and in the simple eateries of the far east. I wonder if the old school look of the table was meant to represent that.

A menu which is all about peace of mind 

Salmon nigiri at Shisuzan

I gave the bao and the laksas and curries on offer a miss as I had those for lunch the previous day in a restaurant in Gurgaon. I decided to start with some sushi instead and went for the salmon nigiri as that had four to a plate. Being alone, the assorted nigiri plate of 12 seemed a bit too much for me.

I went a bit berserk with the portrait mode of my iPhone 7 Plus camera when the sushi arrived, with all the natural light around and not too many people to look and judge me at that point. And with sushi, you don't have to worry about your food getting cold while you clicked it! 

You can hold your head high and use your fingers if
chopsticks are not your thing. The fish goes in first

Photos taken, I settled down to eat and used my fingers as the menu card exhorted me to do and since I am not very proficient with chopsticks.

The rice in the sushi was adeptly rolled. The grains were held together and yet were not sticky. The temperature was ambient and not cold making it clear that the sushi has been freshly rolled and sent out. The salmon was fairly decent though could have been fattier and could have packed more flavour and punch. That’s Mumbai for you I guess. The fish that you get in sushi here is usually what one refers to in cricket as 'military medium' unless one goes to a really high end place where this fish is fresher, think Pan Asian at the ITC Maratha or Vikramjit Roy's POH.

The simplicity of the sushi at Shizusan, in a restaurant dining-scape which today seems to be bombarded with ‘rainbow sushi’ and what not, was a welcome presence on my table though.

Prawns in XO Chilli sauce

What was really spectacular at Shizusan were the mains that I had ordered.

I went for the prawns in XO chilli sauce, a dish I was first introduced to in Mainland China in Bandra years back and which I used to like there. The version at Shisuzan was quite exquisite. 

The prawns were cooked just the way I like them to be. They were pretty soft and juicy and had a pleasant spring to them. Not over-cooked at all. The sauce gently enrobed itself on the prawns. The amount of sauce was just right and as per what I had specified (minimal). I hate dishes where the protein is swimming in sauce. The sauce had a lovely balance of chilli heat, a touch of sweetness and tanginess too. The origin of this dish, I had once read, lies in pickling techniques and that showed in the very well balanced and yet full bodied sauce on offer here. There were snow peas and crisp slivers of aubergine and prawn chips in the dish which gave a textural contrast to the sensuousness of the large and fleshy prawns. I knew that K would have loved this dish if she was here with me.

While the XO chilli sauce is said to be a Hong Kong origin-ed Cantonese dish, the rice that I had with it was the Japanese Hibachi sticky rice. This was served on a sizzling plate which is called Hibachi (as I learnt from the menu card). The careful mound of rice carved by the chef on the plate seemed to have broken a bit by the time it reached my table. All in the spirit of ‘street dining’ I guess and I did try to put the rice together before taking pictures. 

The rice had a nice subtle flavour to it, thanks to the soy sauce in which it was cooked. The flavours were neither overwhelming, nor tasteless. A happy balance in between. I loved the texture of the rice. A strange cross between being sticky and yet al dente and hence not really ‘sticking’ to each other.

There was only one ‘problem’ with the rice. I broke into a grin when I took a second serving. I noticed that the bottom layer had begun to form a burnt crust due to the hot surface of the sizzler tray. Now here’s the thing about me. I am a slave to burnt crispy bits of rice. This is a love affair that started during my childhood days when we lived in Iran and when my mother would make me the polo (Persian for pulao) when which had tahdig, a burnt crispy layer at the bottom which I couldn’t get enough.

‘Couldn’t get enough of’ is what happened at Shizusan and I kept taking more as the rice became crisper and that was the ‘problem.’ I ate way more than I had planned to and felt guilty about it later though I must add that I didn’t feel uncomfortable later despite my embarrassing gluttony. 

They had obviously used good quality ingredients in the kitchen.

Hibachi rice with XO Chilli Prawns at Shisuzan

The combination of the Hibachi rice with the XO chilli prawns was the suggestion of Chinmai, the manager/ maĆ®tre d at Shizusan

My interaction with him is what I had in mind when I spoke of the excellent service earlier in the post. Chinmai made some good recommendations from the menu and insisted that I don’t go for the Korean bibimbap rice with the prawns unlike what I was veering towards. The sauce in that would be too overpowering, he said to have the prawns on the side with. He also answered some of the questions that I put to him…is the rice in the chicken rice cooked in stock (it isn’t here)…does the XO chilli sauce have ham in it as the note in the menu said that the original creation did…(it doesn’t here, he found out and told me). When I asked him about what were the best dishes on the menu, he told me about the prawns in XO chilli sauce and the lobster in black pepper. The prawns that I had ordered as per his recommendation was spot on.

Look for Chinmai when at Shisuzan, Lower Parel

My interaction with Chinmai really added to completeness of the dining experience at Shizusan and the menu card helped too! 

I had mentioned ‘notes’ in the menu in the earlier paragraph. Well, many of the dishes in the menu came with pictures and little stories on how on they originated, and I enjoyed reading them while I waited for my food. 

I smiled in agreement, for example, when I read the Singapore chilli sauce description which said that while the name says ‘chilli, it is not a very hot dish. It indeed isn’t. It is a dish coloured with ketchup which Singaporeans concocted to make American tourists feel good about having chillis, while the dish is actually temperate enough for them to eat and not really hot!

Even the menu design can make such a difference to ones dining experience at a place.

When I got up and left after my meal, I realised why folks had praised the place so much. The fact that my experience was from a year after it was launched, spoke well about the consistency of the Shizusan

Lunch done, I got the shoes that I was looking for in the first shop that I went to, Clarks. That’s my kind of malling!

Advantage Eatigo 

My lunch bill came to Rs 1,750 (1 starter, 1 main & a rice, April 2018). Thanks to the Eatigo discount, this came down to Rs 875 after adjusting for taxes and service charges.

I was quite thrilled with the concept and I definitely am going to look out for more such deals here on the platform and make the most of the non-peak hours where the discounts are at their highest.

Note: This is an anonymous review and the meal was paid for by me. The post was done in association with Eatigo. 

This is the link to download for the Eatigo app. Please add the promo code Insta Food to it. 

Appendix: Snapshots from the Shizusan menu card