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12.04.2018

We were already in when we saw the ‘drink sake, stay soba’ neon sign that made Yuzu an instant darling in the visual press. Then, when we called and spoke to a manager who really knew what he was talking about, it only took us a few hours to get our act together and head to what’s being called the city’s first sake bar.

Once a place you thought of only to get your gadgets repaired and your cushions re-upholstered, Nehru Place has transformed thanks to establishments like this intimate, sexy, izakaya-style sake bar. Hidden behind a thick curtain – maybe made to invoke a busy street in ramen capital Fukuoka - Yuzu is a gem for Delhi standards. In the spirit of Japan’s post-work watering hole culture - the traditional raison d’etre for sake bars - we head there just after sunset, expecting to see sharks-in-suits winding down. But, it’s just us at 7 pm; the Nehru Place metro is still brimming with the sweaty hustle and bustle of software engineers trying to get home.

The thing we love the most about Yuzu’s design is its size: although much bigger than a Japanese sake bar, its contained in a lovely way, making eye-contact between strangers in the night a seamless affair. A large globe chandelier hangs above comfy, sink-in-deep couches, and a large vista of a less-hectic Nehru Place fills a window. The lighting is seductive, the music is Ed Sheeran sing-a-long, and its easy to imagine yourself hopping from one table to the next, sip of soju here, chug of Kirin there.

A server who greets with a warm Kon'nichiwa is quick to seat us; he’s charming, professional, and gets good-smiley after we order our second carafe of sake. We find that he’s not only someone who takes care of our every need, but also a sake-man himself. He patiently guides us through the menu, explaining that everything is served chilled, and we’re likely to love the orchid, citrus flavors – an assumption that turns out to be bang on. Here, the sake comes in large ceramic bowls that resemble something a seven-star spa would make you to dip your feet in before a million-dollar pedicure. Two small glasses, perfect for a slip between the cup and the lip, accompany the presentation. Thanks to these props, the ritual that follows is transportive – if not to Ebisu, at least to a luxurious situation that we’re very happy to be in.

The sake is eye-glittery good; a carafe goes down smoother than cream on cream. We’d be lying if we told you we could taste the floral notes, but true to the description, we do feel like we’re ingesting a cold-pressed garden in a little teacup. We haven’t felt more alive all week.

And with the ramen they bring out next, alive slips in to divine. This writer gets the creamy, milky, pearly bowl with pale, thin noodles. Atop of this sea of richness, sits a pile of negi – thinly sliced green onion – like a mermaid’s delicate jewelry. We savor every bite, especially with the little side: handmade, miso-flavored toasts, which come with a glossy green Japanese guacamole.

And even though we think we’ve won the battle, our partner thinks she’s way ahead with her ramen bowl, and she is. Hers is a spicy version, clearer than mine, with voluptuous chunks of tempura. Guzzle-worthy, the combined flavors of dashi, soy, mirin, and all-round freshness have us silent for the rest of the meal; words turn to intermittent knowing glances.

We’ll back, back a thousand times. For the yakitori, the Japanese mayo, the sake bombs – to be killed with a handcrafted, chopstick-shaking earthquake - and our newfound love: bubble-bath worthy sake, to be had on land: between meetings, between dates, between living.

Getting there: R-9, Upper floor, Epicuria, a meal for two costs Rs. 5,000.

bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.

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