How -- and why -- do Asian eateries promise to do it all? Sure, the world’s full of California rolls and vegetable Manchurian (and all the cod-Asian food that exists between the ends of that spectrum), but it’s hard to find an authentic Asian restaurant, especially a South-East Asian one, built to scale.
We started this monologue in case “Asian shophouse and bar” Shizusan, from the team that brought us the lovely 212 All-Good, got it wrong. They haven’t, but we thought you’d appreciate the big picture anyway.
Straight off the bat, don’t kid yourself into thinking they’ve replicated the vibe of a traditional family-run shophouse in the middle of the city’s most popular mall. However, they’ve done a nice, cosy job of trying. Spread out over two floors, Shizusan has a Japanese-themed lower level with a ramen or sushi-bar austerity to it. Up the abacus-like stairwell, a “house converted to a bar” buzzes much louder, with music, bright paintings and postcard frames.
Hungry, and having noticed the head chef doing his rounds at the lower level, we head back down for a round of dim sum that might just be as good as Royal China’s best. This compliment is not offered lightly. Across the -- pretty wide -- board of shrimp har gao, pork pot stickers, vegetable crystal dumplings and edamame and truffle dumplings, we find flawless wrappers, expertly balanced between al dente-chewy and melt-in-your-mouth soft.
Unlike at many other eateries, the addition of unorthodox ingredients doesn’t confuse the flavours at all. Truffle oil perfectly enhances the sweet buttery-ness of edamame; BBQ pork adds a full extra dimension of meatiness to the pot-stickers; even the standard carrot + cabbage + corn medley in vegetarian dumplings is brightened by the addition of squash and fresh dill.
Adobo pork, a stack of neatly piled cubes of belly, braised and glazed in a sweet and tangy mix of soy and vinegar, practically vanishes on the tongue like a nice bite of Wagyu.
Tuna(p) The Radio
From the bar, we pick a Bhavanagari chilli and grapefruit-infused Chairman’s Negroni (the chilli beautifully cuts the bitterness of the Campari); or the colour-changing Hattori Hanzo, a delightful and ingeniously non-molecular take on the Margarita, with the addition of some butterfly pea flower tea.
Round two features repeat orders of the sashimi platter (which typically comes with tuna, salmon and our favourite, the scallop). They’re not breaking down entire fish -- only using imported loins and fillets -- but it’s clear that average product is being compensated for by good storing and defrosting technique, and great knife-work. Also, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more generous portion of sashimi at this price.
If you’re less adventurous about raw food, try the lobster stuffed and tenderloin-wrapped surf ‘n’ turf roll which we ate with pleasure.
Peanut, Butter + Belly
The small plates are so satisfying that we choose to leave mains for another visit. For our final flourish, we pick brie and sambal wontons, stuffed full of just-one-more-bite feelings: the effect isn’t too far from the sensation your local dosa anna’s Mysore masala chutney and melted Amul cheese gives you. Peking duck bao is even more accessible, a comfort-food take on the usually dainty duck and pancake combo. Adobo pork, a stack of neatly piled cubes of belly, braised and glazed in a sweet and tangy mix of soy and vinegar, practically vanishes on the tongue like a nice bite of Wagyu. Washed down with a round of Cocky Roosters -- a perky, herby take on the spicy Michelada -- we don't miss afters at all.
This is a truly satisfying meal, more so when we take into consideration how easy it would have been for things to go wrong at this scale (and in this mall). We get just what the restaurant promises -- an expansive and accessible tour of East Asia, with some of the soul of a shophouse.
Getting there: Shizusan, Skyzone, ground floor, High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel, call 7045004138. A meal for two with a round of cocktails costs approximately Rs 4,500; add Rs 2,000 if that’s going to include lots of sushi.
Accessibility: Ground-floor entry and a spacious layout, but restroom access is up a flight of stairs.
bpb reviews anonymously and pays for its own meals.
This review was conducted by Auroni Mookerjee, copywriter, and chef at Grandma Mookerjee’s Kitchen and The Curry Brothers.
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