Tuesday, October 3, 2017

There’s a restaurant serving sushi in Panaji and it lets you binge on three types of sushi || The Oak Barrel, Miramar

A fairly new restaurant serving Oriental cuisine in Miramar in North Goa lets you binge on a large variety of sushi without having to take a trip to Japan! Goa doesn’t really have a lot of restaurants serving sushi, and The Oak Barrel – with a range of sushi offerings is something all sushi lovers should check out! Here why…

The Oak Barrel – located just a few meters before Miramar beach, right next to Ibaco, has been there since a year or so. The regular menu includes a bit of Oriental food, mostly a lot of Thai, with their latest introduction being an exclusive sushi menu, crafted by their team under the able guidance of their head chef who has previously worked at the Taj!

As you enter The Oak Barrel, you are greeted by a swanky bar. The backlit panel of the bar resembles flames of a grill laid with skewers, which is used to hold bottles of IFML liquor. Surrounded by high chairs, the bar is perfect to grab a drink; with an added advantage of good service and a great vibe. More of an upmarket roadside bar experience!

The two level restaurant has a very lounge feel to it. The ground floor is laid with comfortable high chairs, but once you walk past the Oak Barrel and climb the flight of stairs, you are in the lounge area. Upstairs The Oak Barrel has easy lounge chairs and couches perfect for a night out.

The centre of the lounge has a beautiful lantern and colourful paper fan installation which adds a splash of colour to the otherwise plan interiors. A look from a rectangular glass panel in the centre gives you a glimpse of the activities at the bar below.

Though they occasionally have live music events in the night, with a good selection of music (picked by the restaurant manager Nathan) playing in the background, the ambiance is great even for lunch. We chose to sit beside the window overlooking the Miramar road and sipped on a mocktail each!

The virgin cocktails Go Green and Passion Hunter were cooling and refreshing. The Go Green was a perfect blend of cucumber and green apple – very flavoursome having a distinct taste of both, the cucumber and green apple. The Passion Hunter – more of a virgin mojito with an addition of passion fruit, was refreshing and delicious. The mint added to the freshness and made it a perfect accompaniment for lunch.

Go Green and Passion Hunter 

Let’s get to the sushi now, but before that, here’s a little SUSHI GUIDE! Also, it’s time to tell you why I call this place a haven for sushi lovers – they have three varieties of sushi based on the preparation style, with a variation in seafood and vegetables. For example – let’s talk about the most commonly found one – the Maki. Also known as Maki Zushi, it’s the sushi wherein the seafood, rice and/or raw vegetables are wrapped in an edible seaweed sheet, also known as Nori.

Basically, the placement of the seaweed what makes Maki different from Uramaki. It is essentially an inside out roll. Uramaki Sushi have similar ingredients as Maki Sushi – vinegared rice, combined with varied ingredients such as chiefly seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. The filling is in the center is surrounded by seaweed, then a layer of rice, and optionally an outer coating of some other ingredients such as roe or toasted sesame seeds.

All the sushi at The Oak Barrel is served with several condiments and accompaniments. Good quality wasabi paste (a strong Japanese condiment that hits your nostrils right after it’s eaten, but doesn’t leave a hot aftertaste in your mouth), pickled ginger (also known as Gari) and soya sauce. Some of the Uramaki Sushi have crunchy toppings as well.

For example, the Chicken Tori Kachi Uramaki and Prawn Tempura Uramaki, which lets you enjoy the subtle flavours and slight crunch of panko fried crunchy chicken and crispy prawn tempura. I’m usually used to eating sushi that’s soft, so a crunchy version was definitely welcome.

Chicken Tori Kachi Uramaki and Prawn Tempura Uramaki

We tried two of the Maki Suhi as well – the classic California Roll Uramaki and Ebi Maki. The Ebi Maki was more of the regular sushi we are used to eating with bits of seasoned prawn, avocado and cucumber rolled inside the rice and completed with a seaweed. The cucumber and avocado enhanced the flavours and made it a great pick. The California Roll Uramaki, made of crabstick and avocado was absolutely delicious!

Ebi Maki and California Roll Uramaki

Coming to the next variety they have – the Nigiri Sushi, which is essentially hand pressed sushi. It’s made by pressing an oblong mound of sushi rice between the palms and layered with a slice of fish which is bound to the rice with a thin strip of seaweed. This Japanese delicacy now has a special space at The Oak Barrel!

We tried a bunch of Nigiri sushi. The first batch included Silken Tofu Nigiri Sushi and Shitake Mushroom Nigi Sushi. Even though I am not a big fan of vegetarian food, I was left appreciating the subtle flavours of the cold rice with the tofu and mushroom on top. I liked the creamy texture of the smooth and light silken tofu. The pillowy soft shitake mushroom in its meaty texture was delightful too.

Silken Tofu Nigiri Sushi and Shitake Mushroom Nigi Sushi

The next batch included the seafood variants of the Nigiri Sushi. The Prawn Nigiri Sushi and Norwegian Salmon Nigiri Sushi were every bit of awesome. Being a seafood lover that I am, I loved every bit of the lightly cooked seafood, as opposed to the raw fish in the original sushi. That being said, the chef at The Oak Barrel also makes the raw variety, just in case you wish to try it. I was happy with the lightly cooked ones though – with all the focus on the distinct flavour of the fish and prawn intermingling with the rice and condiments. At this point, I did try to dip my fish in the sushi with a chop stick, but miserably failed. The experience was delightful nonetheless.

Prawn Nigiri Sushi and Norwegian Salmon Nigiri Sushi 

How do you eat sushi? You can either use chop sticks to pick the sushi or use your hands. But you need to eat it in one bite. You can add the wasabi to the bowl of soya sauce or add it to your fish if you want some more. But make sure you dip the fish and nor the rice in the soya sauce, to avoid soaking in a lot of soya sauce. Preferably, try it without the condiments to enjoy the seasoning the chef has used and add the condiments to the next bites according to your taste. Eat a slice or two of the pickled ginger to refresh your mouth.

This indeed was a sushi overdose with a bit of sushi lessons from Nathan and the chef. Though I absolutely enjoyed my meal, I loved the dessert even more. For someone who loves coconut and desserts that have coconut in them, The Oak Barrel has the coconut crème caramel. It’s their innovative take on our favourite crème caramel, which not just changes the taste, but also the texture.

Coconut crème caramel

However, being a chocolate lover, my favourite was the chocolate brownie ice cream. When they said they have homemade ice cream, I assumed it’d be tender coconut, because generally many restaurants in Goa tend to make homemade tender coconut ice creams. But I was pleasantly surprised with the chocolate brownie ice cream which wasn’t just chocolate flavoured, but had chunks of chocolate brownie, which made it the right amount of sweet and umm… delicious! I loved. For a chocolate lover, this is bliss! And perhaps a great way to end a meal while at The Oak Barrel.

Chocolate brownie ice cream

The Oak Barrel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

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