Shizusan, the long awaited and much talked about Asian Pop Bistro spear headed by Chef Paul Kinny is here. After a spectacular gastronomic experience at 212 All Day Café & Bar earlier last year, I had high expectations of Shizusan. And then this week, I was graced with an invite to check out the menu here.
Chef Paul Kinny is an energetic, high octane personality who puts his heart and soul in his food. And he cares genuinely about vegetarians. As Chef Paul says, he designs the vegetarian menu first to ensure us veggies don’t get the short end of the stick. And that is music to the ears of this vegetarian.
Shizu (San being a Japanese honorific like the Hindi ‘Ji’) is a traveler who set out on a tour of Asian countries. He sampled food wherever he went, and the menu is almost like a story of his travels. You will find a wide Pan Asian representation with Malaysian, Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese selections apart from the Chinese food that is ubiquitous around here.
Let’s not mince any more words and get to the food.
I love dimsum or dumplings by any other name, and the menu offers almost 8-10 different types of vegetarian dumplings. The clear winner for me was the Edamame, Petite Pois & Truffle Oil, stuffed with a light pea and edamame mixture with a hint of wasabi. The dumpling is made with potato starch and is lustrous and light. The water chestnut and chive dumpling was crunchy and sweet, and also a nice change from the usual fillings. Every dumpling on the menu has interesting fillings like tofu, shitake mushrooms, chestnuts, zucchini, pokchoy etc. making them all worth a try.
Moootails, Shizusan’s version of mocktails helped in washing down all these delicate dimsums. The Thai Thai was the clear favorite at the table.
The Cold Small Plates section brings you some vibrant salads. Eat these as a light appetizer or pair them with a noodle or curry dish. Shizusan’s 17 ingredient Signature Slaw kept me guessing the different ingredients, and satisfied my slaw craving. Other must trys are the Som Tam Salad or the Thai Style Papaya Salad and the Vietnamese Water Melon Salad which is the chef’s Asian twist on the conventional watermelon-feta salad.
Pepper Garlic Mushrooms thrilled me to bits. This is generally a popular prawn dish and we rarely get a vegetarian version. Be prepared for the hot peppers to warm your throat, but like every dish on the menu, the heat is balanced with a hint of sweetness.
The Thai Spiced Lotus Stems were another novelty for me, and they had a nice chewy texture. I could munch on these forever. The Chili Celery Cottage Cheese is cooked in Sichuan peppers and Chinese wine and makes your paneer taste completely different than typical.
The Maki Rolls are a must try for vegetarians. There are about 8 different selections on the menu, each more interesting than the other. Sriracha Blush came topped with daubs of the hot sauce, garnished with an exotic flower. If that doesn’t make you feel you are in a special place, I don’t know what will. The Asparagus Tempura Roll offers a nice textural contrast with crispy asparagus in the roll. The Quinoa Maki and Three Mushroom Maki are on my list for next time.
If you’re a soup fanatic, Shizusan brings you Pho from Vietnam, another item which is on my list to try.
Baos are another item which may be new for Punekars, although there is suddenly an influx of them on Asian restaurant menus. It is new for me! Bao is a steamed bread and it is served stuffed somewhat like a taco. The Crispy Portobello Bao was nice but I was more taken by the breaded portobellos which I could just eat on their own.
What about noodles and rice, you say. Isn’t that what we expect when we are craving Asian food? The Phad Thai Noodles were perfectly balanced and seasoned just right, unlike the overly saucy, sour stuff I have eaten at other places in the city.
The Thai Red Curry came in a generous portion in a big stone bowl. It was thick and creamy and flavored delicately, and I loved it. I am pretty picky about my Thai Curry that way. This one has a curry paste made from scratch.
The Hot Stone Rice deserves special mention. The bowl is made with lava stone so it can be heated to really high temperatures and it stays hot for a long time, at least until it is at your table. The fried rice is brought to your table and the server pours sauce in front of you and mixes the rice. The lower layer of rice crisps up due to the hot bowl, and you can keep stirring it so that you get some crispy rice every time you serve yourself from the bowl. Check out this cool video of Hot Stone Rice at Shizusan. ( Incidentally, do you know my book Rice Bowl is a #1 Best Seller on Amazon.com?)
What of your sweet tooth? The Tirmaisu Asia is a green tea tiramisu with a slightly different flavor. It was moist and sweet but by this time, I was too stuffed to do it justice. The Peanut Butter Pie is like Snickers on a plate, a must try for peanut butter lovers. The filling is super light and fluffy and so heavenly, you have to taste it to believe it.
They have coconut ice cream too which is on my list for next time.
Shizusan brings us a magnificent Pan Asian experience under one roof. There is pretty much everything you can wish for from Asian cuisine on the menu. There are several gluten free options too, and vegetarians are very well taken care of. The ambience is energetic with the right motifs, and the food is exceptional with tremendous attention to detail in terms of taste and presentation.