After winning hearts in Japan, USA, and Thailand, Japanese restaurant Mensho Tokyo arrives in New Delhi’s Greater Kailash. It serves an array of hot ramen, zensai or small course dishes, salads packed with umami, satiating raisubōru or rice bowls, and drinks and desserts too. We pay a visit to ring in the winter season on a hot note. By Rashima Nagpal
I have not been to Japan yet. But I can totally picture myself taking the Shinkansen from one prefecture to another, roaming around the cities in subways, sauntering through the streets, in search of the best of yatai (food stalls) and Murakami-esque cafes, bars, and jazz clubs. A sincere noodle fan, I can’t wait to get my hands on ramen in Japan. Till that happens, I find comfort in the maki and soba I get wherever I go.
In my latest jaunt, I visit Mensho Tokyo, a sleek-new Japanese restaurant that has opened in Delhi’s Greater Kailash, alongside well-known dining venues such as Sidecar and Fig & Maple close to the M-Block market. Mensho Tokyo is the brainchild of Chef Tomoharu Shono, who opened his first restaurant in Tokyo back in 2005. Over the years, his modest ramen-shop experiment has transformed into a chain of eight outposts in Japan, two in the Unites States (one in San Francisco and another in San Rafael), one in Thailand’s capital city Bangkok, and now one in India too. It is all thanks to Delhi-based pastry chef Vidushi Sharma and her businessman husband Viren Khuller, who decided to bring Mensho Tokyo home. They’ve personally eaten at all of the Mensho Tokyo outlets around the world and as Khuller testifies, “I don’t know how they do it but the flavours are more or less the same everywhere!” To replicate the experience in Delhi, Chef Shono himself flew down to train the kitchen team here.
I arrive at the Greater Kailash outpost for lunch. The restaurant looks unassuming—it is spread lengthwise in a cosy 30-seater arrangement, the colour palette is earthy with beige walls, wooden tables, and classic cane chairs with woven wicker. At the heart of the setting is a long community table (fit for a group of 10-12 people) adjoining the kitchen, with white andons (traditional wood-framed, paper-sided lamps) hanging overhead. It reminds me of Japan’s intimate omakase restaurants, as seen in documentaries. I resort to a table for two and order away.
It starts with a refreshing Gunsberg ginger beer; the restaurant plans on serving sake once the liquor license arrives but for now they have a handful of interesting non-alcoholic beverages including kombucha, Japanese iced tea, and grapefruit ale. Then arrives Peanut Yasai Hiyashi, which translates to handmade noodles tossed in a peanut and mangetout dressing. A julienne of cucumber and carrot give a nice crunch to this buttery-soft cold noodle salad. I can’t stop munching on the sticky chilli-garlic edamame pods while my gyoza waits on the table. Filled with a juicy vegetable stuffing (chicken and pork varieties also available), the pan-fried dumplings are as crispy, succulent, and heart-warming as they ought to be. I haven’t even got to the main course—the ramen, the piece de resistance at Mensho Tokyo—and I’ve decided that I am coming back for more. Other appetisers on the menu include a dish of enoki mushrooms, lotus root, eggplant, spinach, sweet potato, and wasabi aioli; a plate of lightly sauteed pink oyster mushrooms in butter, ginger, and scallions; prawns tossed in a secret ‘dynamite’ sauce; sweet potato fries topped with chashu pork (or tender pork belly) bits, kewpie mayonnaise, nori or seaweed, and spicy togarashi.
The ramen arrives while Khuller and I are busy chatting about sushi and how it has always had a more serious reputation in Japanese cuisine. At Mensho Tokyo, however, ramen is king. It comes in different flavour combinations. You have the classic Miso Dashi Ramen made up of a clear shiitake broth, silken tofu, bok choy, edamame, wakame, and gluten free noodles at Mensho. There are two vegan varieties of ramen with a base of kombu (dried kelp) soup and different condiments. Similarly, wholesome chicken, pork, lamb, and prawn ramen are also on the menu—as they are at any other ramen restaurant in town.
What sets Mensho Tokyo apart are two things. Firstly, besides the typical clear broth, Mensho makes a rich creamy broth with almond milk; it lends a nutty note to the umami-packed bowls. And secondly, the restaurant gives you the choice of soup-less ramen or mazesoba. Now purists might frown but I can vouch for what I have: Vegan Mazesoba, made up of homemade noodles, vegan chilli oil, scrambled soya, fried garlic, nuts, chives, spring onions, and micro-greens. I also try a similar combination with the creamy broth and I have to say, I cannot tell one better than the other. Instead, I would like to declare the delicate, melt-in-your-mouth, handmade udon noodles that Mensho Tokyo makes for each of its ramen bowls, as the ultimate winner.
Address: M 72, near Blue Tokai, Greater Kailash II, Greater Kailash, New Delhi, Delhi 110048
Timings: Lunch (12:30 to 3:30 pm); Dinner (6:30 to 11 pm); closed on Tuesdays.
Price for two: INR 1,400