If you got what it takes to call yourself a foodie, well then you are always on the lookout for new sojourns of your gastronomical journey and with me one such mandatory pit stop was ‘Shizusan’. I have been to 212 All Day Cafe’ the first project of Bellona Hospitality group and when i came to know that they are coming up with an Asian Pop Bistro – Shizusan, it became the next hot target to raid. Needless to say it has a relaxed, comfortable ambiance for the patrons and yet again a magical extravaganza when it comes to menu (Traditional Pan Asian dishes with a twist) – thanks to Chef Paul Kinny. Now this ain’t one of those theme restaurants that are flooding the Pune hospitality scene but certainly uses a simplistic, minimal Asian theme to define a unique dine in experience for the guests. The restaurant sports an Al fresco area and a well-defined seating capacity for about 80 people. It has a culinary theatre where in the diners get to see the freshly prepared sea food from behind the sushi bar. (Spoiler: They are waiting for their liquor license so cocktails will have to wait for a while but Chef Paul won’t let you be disappointed as you try their fantastic mock tails)
The central theme is about a character called Shizu (a hardcore foodie just like me 😉 ) who travelled across China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Malaysia, to discover the flavors of a new land and during the course of his journey devoured all the tasty treats. Now the same flavors are brought to the local kitchen but with a twist. The menu is rich with Shizusan’s travel anecdotes and Asian food traditions that lend an element of fun and interaction to the entire dining experience. The menu has been crafted with an International approach and sees the likes of Sushi including fun Maki Rolls, Sashimis & Nigiris, Dimsums, Pho, Baos, Dimsums and Dumplings, Asian Curries, Rice and Noodle Bowls to name a few.
Ok so on with the food we had. Now if i were to go about describing every dish of the splendid and lavish spread of 36 items that we had that day i will be short of words and my readers of patience so i am not gonna take the lanes and by lanes of the roller coaster ride of flavors but instead speed track you through the highway with in between stopovers. So buckle up and get ready for a flavor overload like none other…..
Dimsums and Dumplings: Edamame, Petit Pois & Truffle Oil [a classic Japanese dish with a twist of French flavor], Crystal Vegetables [translucent dumplings made from tapioca along with some crispy fresh veggies], Vegetable Chui Chow [pouches of tofu, mushroom and roasted peanuts], Prawn & Chive [tender prawn and minced chives in a classic ], Poached Chicken [pockets of minced chicken, ginger, chestnuts, and pokchoy], Lamb Suimai [filling of minced lamb, leek and coriander], Shizusan’s Chicken Soup Dumplings [steaming hot broth of minced chicken and shiitake mushrooms]
So very quickly, they were all very delicately crafted. They were authentic but along with a personalized more Indianized touch by Chef Paul so those expecting it to be an authentic Japanese or Chinese delicacy please do not walk in with a prejudiced mind set. Just savor and relish the dish as it comes and I think you won’t be one bit disappointed. Amongst the ones mentioned above I really loved the Chicken soup dumpling, for it was first – slightly different preparation, then it actually had hot steaming soup inside along with minced chicken. Classic alternative to traditional dumpling ….Simply loved the twist.
Edamame, Petit Pois & Truffle Oil
Prawn & Chive
Vegetable Chui Chow and Lamb Suimai
Poached Chicken and Chicken Soup Dumpling
Small Cold Plates: Now the menu has some known demarcation in the form of hot and cold plates, and we were lucky enough to relish both types. The cold small plates saw the likes of: Shizusan’s 17 Ingredient Signature Slaw [Pickled red onions, salted plum dressing and some Chefs’ special Ingredients], Vietnamese Watermelon Salad [Fresh radish, mint, cilantro, feta, toasted almonds in a nutty chilli and garlic soy dressin] and Tuna Carpaccio [Topped with chilies, lime, Thai fish sauce, crispy onions and burnt garlic]. Now the watermelon salad is picking up really well in the Pune dining scene but then the Vietnamese salad was simply way too ahead in the league. The moment you dig in these little wonders you are oblivious to the surrounding for a moment. The flavors are so aptly balanced, the use of ingredients was perfect and feta well it’s always been the partner in crime with watermelon so a perfect salad to start with. Now, I am not a fan of slaw myself but for all those gastronomes out there who love there slaw, you will be more than just spoilt for choice when you have this one. It’s like fulfilling every wish for slaw in just one dish. I had a fellow friend who is more into slaw and he just confirmed that one cannot ask any more from a slaw. So yet again a score. Tuna kinda took a back seat as the people were totally floored and engrossed with digging their chopsticks into all the fantastic spread laid out on the table.
Shizusan’s 17 Ingredient Signature Slaw and Vietnamese Watermelon Salad
Small Hot Plates: Even before we could take a break from all the photo session and trying to savor the delicacies, the hot small plates started making their appearance. The hot small plates had the most promising dishes for the night which included: Pepper Garlic Mushrooms [Tossed generously with Thai holy basil and Shaoxing wine, now that’s new, ain’t it?], Chilli Celery Cottage Cheese [Uses Sichuan peppers and dried red chillies], Malay Style Chicken Satay [Marinated in galangal and lemongrass with the hotness of bird’s eye chilli], Baby Back Ribs [Flavored with our homemade barbecue sauce and signature spice rub].
Mushrooms started off so well that people had to be actually urged to try the satay and ribs coming in succession. Mushrooms and cottage cheese were like Yuvrag Singh and Sharma until Baby back ribs came in as Kohli. Seriously, if there is one thing that’s making more news than Shizusan itself it has to be their baby back ribs. I was late in pouncing on the plate and there wasn’t left any within few seconds. For a moment I thought as I was trying to book train tickets for Diwali on IRCTC ;D We had to order it again to realize how yum they actually were. Cooked perfectly, meat falling off and all are understatement. Clearly they were the best that I have had till date. #AbsolutelMustHave
Satay was decent but more an amateur kid and a miss-fit between these flavor giants.
Pepper Garlic Mushrooms, Chilli Celery Cottage Cheese, Malay Style Chicken Satay and Baby Back Ribs
While we were simply not stopping at gorging these delectable and lovely eye candy dishes, we were made to realize that we were not even half way and that there were at least 35 dishes on the spread. Somehow we managed to pull ourselves together and prepped our tummies for the next wave of onslaught.
Sushis and Maki: Well what good is Asian bistro without the Sushi. Now there are well at least 11 varieties of Sushi and about 8 of Maki which is quiet a spread in itself and we could have a few of them to experience the difference varieties out there. Our menu included: Sriracha Blush [avocado, cucumber, jalapeno and cream cheese], Asparagus Tempura [crispy asparagus covered in nori and black sesame crust], Quinoa Maki [pickled veggies and seaweed with wasabi peas], Dynamite Shrimp [shrimp tempura with Sriracha mayo], Mud Crab Salad [ponzu, prawn, tobiko and baby mayo], Rainbow Maki [tuna, salmon, crab stick, cucumber, tobiko].
Quinoa Maki and Dynamite Shrimp
The two dishes that stole the show were Rainbow Maki and Asparagus Tempura. Call it for the lack of a developed palette or the whole overpowering of Asian flavors, the bloggers around; just like me weren’t too convinced by the different Sushi we had and yet all narrowed on Asparagus Tempura to be the best of the lot. There are a whole bunch of reviews out on Shizusan and you are sure to find the Tempura as one of the preferred dish in all. Preferred or not I am pretty convinced that Asparagus Tempura and Rainbow Maki are very special to the Chef atleast. The crispy Asparagus indeed was given a welcome with open mouth….Err…hands I mean…
Asparagus Tempura and Rainbow Maki
With a walkthrough of Sushi we were also in for a quick practice session on using chopsticks. Thanks to Minoti and her team from Carpe Diem. They were way too disturbed to see some of us eating sushi with fork and couldn’t resist themselves from giving a quick session. And with that what I hadn’t done in ages came all back and there I was snapping the two chopsticks together. The students all being best known for what they do – Hog on…were really good students and picked the trick pretty easily.
Soon after we were served with Bao’s – Crispy Portobello [minced cucumber, Sriracha mayo and jalapenos], Pulled Chicken Bun [Asian BBQ sauce, caramelized onions, slaw]. Now Bao’s, just like watermelon based salads, are yet another thing that’s drawing some fan following in Pune these days. Now both the Bao’s were almost spot on with using the best textured Bao’s – lite weight, puffed wonders that dissolve apart once munched on; and with their respective fillings but I preferred the pulled chicken bao a little more. Thanks to the generous use of caramelized onions which gave it a mild dash of sweetness.
Entrées: Wondering what I was mentioning all this while? Ya, me too. For the first time in life we were like please stop!! Stop this onslaught….Our warriors were breathless from all the hogging so far and could use a little break; but the waves wouldn’t stop. We were like those 300 Spartan warriors, who were crushing wave after wave of Asian delicacies. But then even the Persians called it a day (We got a small break to talk about, take a stroll may be and brace ourselves for the next battle)
So our entrees had: Stir Fried Oriental Greens [coriander, light soy and crispy garlic gravy], Steamed Thai Fish [garlic, chilli and lime dressing], Pattani Lamb Chops [Thai flavors of fresh green peppercorn, ginger and basil], Minced Chicken Kaprow [cooked in red chilli, galangal and young garlic].
Not a fan of salads and the rest didn’t made me crave as much so I rather choose to give another try to baby back ribs. So had to pass the other dishes above but I did try the Thai Fish. The fish was fresh water fish and perfectly textured. It had been drenched in a dressing of Lime and chilli garlic paste which made it tangy too. (This was by an large in my top 3 fish dishes after say lemon butter fish. Ya I like my fish tangy….so what)
Stir Fried Oriental Greens
Stemed Thai Fish and Pattani Lamb Chops
With that we went on to a little more usual dishes like: Phad Thai Noodles [Again the regular sweet–spicy flat rice noodles with a twist from Chef’s instinct], Chilli Garlic Noodles [The old school spicy noodles if you aren’t too much into Asian food just yet] and then there was also hot stone Rice.
Simply loved the Phad Thai noodles. #SafeRecommendation . The Chili garlic variant was a little different than expected but did a fair job. The hot stone rice, yet another specialty from the bistro that is very close to heart of one and all at Shizu and in which the team takes pride to serve to its clienteles. The rice was certainly different and special in its own way. Now I am not describing it any further as I don’t want to steal their thunder. Walk in and see the rice transformed live yourself.
Phad Thai and Chilli Garlic Noodles
How can any meal be complete without digging your spoons into a dessert? Sweet tooth or not we simply need that Oomph factor after a sumptuous meal to put it to a blissful ending. And so there they were, Peanut Butter Pie [Topped with chocolate ganache and roasted peanuts], Lychee & Date Wontons
[Crunchy and sweet golden brown wontons with vanilla ice cream] and Tiramisu Asia [Green tea sponge, coffee dust and creamy mascarpone]. Now I have heard and read in few cases that the desserts are not really appreciated at the place….Really? I mean how can a dessert be bad? What’s there to not like about? I loved the deserts equally well. I am not saying they were the best in town but they were pretty good. Guys, ok if any of you have been there to 212 All day you would know that I am making sense. I mean Chef Paul has created nothing less than miracles at 212 and so this cannot be bad…period….So all I would say is eat for yourself and then decide. Peanut butter Pie – now some of you must have made faces and some of you must have got excited. Should be the case as this is really loved by those who love Snickers and the likes. Since snickers get extreme reactions so would this. So if you love your snickers you would love this. Thanks to wantons here, that I don’t hate the dish any more. Last time I had had total crap in the name of wantons, so bad that they weren’t really worth of calling a wanton / a dessert or anything for that matter. (Contradicting myself, am I? Well, may be). Tiramisu Asia – Green tea sponge the name and looks weren’t too convincing but all my doubts were put to rest once I tried it.
Being a fan of snickers, I am obviously rating Peanut butter the best of three.
Tiramisu Asia, Lychee & Date Wontons and Peanut Butter Pie
So overall, had an amazing time playing the Spartans devouring and concurring waves after waves of Asian food delicacies. Unfortunately, couldn’t meet Paul that day but the staff, Preksha (Marketing manager), the ladies from Carpe and of course Shizu himself (Ya they have two play dolls of Shizu) did their very best in making us a part of the tale. That day we had first-hand feel of the various sojourns our Shizu took while going from place to place across continent and how he evolved a better cook learning from each of these pit stops on his culinary journey.
- Food: 4.5/5
- Ambience: 4.5/5
- Service: 4.5/5
- Price: Tasting Invite- N.A.
The place is amazing as an Asian Bistro with ample of options on the menu to satisfy all of your food cravings. The experience might be different from person to person owing to the fact that there are batches of Chef’s working in that kitchen and Paul won’t be available all the time. But the warm people will make sure that even if your expectations are not satisfied up to the mark at first they will make it up to you in best possible way. Just spill out the beans and they will make sure that you go back happy and contented.
Thank you team Shizu for hosting us…or should I say…..Domo Arigato !!
Dewa gokigen’yō !!