A different take on the much exploited Chinese Food Paradox in Pune !
Rating – 4/5
Date of Visit – 9th March 2016
So here I was at the Oriental abode of Shizusan where you could expect to have a different take on Chinese (not Indo-Chinese), Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and other Pan Asian Cuisines. Having spent considerable time in HongKong and Vancouver (having a considerable Chinese presence) and not having a liking for the authentic Chinese food I was a bit unsure about the experience to follow.
I can definitely say that the food they offer is definitely not Chindian but is more towards the authentic side of preparations but is still prepared considering Indian sensibilities in mind to a certain extent as I could experience a comfortable level of spiciness in some of the hot plates that were on offer. Not that I minded it in-fact those were the very preparations I ended up gobbling the most ! However if I were to compare it with some of the stuff I had in HK or Vancouver, the level of blandness and rather awful smells of sea-food based items I had to endure this was a pleasant experience for sure.
As confirmed by Prekshaa (who handles Marketing) they have tried to give Pune a taste of Pan Asian Cuisine but the focus is not too much to suit the Indian Palate but ever so slightly with a twist and I can vouch for that is indeed the case as per my aforementioned comparison.
Location & Ambience – Located on the Upper Ground floor of Phoenix Market City, it is right besides the 212 Cafe (from the same Management) and offers both a plush indoor and a rather casual outdoor seating. In this weather it’s preferrable to sit comfortably inside and enjoy a hearty meal with some interesting artifacts doting the walls and while you’re waiting for your order to fulfill you need to spend some time for the brilliantly conceptualized Food Menu that outlines the tales of their mascot Shizu-San (Shizu – Name of the food traveller and in Japanese you suffix the Salutation as a token of honor which is what San is).
The menu lists the offerings in order of Cuisines as Shizusan’s Travel tale starts from Beijing and culminates at Day 215 in Thailand. The menu is quite varied starting with the dumplings and dimsums Shizusan learned in China, through to the types of Sushi he mastered in Japan and the Rice and Noodles based delicacies and desserts Shizusan learnt in Thailand. I did enjoy reading it to a certain point and then of-course the food arrived and eventually couldn’t get back reading the rest as the food acquired my complete attention.
Food & Drinks – The customized menu for the event comprising of 30+ items looked to me like a Daddy of all food tasting sessions in a while and consequently I limited myself based on the priorities of my eating palate which is not generally inclined towards Asian Cold plates styled preparations.
Mocktails – They’re in the process of getting the alcohol license but they have good options in Mocktails which anyway would have been my choice since I am a strict Non Alcoholic and it was a Welcome change to see the fellow foodies having the same drinks as I was having 🙂
The drinks I enjoyed the most were On the Beach and Thai Thai Mocktails.
I am going to categorize the review of Food items as Fair enough, Hits and Misses and what just can’t be missed as below:
Fair enough bites :
Vegetable Chui Chow – Dumplings of Tofu, Mushroom and roasted peanuts was pretty Ok if a little bland but I guess it stuck to the way it’s supposed to be prepared so no issues.
Quinoa Maki – A type of Sushi constituting pickled vegetables had good amount of flavors and went well with other spicier items like the Poached Chicken Dimsums.
Others that were worth a one time try were the Edamame, Petit Pois & Truffle Oil and Crystal Vegetables – steamed and vegetable variants of dimsums and Shizusan’s 17 Ingredient Signature Slaw.
Poached Chicken Dimsums – Dimsums filled with minced chicken and other vegetables served in a tangy sauce, after the initial servings of cold plates this was my true savior and I just loved it.
Shizusan’s Chicken Soup Dumplings – This is nothing like that I have tasted before, dumplings filed with steaming hot soup (it really is steaming hot) along with minced chicken and shiitake mushrooms. As a directive you need to first make a tear using fork or chopsticks and then you can eat and drink it or drink and eat it as you like it 🙂
Vietnamese Watermelon Salad – Being a carnivore Salad wasn’t something I looked forward to eating but the taste was sweet and sour with a bit of crunch. It was so good that it could qualify for a good dessert option as well 😉
Pepper Garlic Mushrooms – Aptly spiced the big sized crunchy mushrooms went really well with the Mocktails.
Chilli Celery Cottage Cheese – There’s just one word for this – Awesome !! The preparation had some delicious seasoning while the Paneer had a bit of a crunchy layer outside while inside it was of melt in the mouth texture. This was one preparation I ate and enjoyed the most, slurp….
Malay Style Chicken Satay – This was the good old Chicken Satay preparation and it was prepared the way it’s supposed to be, no complaints here.
Asparagus Tempura – I am not a big Sushi fan by any stature of imagination but I did try this one and I really liked it, perhaps the only reason why I can try more varieties of Sushi in future now. The Asparagus was crunchy and the overall preparation had a tender yet crunchy bite to it with a lot of accompanying flavors. A word of caution about the accompanying Wasabi, kindly take very very small portion if you’re new to the recipe as it produces notorious vapors upon eating that hit you in the nasal passage instead of the tongue and can be an awkward experience to say the least for the first timer.
Pulled Chicken Bun – As the name suggests the pulled variety of preparation is gaining popularity wherein the meat/chicken is cooked/simmered on slow flame till the time the chicken pulls easily from the bones. The resultant are threads of chicken meat which were then put together with a tangy seasoning into a soft bun, this dish actually came off really well and was easily one of my favorites.
Hot Stone Rice – With bits and pieces of Chicken and egg sprayed all over the rice, the preparation was pretty good and is a good candidate to wash down with Thai curries.
Desserts – All the three Desserts Tiramisu Asia, Lychee & Date Wontons and Peanut Butter Pie (the peanut taste can be moderated a bit) were pretty good and were enjoyed by everyone alike.
Pattani Lamb Chops (first in the image above), Minced Chicken Kaprow, and Lamb Suimai – All these dishes actually suffered from a strong pungent smell that I couldn’t ignore and which unfortunately over-powered the flavors. I would still say the Pattani Lamb chops were the better of three but still had a bit of raw/pungent smell of meat.
What just can’t be missed ? Poached Chicken Dimsums, Vietnamese Watermelon Salad, Chilli Celery Cottage Cheese and Tiramisu are some of the best items and I can have them day in and day out gladly 🙂
Service – Since most of these dishes were new to most of us, the Service part was very important and to help matters out we had the able company of SukhManjeet Singh at our Table. When a table has around 8-10 ever enthusiastic foodies and you have a long menu to serve things can get chaotic at one point or the other. However SukhManjeet was exceptional in handling all our chores and did his best to help us all out with the Menu and the dishes that were being served. I am sure till the time he’s manning the Restuarant’s service management, chances of anything going awry are next to none 🙂
Value for Money – The value for Money factor is going to be dependent on an individual’s perspective here, it’s not moderately priced to be honest but some of the ingredients used in these recipes for instance Wasabi are actually not very cheap either. I found the Sushi preparations and Rice/Noodles to be reasonably priced in terms of quantity, a sizeable meal for two should set you back by 1200-1600 bucks depending on your appetite and your specific choice of preparations.
In a nutshell I enjoyed my outing at Shizusan and liked most of the stuff that was served, time to say a special thanks to Team Carpe Diem – Pracey, Shivangi, Amrita and Minoti. A special word of mention for Prekshaa who provided the insight and motivation behind Shizusan – the brand and engaged all of us with two little Shizusan dolls. I almost ended up dropping one off the table while being inventive with my photography skills and God knows what hell would have broken loose had it actually happened 😉