Sushi Kai – Jawatte Rd, Colombo 5
Vegan Japanese food? ‘Pffffft……’ you would say as the nation’s cooking is deeply rooted in seafood and is perhaps one of the least likely vegan friendly cuisines in the world. However, if you can look past the Sushi and Sashimi, you would see that Japanese food really comprises of rice, seaweed, vegetables, soy products and mushrooms – all that is vegan.
There is something always fishy about Japanese cuisine and that is the fish based seasoning that is used abundantly to flavour the dishes be it in soups, broths or dipping sauces.
However, it is not impossible to find vegan/vegetarian friendly Japanese food.
Feeling quite adventurous, the Meatless Monday team comprising of Ramesh, Thadsha and I trotted over to Sushi Kai, located at the corner of Jawatte Rd and Thimbirigasya Rd. The restaurant has since opened another branch just a few doors away and that is where our table was set. Interestingly, the main kitchen is located at the other restaurant and we were quite skeptical about service time.
Sushi Kai was recommended by a number of my vegetarian friends and I was looking forward to the experience as we were seated in an already bustling restaurant.
Our server, was extremely helpful once he realized we were looking at vegan options, offered to check with the chef if their batters, broths and sauces would contain any meat or fish. Despite being very busy, he took an inordinately long time to take our order patiently and cheerfully. So the service was excellent.
Our drinks arrived first. Along with a pot of green tea, Ramesh ordered the restaurant’s signature drink – Kai Glass containing ginger and lemongrass, I had the Kai Lime and Ginger and Thadsha played it safe with watermelon. Ramesh found the Kai Glass ‘interesting’, while both Thadsha and I loved our drinks.
The food was served nice and warm despite our reservations. Clearly, the distance from the restaurants does not deter serving time and the staff were busy bees.
We started off with a Miso Bowl (Rs 300) and was assured the broth was vegan with no other flavourings apart from the miso which is a fermented soy. The Miso Soup has a life of its own dancing in the bowl where thermal convection happens right before your eyes. (This happens when the heat loss at the top of the dish makes the cells denser than those below them, so they fall back down into the liquid where they get warm again. It happens with all hot liquid, just that the miso consistency makes it a visible delight. And YES, google is my friend.) With wee cubes of tofu, seaweed, a smattering of sesame seeds and spring onions this was delicate on the palate. We all loved it, especially Thadsha. I was inspired to make a gif out of it. You are welcome.
The Veg Roll (Rs 600) served yellow and red bell pepper, cucumber, shitake mushrooms, and cream cheese, topped with the wasabi and ginger these rolls were irresistible. This was the only vegetarian dish we ordered.
The onions, aubergines, pumpkin, sweet potato and parsley of the Tempura (Rs 600) were coated in a vegan batter specifically made for us. A surprise for me was the thinly sliced ladies fingers in the crispy batter. A truly pleasant surprise. Crispy, crunchy and quite a large serving, it was pure bliss. I salivate as I am typing away.
Our chosen carbs came in the form a delicately seasoned garlic rice (Rs 480). Topped with spring onions and sesame seeds it was the perfect accompaniment to the Teriaki Tofu (Rs 460) and Teppanyaki Shitake Mushrooms (Rs. 590).
These dishes were truly amazing with the flavours just bursting in our mouths. There was a collective sigh as we ate and silence on my part as I concentrated on the food. These came highly recommended and I could not agree more.
The sauce of the Teriyaki Tofu was pure Umami heaven. I wondered if it contained oyster sauce, but I was assured that they had not. The Teppanyaki Shitake Mushroom teamed with the lime that accompanied the dish was absolutely yummy.
To end the meal, we wanted to try the banana fritters on the dessert menu but unfortunately, it was not available on that day. So we let it be. But they do serve a fried brownie and a yummy green tea ice cream that is worth tasting.
The Menu at Sushi Kai has quite a number of vegan and vegetarian options making it a place that caters to both vegan and non-vegan, making it an ideal restaurant for friends and family to spend time together. Speak to the serves and they will help you.
Pasan, the owner of the restaurant mentioned that this was a key factor in the restaurant as both his wife and best friend were vegan. Apparently owning a non-vegan friendly restaurant is not an option for him. Lucky us. He was also quite keen on talking about sauces they use saying he prefers not to always use vegan versions of traditional seafood based sauces as they contain artificial flavourings and therefore prefers to use with natural vegan flavours. Health over taste is always a wise option.
He also hopes to extend the menu and add further options for vegans and vegetarians – a choice we heartily agree.
Do we recommend Sushi Kai? Yes, of course. Drop by and let us know what you think.
Until food brings us together again – this is Suramya bidding you a TTFN. (Ta Ta For Now)