Have you ever tried dining amidst greenery? With the chirping birds taking care of the background music and fresh unpolluted air far from the hustle and bustle of the city replacing the air freshener soaked recycled packets of oxygen? Well, now you can enjoy the dining and forest bathing right here in Kolkata, which is pretty popular in Japan. This forest bathing practice generally means being in the presence of trees and it is very helpful for our overall well-being and happiness. The amount of solace that you get after couple of hours of forest bathing gives you enough fuel to get back into the rat-race for next couple of weeks or months maybe. So, this much needed eco therapy is now available at our very own Eco Park (Newtown, Kolkata) and the place I am talking about is called Japanese Garden, which also houses the Japanese restaurant, Fuji. This is the second branch of Fuji in Kolkata and in the last couple of years this name has become synonymous to finest Japanese food available in Kolkata.
You can enter this Japanese forest or garden through the Gate number-1 of Eco Park, it has come up on 3.5 acres of land next to the central lake, and in fact it lies on the banks of the lake. There is a nominal entry fee to this Japanese garden which is more than worth it. As soon as you enter this place you will feel a sudden change in everything surrounding you, all the elements are so different from what you generally see in this city of joy!
A huge statue of Lord Buddha welcomes you as you walk past it. The Japanese restaurant, Fuji is very close to this place and it is a standalone single storied building in itself with permanent outdoor seating arrangements, which I absolutely loved! Just in front of Fuji, you will find the fascinating bamboo wind chime maze which I really loved!
So, before settling down at the restaurant, I along with my blogger mates decided to take a walk and explore the unmatched beauty of this garden. The place is packed with flowers, lovely fragrance, special trees, shrubs, a three layered pagoda, prayer wheels, monk sculptures, lakes, bamboo plantations and yes the finest Japanese food that you will get in Kolkata. By the way, seeing these prayer wheels inside the monastery made me somewhat super excited, I never thought there is such a peaceful monastery right here in Kolkata with such authentic prayer wheels! For a moment it skipped my mind that I am still in Kolkata! I learnt that inside each wheel are thousand prayers written on a paper. So rotating a wheel is equivalent to saying the thousand prayers!
Overall this monastery can’t be missed, though only the ground floor of this place is only open to public. Close to the monastery you will find the Torii, it is an amazing corridor comprising of cylindrical red pillars on both sides joined at the top. Torii means abode of birds and if you take exactly sixty steps (inside the torii) it is said that you can enjoy good luck.
After this you can walk a bit to reach the small lake where you find a Wishing Bowl where you can drop a coin. And it is said that it’s being watched by the Gods, so you can later pick up the now-blessed coin and keep it as a token of good luck! The lake has some adjoining sculptures depicting some story of a demi-god and his pet lions.
There was also a gate called the Moon Gate close to this place and it is considered auspicious for newly-weds to walk under. There are several other narrow walkways in this garden so that a person can walk alone in solitude which is a form of meditation to calm down the unpredictable minds.
After all these sight seeing our appetite got whetted enough to get back to Fuji! And we were all set for a wholesome delicious Japanese meal. The place has dining arrangements both inside and outside the restaurant building. The outdoor seating arrangement is again divided into two parts. We chose to settle down at the outer most seats which are basically cemented slabs in two layers acting as tables and chairs! This place is perfect for dining on an overcast or maybe a bit windy day or during the winters. You can surely ditch the air conditioned comfort (inside the restaurant) and choose to dine at this outdoor seating area in the lap of the nature! The ambiance inside the restaurant is warm, neat and pretty pleasantly decorated with framed Japanese pictures on the walls. The area is not that huge though but good enough to spend some relaxed time over some great food.
To start with, we ordered fresh lime soda since we were pretty thirsty after roaming around the forest so much! You may also try the Momo Soup here or some Jasmine tea maybe if you like it. The first item to be served was the Sushi with that soya dip! It was the Prawn Tempura Maki which I am sure non-sushi lovers will also like to have. It looked beautiful and had 4 pieces in that platter. And it had the prawn tempura rolled in that layer of sticky rice. Just savor it with a dip in that soya sauce, along with a bit of wasabi and a bite of ginger! Perfect!!
Next we were served the gem of an appetizer, and it was called the Fish Kushiage. The goodness of fresh Bhetki will surely impress you. The bhetki on the skewers were crumb fried leaving the fish flaky and pretty juicy inside while the outer coating was golden yellow with a lovely crispy kiss to it! The flavors have been kept pretty mild and soothing, there is no strong influence of any spices or flavors, like authentic Japanese dishes actually should be. Just dip it in that sweet chilli tomato sauce and savor with your eyes closed! It can’t get any better!
Next came the main course that comprised of Tori Yaki Meshi and Tori No Teriyaki. The Tori Yakimeshi actually looks like a simple fried rice but it’s way more than that! You won’t get something similar to this Japanese Fried Rice anywhere else in the city. The aroma this rice had to offer made me fall in love with this beauty! Believe me, it’s absolutely heavenly. Rice is a staple for Japanese meals, maybe like Bengalis they eat it two or three times a day (at least I am a mad fan of rice, in general!) and Yaki meshi is actually a byproduct of that eating habit. Yaki means fried and meshi means cooked rice; while as we all know, tori means bird or poultry. Yaki meshi is actually made when there is left-over plain cooked rice which could easily be turned into a meal! That partly sticky rice is tossed with veggies, chicken and sauces and served as a fresh meal. The balance of colors in this dish is very important to note, the chopped vegetables are added accordingly. This is surely a must-try item if you want to go for rice at Fuji.
Along with the Yaki meshi, we went for the Tori No Teriyaki, and it’s lovely to have it as a side with this Japanese fried rice. From the name only, you can guess this is a chicken based dish and you can also call it Chicken Teriyaki. I absolutely loved the presentation of this dish and believe me, it looked mighty appetizing! And I love the balance of sweet and salt in teriyaki, so this dish had to be one of my favorites. This is a mild pan-seared grilled chicken breast tossed with teriyaki sauce and thickened to give it an amazingly flavorful balance. I guess, after taking it out from the pan it was cooled down, sliced and served with sesame seeds on top! It had a thin layer of the skin on top which tasted absolutely fabulous!! Really words are not enough to dissect and analyze this brilliance, so I will stop describing it any further! Just one thing, please do not miss this.
In the desserts, we went for Green Tea Ice cream which helped us end this meal on a perfect note! This is one typical Japanese ice cream flavor and broadly speaking it is pretty popular in Eastern parts of Asia. The mild sweet ice cream has an aroma of green tea and is pretty thick maybe for the condensed milk that is used to prepare this. Previously I had tried the Wasabi Ice cream at Fuji, but I guess I will go for this Green Tea Ice cream instead next time, when it comes to desserts.
The service was prompt and warm. The servers are well informed and friendly as well. I will surely rate this place high. Maybe I will give it full marks for the unique natural setting, serene one-of-a-kind dining experience and insanely good food. Surely, this experience satisfied all my five senses. Apart from the touch and feel experience, I saw some peacefully dazzling colors and contours, heard the monastery bells, inhale the mild fragrance from incense sticks and tasted the finest Japanese cuisine at Fuji! I really can’t ask for anything else!
P.S. The writer was invited to this place for tasting and review purpose. Thanks First Idea PR!