Nihonbashi is one of Colombo's most famous restaurants - they serve the best sushi in the city, fact. This is the place for Japanese fine cuisine. Their flagship restaurant, Honten, is on Galle Face Terrace, and the menu here is both extensive and expensive. But it's a beautiful venue, with Japanese style seating and a carefully cultivated zenlike ambience.
The outlet at ODEL is a sushi bar, only serving a fraction of what Nihonbashi has to offer, so eating here generally works out a bit cheaper. The Jaic outlet sits somewhere between the two - not as fancy as Honten, but it's nice and has a larger menu than ODEL.
The experience at Nihonbashi differs depending on which restaurant you go to - the Honten offers more decadence and delicacy, where taste and setting come together to give you a luxurious epicurean experience; ODEL, however, is more about a quick, delicious bite.
Each dish at Nihonbashi warrants it's own subheading, but we're trying to keep it short.
We've never once had a disappointing experience at this restaurant. Whether going there for quick sushi or a proper evening meal, it's always been consistently excellent. My favourite dish is the gyuu no tataki - this is seared raw beef served with spring onions in a delicious and tangy soy-like sauce (not sure what it is). It's one of the best things I've eaten, ever. And it's an all-consuming experience - there's a scene in Ratatouille that describes how I feel
- it's like seeing and tasting fireworks in your brain. You really need to try it, it's divine.
The sushi at Nihonbashi is also great, the best in the city - we had the tekka maki (tuna sushi) (Rs. 480 - six pcs), one salmon (Rs. 200) and one prawn nigiri (Rs. 180) and gyuu no tataki temar (Rs. 180 for two pcs - this is a slice of raw beef served over a small ball of white rice). We also had a sushi plate, the sushi ichiban (Rs. 800). All were good. I don't know much about sushi, but I'm assuming it all comes down to putting the best ingredients together. The tuna in particular is really, really good - apparently they get the export quality stuff before it goes to Japan.
At the Honten, I once had the okonomiyaki - a teppanyaki dish, kinda like a thick, filled pancake. It's got prawns, cuttlefish and other vegetables in the batter and it's topped with a mayo like sauce. What's cool about the dish is these thin shavings they put on top. I don't know what they are, but the heat from the pancake makes them move up and down, curling like butterfly wings. It's a very pretty dish, but very big and filling, so be careful if you're planning to have lots of sushi as well.
The Honten also offers alot of pricey beef dishes - like the wagyuu burger which needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance with a minimum order of two. One of YAMU's goals is to try the Kobe beef - this expensive as in another level of expensive, like eating gold. But we've heard it's amazing. If you've tried, please tell us about it, we'd like to have a vicarious taste.
The Honten provides an exquisite dining experience. It's carefully designed and decorated to make you feel calm and tranquil - very Japanese and zen. They have several private rooms, each spacious and often adjacent to a little rock garden or something of scenic beauty. The staff are friendly and attentive, and owner Darshan speaks to all customers personally to make sure they're happy. This was also the first restaurant in the world to have its menu on the iPad. It's a lovely place for a special occasion.
So it all depends on how you order. It's possible to have an affordable meal at Nihonbashi or an outrageously expensive one. The total bill for the food outlined above (plus a yakitori don, Rs. 720) came to Rs. 3000 (at Odel) for two people. And we'd actually ordered too much - so it's possible to get full off sushi for just Rs. 1500 per head. If you go for the fancier dishes or the beef, it's going to cost alot. But if you can afford it, why not? It's guaranteed to be worth your money.
We're pretty grateful to Darshan - he's given us two of the best restaurants in the city. Nihonbashi and the Ministry of Crab.
What's nice about both these places is the careful attention they give to the little details - a seemingly simple sushi or slice of raw beef can deliver such powerful taste. This is one of our finest restaurants, and we're really glad it's here in Colombo.
Get the gyuu no tataki - it's one of the best things we've ever eaten. They've also got red bean and green tea ice cream - looks good.