Written by Husen Fulhu
Imagine being whisked off to a modern-meets-medieval Japan; minimalist flute music in the air, the wholesome scent of Japanese cooking wafting in from the kitchen. And everything around you is awash in a warm amber glow. A vibrant, fishy mandala pops the interior while simple wooden furniture adds a touch of refinement.
Yes, this is Oishii, Hulhumale’s (and, strictly speaking, Male’s) sole Japanese restaurant. They do a little Italian on the side, like pasta and risotto, but their heart bears not the scrawls of Latin but the Hiragana of Japan. And Lord knows I’ve been waiting for Oishii to reopen, and now, here it is, in a far more pleasant incarnation.
But looks only matter so much. The real measure of a place is the food and of course, the service.
Let me tell you at the outset, the waitstaff are particularly attentive. Ordering takes just moments (we looked up the menu online) and our miso soup appears not long after in an earthen bowl. Unlike traditional miso, Oishii does it with shitake mushrooms. It’s very fragrant, and though the miso taste isn’t that noticeable at first, it becomes more prominent with each slurp. The tofu is almost buttery while the seaweed packs an earthy punch.
Now the ceviche (a selection of raw, marinated seafood of South American origin). The tuna could be a smidge fresher but, in all honesty, it’s quite the treat. Artfully presented, there’s a gamut of flavour in the tangy, spicy marinade with hints of Japanese fish-stock. Add to this silky-smooth salmon and raw octopus and an already beguiling dish becomes truly heady.
Next up: our maki, the VIP roll and the Gold Rush. The VIP is a mashup of grilled salmon, prawns, asparagus and spring onion. The servings are generous, you get eight pieces. Cooked seafood isn’t my idea of sushi but the VIP doesn’t disappoint; salmon tastes as it should, the prawns add a subtle sweetness and the asparagus a bit of earthiness. The Gold Rush is even better; the spicy crab turns up the heat while grilled eel and avocado flavours round up the roll. And it’s not a bad looker, this maki, sprinkled with gold dust. Our only niggle is the rice; it could be a tad sweeter and more piquant; but all in all, it’s commendable.
Lastly, an item we ordered off menu, the unagi (eel) don buri. It’s a massive dish; a chunk of eel with a seaweed salad on the side, like the ceviche. The rice is sticky and you could eat it with chopsticks but the waiter was thoughtful enough to provide cutlery. Doused in a curry-like gravy with a dash of sweetness, it’s a real beauty and filling. But what really lifts it to rarefied heights is the eel. Not only is it brimming with flavour, it’s so tender it breaks and slips down the tongue, yolk-like, a wondrous feeling. If there is something that can be likened to foie gras of the sea, this eel is clearly it.
It must be said that all this goodness comes at a price; we end up spending close to 1000MVR on this feast but trust me, the best things in life aren’t always cheap.