IKOI-TEI ON AUTHENTIC JAPANESE CUISINE
BY VIDYA B
August 26, 2016
Japanese Master Chef, Ikoi-Tei
True to its name, which means ‘a place of relaxation’ in Japanese, Ikoi-Tei at the Dutch Hospital aspires to take Japanese cuisine out of the exclusive realm of fine dining and make it more accessible. We spoke to Chef Hikaru Takahashi, the Japanese Master Chef who helms the kitchen at the restaurant, to understand how he strives to stay authentic while pleasing the Sri Lankan palate as well.
You first came to work in Sri Lanka in 2003. How do you think the food culture of the country has changed since?
To start with, there are definitely a lot more restaurants in Colombo now. There were a couple of Japanese restaurants here when I first arrived in 2003, but you have more options now. Most Sri Lankan customers now are interested in trying raw fish [which wasn’t the case earlier]. I am very happy with this change, because I can introduce many types of sashimi.
Would you say that the food you serve at Ikoi-Tei is completely authentic or do you have some fusion dishes as well?
I have tried to introduce authentic ingredients and flavours. At the same time, I cannot say that we don’t have fusion dishes. We do have some fusion dishes, such as the spicy tuna roll, which has fresh tuna mixed with a spicy sauce inside a casing of rice.
What are the most popular signature dishes on your menu?
Sri Lankans like spicy food, so they enjoy the spicy tuna roll and the teriyaki chicken. They also like deep-fried dishes like the prawn tempura roll and the katsu curry, which has crisp, deep-fried pork or chicken, served with a spicy, Japanese-style curry.
Where do you source most of your ingredients from?
We import some seafood such as salmon, scallops and yellow-tail tuna from Singapore. For other seafood such as tuna, red snapper, sea bream, squid and cuttlefish, I visit the Negombo fish market. We now have a local Japanese supplier who supplies us with some items such as seasoning and sauces.
What is your most prized kitchen tool?
As a Japanese chef, my knives are my most valuable tool. We have special knives for every kind of food, from fish to meat to vegetables.
What kind of food do you like eating on your days off?
I enjoy spicy food as well, so I like Sri Lankan curry. I also love Korean food, and as a family, we like to eat burgers and hot dogs.