Yakiniku means grilled meat, and it’s a staple of those items that come to mind when most of us think about Japanese food. Along with ramen, sushi, miso, and udon noodles, we treasure yakiniku’s thoughtful approach of slicing the meats and vegetables into delicate strips that are perfect for sizzling and enjoying—with minimal challenge from the chopsticks.
And Yakiniku also means one of the newest—and coziest—of the several unique restaurant venues at the Hyatt Regency Chennai in Teynampet. Up until now, it’s also been probably the less appreciated of the Hyatt’s offerings, but with a fresh new menu and a polished approach to delivery of a fine dining experience, you’ll want to add Yakiniku to your Chennai must-dine list.
For Sarah’s and my first trip to Yakiniku, we were greeted by Sous Chef Amlendu Kashyap who welcomed us and offered us sake. Sarah accepted her favorite warm sake while I opted for a lightly chilled Asahi beer as I looked forward to the tasting menu Chef had designed for us. We admitted we knew little about Japanese cuisine beyond the expected, so we submitted to his lead with enthusiasm.
First up, a veg dish, the inari potato salad fried bean curd parcel surprised and delighted us both with its kaleidoscope of flavors and textures, the savory bean curd wrap (the inari is notoriously difficult to work with) complimenting the subtle, creamy potato salad along with the perfect foil of the tiny pickle nuggets, just slightly crunchy and sweet. Excellent start!
Next came another veg dish that looked familiar to us as residents of South Indy: idli, how wonderful! Well, not quite. The mochi, while similar in ingredients and appearance to the traditional Indian dish, is fried rather than steamed, and its texture is silky, dense, and chewy with a lasting flavor from the rich mushroom sauce that graced the dish. Another new taste experience for both Sarah and me, and one we’ll want to repeat.
For the third dish, we welcomed a long plate of carefully crafted sushi, this time another veg dish, soba sushi with buckwheat noodles, pickles, ginger, cucumber, and spinach wrapped in seaweed. A touch of soy sauce, a dab of wasabi, and a filigree of pickled ginger created just the right background for the crunchy and spicy sushi to deliver the perfect blend of texture and taste. So simple, yet so masterfully done!
Then, the star of the show: tempura maki with prawn tempura, mayo, and nori. Crispy, silky, nutty, a dance of sweet and savory with a lasting, chewy center, we both found this maki (rolled sushi) irresistible and our favorite . . . so far. Yes, we ate every bite including the head (okay the tail.)
Moving on, we welcomed tofu steak paired with garlic fried rice. The tofu was masterfully prepared to deliver a dense mouthfeel and was covered with a lovely mushroom sauce and sautéed onion. While I’m not usually excited by tofu, this preparation, along with the garlic fried rice, just sticky and rich enough, was a delight. (We both enjoyed the mushroom sauce and only later realized it was the same sauce we had loved on the mochi earlier . . . nice, but it would have been wonderful to experience another accompaniment.)
Then, at last, we got to experience the heart of yakiniku: grilled beef and onions! The beef slices filled a gap we both realized we suffered: a lack of good red meat in our south Indian diet. More please! And if the beef weren’t enough, Chef brought us another skillet of yakiniku pork. Not sure we could really eat anything more, we allowed a few bites to be served and dutifully tasted . . . and then dug in. The pork and onion combination, it turned out, had been grilled with a touch of mirin, a rice wine with low alcohol and high sugar content, and oh, my, did it grace this dish with a totally different profile, just sweet enough—yet dark as well—to magnify the pork’s natural tendencies. Wow! Again, more please.
Finally, we turned to a fresh bowl of soup with the famous udon noodles and lightly cooked chicken that finished in the hot broth. My chopstick skills sufficiently challenged, I managed enough to recognize that I wanted more . . . when I hadn’t just worked my way through the long tasting menu!
So many flavors and spices and textures, and we topped it off with a dish of ice cream with mochi and azuki beans. A perfect ending, subtly sweet, nutty, with complimentary textures, a sweet that confirmed Yakiniku’s overall approach: an array of quiet, sophisticated, subtle dishes, crafted with care and served with quiet pride, to be savored with a sense of shared connection.
Don’t miss Yakiniku’s new menu and the team’s enthusiasm for sharing the subtle flavors of the best that Japanese cuisine can offer. You may catch Sarah and me there again soon!
HYATT REGENCY CHENNAI
365 Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai, Tamil Nadu 600018, India
Tel: +91 44 61001234
Mob: +91 9176633310