Review: E.A.S.T at Sahara Star

When I got the opportunity to review this Asian restaurant, I didn’t have high hopes. To be honest, Asian food doesn’t impress me much. The MSG, the Indianization, the excessive condiments….uff big turn off. But felt like giving this one a shot. Here’s all about it…

I went there with a friend and took a seat. Chef Chang, the man in-charge of the kitchen, soon came to tell us about the restaurant’s newest feature – Japanese Teppanyaki and invited us to join him for a leisurely lunch. On a weekend, way past traditional lunch time, the newly launched restaurant was rather empty (3 occupied tables) which meant full attention on us. What I absolutely loved is the central open kitchen. You got to have a lot of guts and faith in yourself to cook live in front of your diners. Apart from the open kitchen, the general decor of the place is sophisticated without being excessively “Asian” (IYKWIM)

Chef Chang, in all his calmness, whipped up a delicious hot and sour chicken soup for us. He made sure all his dishes were medium spiced to cater to both of our taste buds. Now, I’ve had my share of hot and sour soup and I can safely say this is rated no.2. Oh, what’s no 1? Nothing yet, but I assume it will be something from my trip to the land of hot and sour soup (whenever that will be).

Next on the menu was this Tuna Tattaki. Cured, spiced and seared tuna slices set on a bed of cabbage and sprinkled with roasted garlic and spring onion leaves. Seared to such perfection that it almost melted in my mouth. Yes, I am salivating like a St Bernard, simply writing about it…

Then came one of their signature dishes – Mushroom black pepper. They looked stunning and was cooked beautifully. The savory exterior batter was good but the inside mushroom was low on salt, nothing that a little soy can’t fix. 
Once the stove top dishes were out of the way, the big Teppanyaki show was under way. It started with a ceremonial cleaning of the griddle. #NowSinging King of Leon parody – “Yeaah, the stove is on fiiiireee” (Sometimes, I think I’m funny).
Chef Vikas, the resident Teppanyaki expert, steps up to the plate with spatula in hand. His first dish is Tsukune, which essentially is Japanese meatballs made with chicken leg mince, mushrooms, carrots, onion and seasoning, which is first steamed, then skewered and then quickly cooked on the griddle with *fire*.
Just when I thought we were done for the week, he started preparing the main course. Prawn Fried Rice on the griddle with tiny, proportionately cut veggies, soy, pepper, salt, prawns, two eggs and of course *fire*. As I watched him sterilise the eggs and make the fried rice one foot away from me, I couldn’t help but marvel at the simplicity of the ingredients. Behind him, another sous chef made a tangy accompaniment to the rice, Kung Pao Chicken. When served, I couldn’t decide what was tastier, the fried rice or the gravy. And together…*sigh*. Oh and to think all this was made without a pinch of MSG. The restaurant has a strict no MSG policy. 
After all this, the black hole that some call my stomach was ready to call it quits as my fussy taste buds played examiner long enough. I was on my way out when the staff insisted I stay for a dollop of home-made ice-cream. After a thoroughly enjoyable fare, I couldn’t resist tasting, if nothing else, the basil chilli ice cream they offered. What looked like an unassuming scoop of off-white hued ice cream with golden slivers of jack fruit turned out to be a riot of flavours. At the front of the tongue, as soon as you bite into it is an almost savoury but cold basil taste that remains for a few seconds only to be dominated by this unexpected but delightful heat at the back of your throat. And those decorative jackfruit slivers? Well, they add just the best amount of sweetness to the whole dish. 
Now, I couldn’t move. Physically, couldn’t turn/walk/stand. I think my food coma was plainly evident to a highly attentive service that they so kindly got me some green tea to soothe and left me to my thoughts of Asian food and how disillusioned I had been about it before this meal. 

Rating: 4 on 5
Address: Ground Floor,
Hotel Sahara Star
Near Domestic Airport
Santacruz (E)
Tel: (022) 39807166

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