On cold nights, Honey and Cover kept me warm. Bleach and One Piece inspired me to better my own stories. Dragon Ball gave me a childhood.
Each of these works of art is a manga, which is not just a Japanese style of graphic novels, but also a genre of stories that has more psychological depth than most fiction. Don’t let the dragons and goblins and shape-shifting beasts fool you, they are probably more human than, well, humans.
There’s a reason for my manga musings: YOÜMEE, a new oriental restaurant in GK-II’s M-Block market, which has a manga theme. This location is always a green flag—the rents are so high and the crowd so uptown, you’d only set up shop here if you were sure of your food. YOÜMEE is by Lite Bite Foods, a veteran brand promoted by Dabur, which has Punjab Grill, Asia Seven, Zambar, The Artful Baker and a host of other franchises under its wings.
You should never judge a book by its cover, but this place calls for an exception. I walked in to a chic interior: dark wood tables with red and black chairs; black-and-white tiles that go suitably with the monochrome manga panels painted on the walls; and an open sushi bar (that does a lot more than sushi) with a host of colourful ingredients on display; a common toilet with a quirky sign that says ‘whichever’.
But does the story read well, perhaps even match its inspiration? It definitely has the makings: the robata-yaki, a Japanese barbecue, is a supporting character. The protagonists, however, are sushi, dim sum and ramen, done authentically and tastefully (in every sense of the term). If there are any doubts, one look at the colourful caviars, the nori sheets and many meats lying at the sushi bar will quell them.
The tale begins with a sweet tsukune, or Japanese chicken meatballs that are usually yakitori (or charcoal grilled on a skewer). Served with a misoshiru and sticky rice, call it typical Japanese fare, but the meatballs are the right amount of sweet and soy and tasty, so also call it a fine revelation. Then come a host of sushi. Immediately, my visual field is filled with an impressive range of colours.
In no particular order, the sushi were as follows: trio (with crab stick, salmon, tuna, microgreens and avocado; a seafoodie’s delight); prawn tempura (a classic sushi done in a tempura flour, with a slice of cucumber, and caviar on top); the YOÜMEE garden dragon (crunchy asparagus, mayo and avocado; a welcome vegetarian surprise); the vegetable California (asparagus, cucumber, pickled radish; a little too veggie for my liking, but so fresh). This was immediately followed up with the sashimi: crab-wrapped salmon (with cucumber for garnishing, and mayo; it turned out to be my favourite). I took a piece of each, as I had a lot to taste, but I am guilty of a second—even third—in some cases.
The next round was going to be a similar onslaught of dim sums, so I took a break by ordering beverages. The ‘Asian swirl’ shake, based in orange and kaffir lime and blessed with a dash of sour and citrusy yuzu syrup, was flavourful and light. The Hot Geisha, a tea that immediately reminded of Memoirs of a Geisha, was a green tea rich in aromas and a perfect digestive. Then the dim sums:
First came the prawn in yellow hot curry (a turmeric-based curry, prawn and asparagus; who would have thought haldi would do wonders to a Japanese delicacy?). Then the crystal duck and cherries (the duck has a mild flavour. The cherry is tangy. Their combination is a match made in food heaven). Classic prawn har gow was next (typically a shrimp dumpling, but this one has prawn, and bamboo shoots and asparagus; a fishy one that tastes spectacular). The last of the non-vegetarian fare was gyoza chicken (panfried with chicken, and water chestnuts; may have been the most regular looking of the lot, but did not taste regular at all).
The vegetarian options were, surprisingly, even more impressive. The New York cheese and chilli oil one was my favourite for the night, with its Philadelphia cream cheese (of NY cheesecake fame) and chilli oil flakes to balance the cheese flavour. It was an instant melt-in-your-mouth. Beetroot & cheese, a beautiful pink dumpling, also had a carrot garnishing. Another variety was Thai-flavoured asparagus, golden in colour, with lemongrass. Finally BBC (beans, bok choy and chestnut) wrap, I found something sure to make vegetarians happy, and even a non-vegetarian smile.
At this point, I was stuffed more than the dumplings, and the manga had remained a fine read. It was time for the climax: the signature ramen (with calamari, prawn, chunks of pork, and chicken) and the robata-done ‘grilled chicken half bird with Asian pineapple salsa’ (also with fresh basil, chillies and smoky flavoured grill chicken). A good ramen is light and soupy, and not overwhelmingly flavourful. This was no different. The grilled chicken too had a mild flavour, but its tender barbecue texture was what took the cake.
Speaking of a dessert, I gave their matcha cheesecake (with a green-tea powder on the top) a try. While I found the powder bitter, the immediate sweetness of the well-made cheesecake made me forget all about that.
Just like that, I flipped the final page of the manga (oh, by the way, they give you your bill inside a culinary manga called Oishinbo. Nice touch, isn’t it?). This journey was over, and I was happy to have enjoyed it. But then again, as it is with the genre, there are plenty of volumes to read and chapters to explore. Now when’s my next meal here?
Where: M-27, Ground Floor, Greater Kailash 2, New Delhi
Pocket Pinch: Rs. 2,000 for two
Contact: 01140363811, 8130266695