Chef Saito is one of those seasoned chef who has changed the dimension of fine dining Japanese cuisine globally. Starting his career with Muryo-Wan in Japan in 1979 where he mastered Kaiseki, the art of multi-course Japanese dinner. He then moved to Taihachi in Chiba, where he trained extensively in the preparation of rice and fish. After moving to the USA, he joined Fujiya as Sushi Chef, in Tacoma, WA. In 1991, Chef Saito opened his own sushi restaurant in Seattle, WA. Years later, he was invited to join the then newly-launched Megu in New York, NY, and in 2011 Executive Chef Saito opened Megu at Leela Palace, Delhi, India to huge acclaims. And, he is now looking after PVR’s new venture Simply Sushi as an executive chef. Excerpts from the interview:
What made you take Simply Sushi to a standalone location?
The thought of enjoying Japanese cuisine inside the cinemas was something that probably never crossed anyone’s mind. We launched the Simply Sushi brand in 2015 at PVR Director’s Cut, and ever since, we’ve been on an uphill trajectory in terms of brand appreciation and encouragement from our guests. While the journey of the Simply Sushi brand started inside the auditoriums, it didn’t take us very long to realise that the concept was widely appreciated, and from then on we expended to have a sushi counter at PVR Director’s Cut, included the menu at PVR Gold properties. It is the love and encouragement of our customers that has brought Simply Sushi ‘out-of-the-box’ office.
How are you trying to in cash on the new age customers’ via Simply Sushi?
Customers today are well-travelled and appreciate global cuisines. We are providing best quality ingredients, innovative sushi i.e. batera sushi, beautifully executed temaki. All our items are affordably priced, that encourage first timers to try the cuisine.
We have seen a sudden rise in Japanese and Korean cuisine. Why so?
With the rise of Japanese & Korean companies entering the country, we have noticed an increased acceptability and adaptability of these cuisines to Indian customer’s palate.
What’s so unique about Simply Sushi that other Japanese restaurant does not cater to? Tell us about the menu designing? From where do you source the ingredients?
Our selection of batera sushi, temaki rolls and Japadogs are our signature dishes. Our Maki Sushi rolls are true example of the ethos behind this project, i.e. exceptional quality of raw material and emphasis on technique. The idea behind the concept is to showcase and present the best sushi in the country to patrons and give them a glimpse of what to expect in our cinemas. This concept highlights the attention to details and the fact that good quality is not always very expensive if the menu, as in this case, is crafted smartly. We believe in constantly being in close touch with our customers and know that it is their feedback that is the most important. The customers whom we serve guide us to design the menu, the flavour they desire, and their acceptability and the global trends.
Most of our ingredients are handpicked from Tsukiji market from Japan.
Chef you are known for you work globally. What do you think where is India heading in term of food trends?
Well India itself is very diverse in its food produce people are accepting lots of global cuisine and serving too.
How difficult/easy it is for you to cater to Indian taste buds?
It is very difficult to acquire fresh and good quality ingredients to serve to our patrons.I have spent last seven years here in India serving their taste buds, so I have won over their acceptance of food.