May 18, 2022

Chennai’s newest Japanese restaurant, Oyama

Each group gets a separate room divided by sliding doors (fusuma)

We are about to buy a kimono online. Why? It was the only thing missing from our immersive Japanese lunch recently. By car to Gandhi Nagar, Adyar quickly transports us away from Chennai, as we set foot in Oyama, a new outfit for expats in the city. Quiet and minimalist with wood and bamboo interiors, each group has a separate room divided by sliding doors (fusuma) in this 1,700 square foot restaurant. And if you really want an authentic experience, you can ask for their traditional tatami mats lounge area, where you can dine cross-legged on a floor cushion. We will probably reserve this table once the kimono arrives.

Ura roll with salmon

Hot and cold
For the moment however, we are sliding into our plate of Sushi instead of. Sticky rice wrapped in Norwegian salmon with just a hint of soy sauce and wasabi turned out to be our go-to, while the more adventurous can opt for Maguro Sashimi (slices of raw tuna). The noodles come in two variations: hot and cold. We plunge into a hot bowl of Curry Udon (short for udon noodles and a mild but salty Japanese curry) and a few minutes later a cold Zaru Soba (Buckwheat noodles with soba sauce, sesame seeds and a sprinkle of spring onions. The latter would be a nice respite on a hot summer afternoon.

Sashimi platter
Ebi (prawns) fried

However, if there’s one dish we would go back to, it’s the chicken thigh skewers that are crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside (Yakitori). No fuss, fried with salt and served with lemon wedges for those who know how to appreciate that flavor – this appetizer is the opposite of steamed and healthy – but certainly worth the calories. while the beef Yakiniku Don (a bowl of rice topped with sautéed beef with Yakiniku, a barbecue sauce from Japan, comes just behind.

Mochi ice cream, do you like it?

thank you so much ‘mochi’
Owner Rex Andrews joins us as promised for dessert. This includes an assortment of Instagrammable mochi scoops of ice cream (swaddled in rice cakes) and a lighter, healthier Tofu Anin (made from almond milk). Over spoonfuls of sweet and iced goodness, we find out that Rex, 66, has traveled and lived a lot around the world, and his last business was a fine dining restaurant in Bangkok, before deciding to return home to Chennai. With their partner S Sadiq Hussain who has 18 years in the hospitality industry (past with The Raintree and Kyung Bok Jung in Vietnam) under his belt, the two are keen to fill the void in the market for a growing expat population. Along with imported sauces and meats ranging from cuttlefish to Southeast Asian octopus, Rex tells us that with the lockdown, he hopes to focus on the homesick expatriate. “We are building a more robust delivery fleet to cater for expats who might comfort themselves with meals that remind them of home during the lockdown.”

Meal for two INR 1,300.

Photos: Debadatta Mallick

Review the notes

We like: Ample parking and private dining room

Flavor first: Yaki Tori chicken skewers, crunchy and succulent

Shutterbug: Mochi ice cream: so colorful and pretty!