Japanese restaurant Nihonbashi last week
celebrated its 12th anniversary.
"We celebrated with pride our 12th anniversary
and we are honoured to be the favourite Japanese restaurant in
the city of Colombo. It has been a rewarding experience to fuel
Sri Lanka’s growing appetite for authentic Japanese cuisine,"
said Dharshan Munidasa, the creator of the restaurant.
Dharshan Munidasa is a self- taught culinary
expert, who takes pride in the fact that he never went to a
Munidasa, who has a passion for cooking, had
been toying with the idea of entering the catering business from
his mid-teens. Born in Tokyo to a Sri Lankan father and a
Japanese mother, it was natural that he developed a love for
Arriving in Sri Lanka after the demise of his
father, he was determined to open a restaurant with the accent
on Japanese cuisine. Nihonbashi in Japanese literally
means ‘Japan bridge’ and the restaurant is aptly named to bridge
the two culinary segments.
He holds a degree in Computer Engineering and
International Relations from Johns Hopkins University.
In 1995, 24-year old Dharshan Munidasa embarked
on his dream and opened the doors of Nihonbashi to a
discerning clientele in the plush surroundings of the Galle Face
With the success of his maiden venture in the
year 2000, he invested on a second, a quick service restaurant,
at the ODEL and two years later Nihonbashi opened its
doors at the JAIC Hilton (now Hilton Residencies).
Munidasa says the three restaurants cater to an
average of 6,000 satisfied diners every month.
The newly re-furbished main restaurant at Galle
Face Terrace with an harmonious blend of traditional and modern
design, boasts of seven private rooms for corporate lunches and
dinner functions. Many of the diplomatic dinners have been
hosted here in the past.
The large Samurai room could be reserved
for private functions or even for a romantic dinner for two,
with subtle lighting and soothing music, on request. The family
room also has the services of a DVD player.
"There are over 400 dishes to select from in our
menu and when we have a sixteen course dinner that’s another 16
dishes," said Munidasa.
Nihonbashis’s menu consists of 95% cooked
dishes, while Sushi (raw fish) is definitely a favourite with
the Japanese, Munidasa said. The diners have the option of
enjoying fusion Sushi.
You need not use chopsticks when eating Sushi
always. One could use the fingers instead, he added.
Instead of importing everything they use a lot
of Sri Lankan-Asian elements in their cuisine.
But some of the items such as Matsuzaka Beef and
few others are imported from Japan. The biggest seller here is
Tuna and Munidasa himself does the purchasing. The Tuna served
at Nihonbashi is what comes from long liners caught off
Sri Lanka’s shores.
"Wasabi or Japanese Horse Raddish is one
of the key ingredients used in our cuisine and it is a root
which grows in clear running waters and takes about three years
to mature.This all important ingredient is found at the
foothills of Mt Fuji. It’s grated on a shark skin. The ice cream
prepared from Wasabi is simply delicious," co-ed Munidasa.
The Tuna they purchase is what’s called ‘Tokyo
grade’ which is considered the best. and the next grade is
exported to Europe.
Norwegian salmon is less expensive than Tuna
served at Nihonbashi, Munidasa quipped.
" I used to carry Tuna to Maldives from Sri
Lanka to be served in a plush hotel in one of the islands. The
Customs officer were rather upset about it," he recounted.
Nihonbashi has made its mark in four of the
Top Ten resorts of the Maldives. Its a fact that The Hilton in
the Maldives uses techniques and menus demonstrated to them by
Munidasa for the last three years.
The fact that Soneva Fushi and Soneva
Gili of the international chain Six Senses and Huvan
Fushi have invited Munidasaa to prepare and serve Japanese
wine degustation menus to their guests, speaks volumes about
authenticity of Nihonbashi food, the depth of knowledge
of Japanese cuisine and its commitment.
At Nihonbashi each of the 25-member
kitchen brigade is provided with his own set of kitchen knives
by Munidasa. Its necessary that a cook or a chef has his own set
Nihonbashi’s kitchen inventory has knives to
the value of nearly Rs. 200,000-300,000.
Nihonbashi has a staff of around 60 and it
has been a learning ground for them.There are many who after
learning Japanese cuisine at Nihonbashi have found
employment in top restaurants and hotels abroad and come back to
work at Nihonbashi on their return to Sri Lanka.
He recalls about the eating tour to Tokyo he
embarked on with five of the staff members in March. This
culinary tasting experience was not just eating but seeing and
spending many hours at the famous Tokyo Fish Market where they
generate around USD 200 million revenue a day, said Munidasa.
The exposure they received is worth more than
200-fold than what he could ever have given them back home
He hopes to make it an annual pilgrimage with
other Nihonbashi disciples in the future.