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Published on: Aug. 22, 2023, 1:10 p.m.
Teppan for the win
  • Culinary theatrics are a part of Teppanyaki meals

By Arzoo Dina

There was a time when visiting popular hill stations and towns in the North meant enjoying food that would typically range from chowmein to momos, hearty Indian cuisine and other crowd-pleasing bites. That’s all changed now. With more well-travelled guests visiting these destinations and slick, new resorts opening up in the hills, there is a slow but steady demand for diverse flavours. And it seems cuisines like Japanese and Korean seem to be finding favour with people’s palates.

Toya, at the recently-opened The Westin Resort & Spa Himalayas in Rishikesh, is just one such example. Positioned as a progressive Asian restaurant with a dedicated Teppanyaki set-up, the contemporary space with floor-to-ceiling windows also features an al fresco dining section that lets you enjoy the outdoors, a faux fireplace inside and a live sushi and teppanyaki counter, bringing new flavours to the spiritual city of Rishikesh. Commanding sweeping views of the valley, with the Ganges meandering through nearby, it’s a welcome addition to the dining scene here. 

Culinary theatrics

During a visit to the resort, this writer dined at Toya twice. Once, to try the restaurant’s well-curated a la carte menu serving Japanese, Korean, Thai and Chinese cuisine and, the other time around, to sample the Teppanyaki (open flame cooking over a hot grill) experience. The menus have been curated by expat chef Tawee Chaichana, and cover a range of grills, dim sums, woks, sushi, hearty mains and much more. Some recommended dishes include the rock shrimp tempura, grilled Himalayan trout, Pad Thai noodles, maki rolls and an eye-catching sushi platter, which comes shrouded in smoke and dry ice. 

The Teppanyaki dining experience is one worth bookmarking, at least once during your stay. Chef Ashish Rai kickstarts the experience with a range of culinary theatrics, from showing off his knife skills to a fire show between courses, cracking eggs open mid-air to the final flourish of serving flaming chocolate surprise balls for dessert. You can choose from set menus, starting with amuse bouche and spicy nuts served tableside, a pungent Tom Kha soup, followed by a Thai-style salad, ashikage set, featuring marinated meats, and even a yakisoba set with buckwheat noodles and hotate – all grilled in front of you. Vegetarians also have the option of the yasai set featuring exotic seasonal vegetables and Himalayan tofu. 

  • Toya serves progressive Asian cuisine in a contemporary setting

There’s a lot of thought that’s gone into the bar programme, with techniques using fat-washing, clarification and you also have an extensive selection of Japanese sake and whiskies. Teetotalers have a choice of Asian-inspired drinks to enjoy as well. 

With a growing number of people looking for experiential dining while on holiday, concepts like Toya are finding favour beyond just the big metro cities and even tier two ones, for that matter. It’s interesting to see the culinary narrative evolve where luxury hotels are betting on changing consumer palates, even if it is in the heart of the Himalayan foothills.

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