First Nobu, then Morimoto, now Reina Nagai
Atmospherics: Want to know how authentic a Japanese restaurant is? Look around at the Japanese guests there. If they constitute over 90%, authenticity is guaranteed; if it is next to nothing, be sure it is a crowd pleaser for the desi palate. But what about a restaurant where local diners and Japanese expats come to dine in equal measure? You know that you have hit the jackpot with that one! Nagai is named for the Japanese chef who runs this, and another restaurant in Ibiza. It is she who has made the menu here, to be relevant to both Japanese and Indian diners, and her European partner is the sushi chef of the restaurant. Nagai is superbly located: nominally in Sector 29, but because it is perpendicular to Pllazio Hotel, it is on a main road, undisturbed by the madding crowd. The owners of Nagai and the manager are usually at hand to help guests with the menu; the rest of the staff is distinctly lacklustre. Downstairs is a bar, DJ music, periodic exhibitions and a louder vibe than the ground floor or the attractive alfresco area.
Table talk: The term tapas to describe the starters harks back to Ibiza. And my very first tapas was mini aubergine skewers with mustard miso sauce (Rs 400). It is difficult to ensure a thin, crisp crust on this most homely of vegetables, but even more difficult to ensure that the centre is molten: it was the highlight of my meal in Nagai. Ceviche Nagai with prawns and seabass in lemongrass and ginger (Rs 1000) was quite a generous portion but the lemongrass and ginger remained resolutely hidden, while the tart lime juice took centrestage. My scallops sashimi (Rs 800) were good, but it was the avocado nigiri (Rs 400) that had been made with a Nagai spin – a dash of sweet teriyaki sauce to enliven the avocado. Miso marinated black cod Nagai style (Rs 1900) was a monument to a great fish, but then, so was salmon teriyaki (Rs 1500).
Plus and minus: The location is easy to find, has plenty of parking and the space is as attractive to vegetarians as it is to Japanese guests who want their seafood and pork. Even when Chef Nagai is in Ibiza, the standard of the food is admirably consistent.
Must try: mixed seaweed salad with daikon; salmon carpaccio with chilli, coriander and pomegranate sauce; matcha tiramisu with white chocolate delight
Food: 3.50, Service: 3.00, Décor: 3.50
SCO 305, Ground floor, HUDA, Gymkhana Road, near Pllazio Hotel, Gurgaon
Open from 7 pm to 11.30 pm (not open for lunch). Closed Monday
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 4,000