I am the kind of person you want to take on experimental gastronomy journey. For the most part, I am open to exploring new tastes, flavours and textures. Seaweed in my pasta? Sure, I will give it a whirl. Fruit in my savoury starter? I will try it. When I was asked to come try the food at Inja, I was intrigued. Inja, located in Friends Colony in Delhi, is called that because it has Indian flavours (the IN) mixed with Japanese ones (the JA). I was up for it but the thought that I would have to nod and smile while eating sushi slathered in dal makhani had me waking up in cold sweat. Admittedly, my fears were misplaced.
Located in a leafy, quiet neighbourhood, Inja is inconspicuous in its presence. It certainly helps that it is a tony neighbourhood, the well-loved Manor House. Patrons are likely to be a well-traveled set with elevated palettes, so the people at Inja have their work cut out for them. And boy, do they deliver.
The cuisine here is the brainchild of chef Adwait Anantwar and you’ve to hand it to him, it’s unexpected and fabulous. The decor evokes a sense of calm, there’s lots of elements of wood and stone here. The ambience is, far too often, punctured by the raucous banter of office colleagues out for a drink; to me this is testimony to the restaurant’s popularity amongst the corporate set. It’s certainly fine dining but it’s casual enough to warrant a spot on your easy dinner list.
The cocktails at Inja are a league on to their own. Each cocktail is delicious and potent, and I particularly enjoyed the fact that each one came with a note of freshness- either by way of a citrus infusion or an interesting spice addition.The dinner began with the shiso leaf tuna and pomelo chaat, one that was devoured in seconds. This dish had texture, crunch and sweetness cut by the tangy pomelo. It’s cliche, but this was like poetry for my taste buds.
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I was equal parts horrified and intrigued with the Gobhi 65 “Maki”, the chef went there. This was also one of the dishes that dismantled my notions of how maki should taste. I was one bite in and was a convert. The crispy cauliflower (yes, in a restaurant) wrapped in the rice was topped off by 65 mayo and despite my reservations, I relished every bite and craved some more.
Next up at the table was the udon Khasi curry which is a visual delight. The udon noodles are generously coated with a black sesame curry, stacked with bright slivers of crunchy zucchini and carrot. Not flavours I expected to go together but they did and impressed me while at it.
I was way past the point of being full but the people at Inja are generous hosts and they said that it would be blasphemous if we left without trying the Jackfruit Katsu Sando which is a sandwich good enough to be your entire main course. It’s packed with flavour but can leave you feeling extremely full, so if you want to try more dishes, I suggest tiny bites or a shared plate for this one.
Despite my love for all things sweet, we had to skip dessert; we were way past full at this point. The food at Inja is like sending your taste on a roller coaster journey through the flavours of the heartland of India and Japan. One that I would happily undertake at, well, anyone’s bidding. Perhaps my biggest takeaway from Inja is the dismantling of all these preconceived notions of what the coming together of Indian and Japanese flavours might be like. If you’re in Delhi, this is worth making a trip to – book a table, of course.