The food served at Gaia, the newest eatery in town, is so light and fresh that it deserves a mention over and above everything else. You won’t even care to know that it’s Japanese fusion-based menu, which has certainly been handpicked after a great deal of research.
Located in the bustling Phase V market in DHA, the place suitably caters to a niche clientele. A delectable variety of dishes is offered here in an exotic dining ambience.
Gaia, in Greek, means ‘goddess of earth.’ Jointly owned by Asim Malik, who is also the project director and executive chef, and Azfer Hassan and Nadeem Saigol, the place has generated a great deal of buzz already.
Its cool interior will do the needful in these warm, sunny days. There is ample seating on the mezzanine floor, however it doesn’t guarantee you space; you must make reservations in advance.
The ground seating has a distinguished chef’s table, while the hanging lightbulbs and wooden installations give a very chic look. Claywork, ceramic tableware adds pizzazz to it. The place is simply classy, without being awkwardly ornate.
I was introduced to the menu which turned out to be a baffling one, as I wasn’t quite familiar with Japanese fusion cuisine, even though I had loved whatever I had had a chance to eat at Fujiyama.
Asim Malik told me that he didn’t have any formal training, “I’m a passionate foodie, which was enough to make me well-versed in the business [of food]. We take pride in the fact that our freshest import of sea food items arrive daily from Dubai.”
As strange as it sounds, Volcano Maki proved to be a great starter. It was salmon fish with a peculiar addition of South American togarashi chili, speckled with Japanese mayo and tobiko (garnished on rolls) which added to the crunchy texture. The taste was a blend of sweet and salty which I duly devoured in no time.
The rock shrimp tempuras are a must-try. This is the item that I had next, and it simply melted in the mouth. A creamy sauce had been added for rich flavour; it turned out to be a hearty portion.
The menu is divided into different sections — from salads, starters, rolls, nigiri, ceviche, tataki to main entries. Ceviche has an ample of fresh raw fish options done in citrus juices and spiced with peppers for the diehard seafood lovers. I chose Seared Beef Tataki and was simply floored by its taste and quality. Never before have I tasted beef tenderloin done with such great precision. Since they get beef from Brazil, the one element that stood out was its remarkable tenderness, marinated in a special citrus-based Japanese sauce. This one got my vote, as I tried their signature black cod seared in miso glaze for a creamy texture and buttery flavour. The crispy ginger graze on top gave it a perfectly balanced tinge. It was a pricey dish but worth all the money, and also a healthy option.
While their dessert section, ‘Pink Pistachio,’ boasted of some appealing names like Yuzu Meringue Tart, Crème Brulee, Wasabi Panna Cotta, Chef’s Truffles, and New York Cheesecake, nothing causes a stampede like this choco-laden dessert.
Salted caramel, intensely rich, bittersweet dark chocolate torte flourless cake was a delight. It had a squidgy centre and chewy top layer. You’d be crazy not to go overboard when trying it for the first time.
Apart from it being presented beautifully, the selection of chocolate struck me especially. Overall, the service and flavouring was top-notch.
Gaia is not a budget-friendly place — a standard meal costing you somewhere between Rs3,000 and Rs6,000 per head — but then somethings have got to be exclusive.