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The Pan-Asian sensation

15 February 2017   |   5:16 pm
Shiro has arrived in Victoria Island, Lagos and no expense has been spared to give Lagosians a
divine dining experience, from the larger than life sculptural deities surveying the expansive
three-tiered dining room to the salubrious, al fresco lounge backing onto the ocean.
This is my third time dining at the acropolis (Shiro means castle in Japanese) that opened in
January. Part of the trio of Landmark restaurants on Water Corporation Road alongside Amazon
Spur and Hard Rock Cafe, it is the brainchild of Indian ‘restobar’ entrepreneurs JSM (Jay Singh
and Sanjay Mahtani) who own over 24 restaurants including the Hard Rock brand. Shiro is
already in Bombay and Bangladesh.
This is a place to see and be seen with bright lights and a punchy soundtrack. An occasion restaurant, in case you needed an excuse in this owambe nation, it’s a suitably luxurious venue for celebrating closing a business deal, signposting another decade of life or impressing your date. I’m sure there’ll be some of that on Valentine’s night. It’s often fully booked, especially on Friday nights when it’s pretty much a sea of Chanel
handbags and stilettos and not an intimate place as you might imagine from the somewhat
trendy term ‘restobar’.
Kimono-clad waiting staff glide discreetly between sofas and tables like senseis. They have
clearly been rehearsed to within an inch of their lives and although the performance isn’t
flawless, it’s impressive.However their knowledge of the food is hardly black belt and the service can be patchy. You’ve brought my main before my starter. Shrug. What dish is this? Deer caught in the headlights.
What cocktail would you recommend? The lost-in-thought look of former President Goodluck at
a press conference.
Of my three companions tonight, two are disappointed with their mains although the crispy
avocado sushi and spring rolls are a hit. One orders fish with chilli mustard sauce (fish stir-fried
with mustard and honey) but finds the texture of the fish gelatinous and unappealing while
lacking the promised taste of honey. It is also skimpy for a main. Everything I’ve ordered in my
visits here I’ve enjoyed immensely. From miso soup and sushi on my first visit to sushi, claypot
vegetarian rice and chicken yaki udon noodles on my second and now New Zealand lamb
chops and sweet potato mash plus sushi again. Their sushi is delicious and manifests like
crown jewels on the table.
Alas, crown jewels and sculptural deities don’t come cheap. The lamb melts in the mouth
infused with miso orange notes and with the spicy sweet potato mash sends one slightly crazy
with joy but at 12,000 Naira for a starter and when a single serving of Jasmine rice clocks in at
3000 Naira, yes, that’s your wallet screaming.
It goes without saying this crowd is well-heeled. There are always some expats but I suspect
this is even reaching beyond their usual haunts, the Pizzerias, Bungalows, Churchills etc. It’s
mostly long-term residents whether native or foreign that you see here.
My third companion is Norwegian and is to spice what I am to Lutefisk. Admittedly I’ve never
tasted Lutefisk but apparently the smell of the lye-preserved cod is one most visitors to Norway
baulk at and I’m sure I would be no different. She asks for the dish to be made less spicy when
ordering. The dish arrives spicy. She asks for it to be sent back. The dish comes back even
spicier. She gives up.
Now all of this service is managed in the most pleasant and apologetic manner. The item is
removed from the bill without a fuss, but where is the chef in all this? Local waiters at foreign
establishments often don’t know their french toast from their szechuan chicken. This really
needs the chef to come out and confirm what is needed.
Brand manager Dhiren Pawar looks mortally wounded at the suggestion that the waiter
seems unqualified to answer questions on the food or menu. From the pain in his face it seems
┬áit’s something he’s been wrestling with, to little effect. There’s a reason French restaurants like
to hire a certain number of French waiters, Italian restos Italians and so on. JSM brings
experienced staff from their Indian restaurants to add polish but there are still gaps.
We end the meal sharing a chocolate tiramisu (hardly a traditional tiramisu as advertised but
delicious anyway with a twist of kahlua) while sipping on arthouse cocktails and listening to the
St Tropez soundtrack – what a mellifluous way to close out the evening! I will definitely return to
Shiro.
There’s a real sense of celebration here and if there are some teething problems with
food and service, the experience as a whole is already leagues above most other places. Okay.
That’ll be your wallet screaming again.
GL writers are not paid by restaurants for review
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