Nihonbashi restaurants, which is celebrating its 16th year in service excellence, through its creator Dharshan Munidasa’s philosophy followed by adventurous attempts going far beyond imagination to place Sri Lanka on the international culinary map, is the perfect example one could give for inspiring many restaurateurs globally.
Looking back Nihonbashi’s colourful history over the years spicing up the overall dining experience, and been credited worldwide as a trend setter for the hospitality industry, revolve around a man’s drive to be different. A chef with great passion Dharshan Munidasa is the ambitious creator and owner of Nihonbashi which has become synonymous with fine Japanese cuisine not only in Sri Lanka but across the region, excelling through service innovation and continuous evolution.
Born in Tokyo and having lived his earliest years in Japan, his passion for Japan and its exquisite culinary delights was an early addiction, stemming from his love for eating which transforms well to his love for getting the dishes prepared. His earliest experiments in cooking came by watching his Japanese mother and aunts cook followed by the inspiration he got by the dishes at restaurants which he later strived to recreate by himself. Having graduated in Computer Engineering and International Relations at The John Hopkins University-USA, his hunger for food led him to later seek a career that became his lifeline.
As a person who always wanted something new, original, and that could satisfy his hunger, he decided that restaurants and fine cuisine would be his calling. Nihonbashi builds a culinary bridge to the land of cherry blossoms The heritage and the love for pure Japanese culinary fare motivated young Dharshan, who had never ‘learned’ cooking, to open Nihonbashi on 28 June 1995, which has now become the most sought after culinary bridge to the land of cherry blossoms bringing the allure, flavour and culture to Sri Lanka. “All I ever did was watch, observe, and experiment!” he says about his bold step in to the world of restaurants.
Thus, after opening Nihonbashi, he spent time in Tsukiji looking for seasonal seafood while absorbing the finer knowledge of the ingredients from vendors. Dharshan’s vision became his mission and despite many challenges, in 2001 the smallest Nihonbashi outlet was opened at ODEL with the Sushi Bar taking Japanese cuisine to an entire new target group.
2002 was another remarkable year with the opening of Nihonbashi at Hilton Colombo Residence specializing in Tempura.
Nihonbashi open doors for Dharshan to go international. Dharshan’s steady rise in the local cooking industry jet him to exotic locations, presenting some of the finest Japanese fusion cuisine in Sri Lanka and to VVIP’s across the globe. The authenticity of Nihonbashi food, the depth of experience, the width of knowledge and more importantly Dharshan’s commitment and contribution to Japanese cuisine has enabled him to visit four of the top ten resorts of Maldives as a Special Guest Chef to prepare special dinners, consultation, staff training, and create menu concepts.
The Conrad in the Maldives, uses menus made by him since 2003 and continuous upgrading of the menu to keep up with the clientele was done in 2007 and 2009. Dharshan has been a guest chef four times at Huvafenfushi and cooked at Soneva Gili and Soneva Fushi and consulted at the Four Seasons. Dharshan is also a great connoisseur of wine, and a genius in matching dishes with the correct vintage, flavour and body. Soneva Fushi and Soneva Gili both from the Six Senses Group and Huvanfenfushi were specific Japanese wine degustation menus destinations to the this travelling chef inviting him to serve their many discerning guests with a flair for epicurean adventures.
At Nihonbashi perfection knows no boundaries; Dharshan has always succeeded keeping Nihonbashi ahead of the curve when it comes to restaurant design, creativity in food, and bringing to diners the cultural and gastronomic appeal of Japanese cuisine.
Nihonbashi is in fact one rare Japanese restaurant that offers a wide range of Japanese food under one roof with scrumptious menus containing over 250 items, each created with perfection in mind. Some of the dishes such as Tsukume Nabe, are exotic even in a Japanese context. Set courses and dinner menus comprise of a minimum of six dishes and goes up to eighteen. Dharshan’s philosophy is to involve his team in everything and many members in the staff are embedded with virtues of Japan in them.
From empowering them to make decisions, taking selected staff to Japan, having a 1:1 staff knife ratio are unique aspects of Nihonbashi when compared to other restaurants in Sri Lanka. Good food according to Dharshan is not merely talent, but also the combination of the best ingredients.
Most of the ingredients at Nihonbashi are fresh and the least damaging to the environment when considering food miles. Nihonbashi is one of the few Japanese restaurants in the world, to purchase Tuna whole.
Dharshan is committed in bringing the best of Japan to Sri Lanka through Nihonbashi. The Kapapincha Tempura is the Sri Lankan traditional curry leaf fried in Tempura style, another combination of sashimi which is “yet-to-be-named”, is a raw fish dish out of fresh sea bream and lime.
Maguro Carpaccio which is another popular signature dish is conceived to be eaten with champagne. “The food got better, menus expanded and something new is always added to keep with the times.”
Building on his overall experience in creating and managing the sleek, modern brand of Nihonbashi over the past 16 years, which has developed a strong following, has built himself not only a solid reputation but an empire in Colombo’s restaurant industry in the process.