She calls herself the black sheep in the family. Rebellion was in chef and restaurateur Reina Nagai’s blood. She wanted to innovate. That’s all she could think of in her adult life. For that, she even questioned her father’s authority, who wasn’t keen on challenging the status quo, and trace the path to creative liberation.
Challenging as it would be, she nonetheless took the jump and landed herself on a great idea—a contemporary Japanese restaurant that first took the shape of Nagai in Ibiza, Spain.
From the party town, it now comes to the corporate corner of NCR. Mirroring her personality perfectly, Nagai—which means long life—is a fine dining place with gorgeously curated interiors and an even smarter menu. It also houses a saké bar.
The food story here goes back to Reina’s grandfather, who was a tuna fisherman. It’s from there that the family developed a taste for the fish, and subsequently food in general. “Tuna is definitely our speciality. Our staff lunches are very tuna-full,” she laughs.
Spicy Tuna, Crispy Tuna, Tuna Tartar, Uramaki Tuna Roll and Tuna Tataki with Sesame Crust and Wasabi Honey Sauce are surely some of the best palate pleasures.
The menu is a vast one with purity of traditional elements intact. Take for instance the Tartar, which has been kept simple in flavour and clean in setup. You have the Black Cod in Miso, which comes from Reina’s father. It uses Alaskan Gindara deep sea Cod, marinated for two days. “People who have been coming to us order it every single time, before asking for other things,” she tell us. Another one is the thick Japanese Curry with Chicken.
It’s softer and on the milder side. You also have the beautifully rendered Salmon Sashimi, the secret to which is the freshness of the fish and the angle of the cut. Reina finishes it with a certain kind of ginger and low-sodium soya sauce. And voilà, you have a fancy fish dish waiting to be savoured.
With all this and more, Reina has successfully managed to reach out to the lovers of good food. It’s Asian selection is equally worth it.
Nagai wanted to ‘fly’. She’s doing that now literally, by juggling between two time zones, managing two kitchens, tackling emergencies and grappling with lack of sleep. “It’s difficult right now, but I am keeping an inner balance. I take care of my body, use homeopathy and have the inner knowledge that stressful times will pass,” she says.
Ibiza, she tells us, is entering high season time and Gurgaon is still moving towards getting business. Clearly, she has quite the variation to deal with here. Getting rest is a long time away. By the time business in Ibiza slows down, closer to September, Nagai Gurgaon will pick up. It will be later in the year that she will breathe in peace and go snowboarding or diving—things she’s been wanting to do. “To begin with, a day at the beach with excellent seafood and good wine will be a reward,” she says smiling, knowing well that daydreaming is her only escape for now.