September 25, 2006
I first ran into coriander/cilantro at an Italian restaurant on Fleet Street in London in 2001. I had spag with a tomato sauce that was supposed to include basil. Instead I had some herb that tasted like bitter wax and it ruined the meal. I never went back to that restaurant, but visiting Indian restaurants later I realised the herb must have been coriander. If in an Indian eatery nowadays I always ask if the dish I am about to order contains coriander. If it does, I ask for something else. But I was ambushed last week at a Japanese conveyor belt restaurant in Canary Wharf in east London. It is called Itsu and I go there often to eat sushi and sashimi. I ordered a Miso soup and immediately detected the ghastly taste of coriander. The staff offered to serve me a Miso without coriander but I declined, had to go back to work. But why mix Indian and Japanese cuisine? I complained to a senior manager at Itsu whom I know. She said they had gradually moved coriander from dishes over the past year following complaints by customers. She sent my comments to their food development department.