Discover the best Japanese cuisine in the Maldives
Dine in the intimate overwater Japanese cuisine restaurant, 135° East at Maafushivaru for a night your taste buds will never forget.
With so many islands to choose from in the Maldives, it’s often impossible to choose the one that’s right for you, unless you have a travel expert to guide you but if you’re a fan of Japanese cuisine, then you really only have one option and it has to be the spectacular Maafushivaru.
In 2012, the island resort opened its contemporary Japanese Sushi and Teppanyaki restaurant to give its guests a whole new repertoire of Oriental flavours, not yet available in the Maldives - 135° East was born. Perched on its own sunset pavilion overlooking the most beautiful of turquoise lagoons, there’s no better place in the Maldives to enjoy the tastes of the Far East. Years later, with news of this Japanese restaurant spreading amongst those who have an affection for the Maldives, it’s fair to say that you need to book in advance if you want to spend an evening here.
Wanting to find out more about the delights of this Japanese gem, we caught up with the Sushi chef behind 135° East to find out how he learnt his craft and the dishes he’d recommend…
I’m Jun Jun Erpe, formerly from the Philippines and I’ve been a Sushi chef here at Maafushivaru for almost 2 years now.
How did 135° East come about and where does its name originate?
The teppan (iron grill) had been used in everyday ancient Japanese life to cook meats and vegetables. Nearly a century ago, it was introduced into a Kyoto restaurant and became a family business that still exists today – an instant success! The name comes from the original restaurant’s longitude of 135° East.
The combination of Sushi and Teppanyaki came later to the same Kyoto restaurant and is now found all around the world – including here in the Maldives – giving chefs, like me, the perfect opportunity to showcase their talents.
What began your interest in becoming a Sushi chef?
I love the art of Sushi – it’s very interesting. What I love about it is its simplicity - there’s nothing to hide and yet so many things can be done to it to give it a completely different flavour. It looks simple but its flavours are complicated all at the same time. Just like any other art, there is no limit – there’s room to be as creative as the chef wants to be - with this in mind, there are infinite types of Sushi to be crafted.
For me, here in the Maldives, the variety of fish seems endless, especially when the same fish can have a different taste from year to year! All the sushi requires is an adjustment in preparation – this for me, makes the art even more interesting.
“Maldivian cuisine is always exceptional but 135° East is something extra special. We stayed in that restaurant for hours over the ocean, sipping cocktails and whiling away the evening with the very skilled and friendly chef – let him recommend a dish for you, you won’t regret it.”
Shellie Jones, Kuoni Bristol
Where did you train and why did you specialise in Sushi?
It wasn’t until I was in Kuwait, where I saw a Sushi chef in action that I realised I had an interest in the making of sushi. After that, I worked in a renowned Japanese restaurant for about 10 years and over that time, experienced working with multiple types of sushi – there was a lot to learn and it’s a craft you continue to hone for years after you begin training. It’s also important to recognise just how entwined Japanese culture is with the art of Sushi, you get a sense of this when you formally train as I did.
What makes a good Sushi chef?
Learning the basic techniques of how to create flavoursome Sushi is a given but I believe there are traits that show the fundamental characteristics of a person and their discipline as a chef that definitely help.
Most of the traits may seem small but the fact is that sushi preparation is made up of hundreds of small and (what may seem like) tedious daily routines. One could easily skip these routines but if one wants to what make a difference at the end of the day, it’s down to their willpower to hold on to his discipline and carry out all those small steps to the best of their ability. Ultimately, it’s an accumulation of those daily routines that will make a good Sushi chef into a great one.
What are the key lessons you’ve learnt from being a Sushi chef?
Ah, this is easy, there are two;
- Work with the best.
- Work hard and take pride in your work. The answer to bettering your life and your skills is to look inside and ask yourself, what you can do each day to improve. Ask yourself are you putting in as much effort as you possible can into what you do.
“Maafushivaru served us the finest and freshest ingredients available in their Sushi restaurant – each dish delicately created as you watch. The chef was captivating, revealing the showmanship of his art. Minutes later, we had a sizzling dish infused with just the right amount of flavour.”
Susan Law, Kuoni Chester
What’s your favourite dish to create?
My favourite has to be the “uramaki” inside out roll, this type of sushi differs from others because the rice is on the outside and the nori on the inside, wrapping the filling. That’s why it’s called the ‘inside out’ roll.
What’s the type of Sushi you most enjoy eating?
It’s definitely “nigiri”. Nigiri is nothing more than raw fish placed on top of Sushi rice. For me, eating Nigiri allows you to truly enjoy the taste of the fish – it’s a very pleasant taste and in my opinion, it’s the best choice you can make when it comes to picking from a Japanese menu. Shrimp and Yellow Fin Tuna are good choices, the Shrimp are best when cooked though served cold.
“I really enjoyed uncovering the secret art of Teppanyaki and Sushi cookery at 135° East. The chef was entertaining, cracking jokes with us all night long whilst dicing and stirring away! Keep your eyes open for the infamous ‘egg catch’ too, don’t say I didn’t warn you…”
Amy Thompson, Kuoni Bristol
What would you say to someone who doesn’t like fish but would love to try sushi for the first time?
To someone who doesn’t like fish but would love to try sushi, I’d love to recommend them the “California roll” – it’s what I do here at 135° East. I always say it’s the best sushi to try for beginners. It’s usually made of crab meat, cucumber and avocado, which is a good step for those who don’t want to jump straight in and dine on raw fish. When tried, most people do like it and go on to eat it more in their everyday lives. You could always have it minus the crab meat though if you’re really not keen!
The perfect location to enjoy a glass of champagne with a fiery Maldivian Sunset as your backdrop, discover this exceptional Sushi and Teppanyaki experience for yourself.