SUSHI DONE THE AR(T)ISAN WAY!
The Arisan Food Factory needs little or no introduction for the culinary legacies that it has recently unfurled in the Pink City. From DOJO, its pilot cloud kitchen broke Jaipur’s Sushi barrier to Olio, its recent Mediterranean fare, the young chain of restaurants has truly taken Jaipur’s foodies by storm. Its latest label, Manchaha, celebrates the regional delicacies of India with a fusion twist of its own. After all, the novel ideas of truffle mushroom galauti and Balchao paneer tikka are as impossible to resist as are the bhootjolokia chicken wings. After months of anticipation, Rajputana Collective finally converses with the mastermind behind it all. Aridaman Singh Rathore or Ari, as he is more fondly known, opens up about his inspirational journey as one of Jaipur’s most notable entrepreneurs. We brace ourselves as we are taken through how it all started, the big leap thereafter and where it is all headed now.
Residents of Jaipur could well agree that a little over four years from today, a devoted lover of Sushi would have to drive some 270 kilometres one way to the national capital in order to savour their favourite nigiri and hosomaki rolls. A close second alternative lay at the Japanese industrial area in Neemrana, again around a 150 kilometres drive from Jaipur and clearly not for the faint hearted. Aridaman Singh Rathore was one such hardcore sushi fan, who’s jump at any excuse to drive to Delhi because it meant gorging on a plate-full of spicy tuna and dynamite rolls. When it came to dim sums too, Jaipur’s scanty options made for a rather bleak scenario. For most of Pink City, an outing to a bigger metropolitan almost always included atleast one Pan-Asian dine-out.
All this was about to change in 2018, when Aridaman’s unparalleled love for sushi and pan-Asian led him to venture into the vast world of culinary enterprises. This bold and daring venture of his amounted to the birth of the Arisan Food Factory and its first cloud kitchen, which Aridaman named DOJO. As Jaipur’s first standalone Sushi home delivery service, Aridaman’sendeavour was twofold. One, to provide a product at par with the metro alternatives of sushi; and two, to remove the snob value that is often attached to sushi.
His vision of opting for the delivery module hoped to encourage people to try this increasingly popular Japanese delicacy in the comfort of their homes. Notwithstanding the authentic flavours that DOJO was successful in attaching from its very first sushi order, its nomenclature, along with that of its parent company is worth a brief glimpse. As Aridaman explains, “I admire Japanese culture a lot, and that is one of the reasons that pushed me to give the Japanese cuisine a try. My subsequent love for sushi and all things Japanese (even my favourite movie is the Last Samurai) prompted me to call my venture Arisan. It’s Ari, what my friends call me, with a Japanese twist. DOJO, on the other hand, is a Japanese word denoting a place for immersive learning and meditation, traditionally in t he field of martial arts. I named my sushi brand DOJO because I think cooking is very meditative and one needs great concentration, especially while making Sushi, because everything about it is an art, and so precise.”
From its very inception, DOJO devised ways to combat challenges that were as creative as its nomenclature. Aridaman reminisces over days when he had to source the most basic ingredients such as edamame and sushi—grade salmon from Delhi. He even ensured the retention of his first sushi chef by housing him in his personal guest room.
“I remember during peak hours, I did deliveries on my own as there was no Swiggy Genie back then. My driver doubled up as the cashier in the first few months and subsequently, he became DOJO’s first manager. As orders started pouring in, my wife Devyani took over their coordination. Many friends would be surprised when they called to order and heard Devyani on the other end of the line. In fact, she even took onto the purchase and sales completely, thus allowing me to focus solely on the food and quality control”, Aridaman adds.
After a power-packed yet organic start, Aridaman, Devyani and their team took their first leap as restauranteurs in mid-2019 and leased a space in Narain Niwas Palace Hotel’s shopping courtyard. It was Jaipur’s first micro-restaurant, as Aridaman calls it, with only 12 seats and a keen focus on sushi and dim sum. The soon-approaching pandemic caused a huge blow to the culinary market as well, and imposed numerous limitations on the growth that was in store for this new venture. Just then, Aridaman’s uncle and owner of Narain Niwas Palace Hotel, Thakur Man Singhji and his son Pratap made the kind offer of collaborating their iconic restro-bar, Shikaarbagh with DOJO. There was no looking back after this for Arisan Food Factory. Now housed in one of Pink City’s hottest dining spots, DOJO at Shikaarbagh, has grown from strength to strength since, and is continuously enhancing both, its menu and products side by side. Speaking of which, Aridaman says, “We are happy to share that this partnership is over a year old and Pratap and I are working towards taking Jaipur’s pan-Asian food scene to a higher level in 2022, with the addition of many new recipes and exotic items that have us busy in the kitchen right now.”
With the upcoming possibility of an intimate dining space or a dessert studio, Aridaman pays his tribute to the love and support that he got from his clients, and to the recognition received for the risks that he took. “Much to our amazement, what started out as a small passion project took on a life of its own. DOJO has gained a huge client base very quickly. Our clients almost became a part of the business by encouraging us and cheering us on throughout. Many special requests found a place on our menu. We were very open to customisation and special requests, especially for children. Trying out new dishes and concepts every now and then is our mantra for innovation”, he concludes.
We send much praise down DOJO’s way not only for the remarkable feat that its team has achieved in terms of putting Jaipur on India’s sushi map, but for also growing into an exemplar of family run food enterprises that are giving larger corporates a run for their money, and for the right reasons. With Arisan Food Factory spreading its wings over other culinary fares, Jaipur has much to brace for and behold, and to be very, very proud of.
Amongst other things, Pink City has one less reason to dash off to Delhi!
Disclaimer: All images bear the sole copyright of DOJO and Arisan Food Factory, except for the one taken from Twitter. Rajputana Collective bears no claims to any image content in this article.