In buzzing Mumbai where new restaurants open each day, it is tough to leave your mark and the game, to excite tastebuds and get eyeballs rolling, has to be a notch above the rest.
Next time you’re in the city, take your pick from these five new places that have been the talk of the town since they’ve opened.
Sipping mindboggling drinks while watching the sun go to bed over the Arabian Sea amid the soft glow of organic candles – that’s what you do at MasalaBar, the latest venture by Zorawar Kalra. With fumes, smokes, foams, purees and reductions, their 10 signature cocktails take molecular gastronomy to a different level. The mixing of drinks happens at a ‘lab’ in the corner of the bar, that’s equipped with all the mechanics to produce a perfect drink.
The well-thought out cocktails come with a Mumbai theme. Rosemary orange infusions and almond foam lend the colours of the setting sun to Sunset@Carter, a whisky-based drink. The drama gets better with each drink. Sasoon Dock, a vodka-based drink arrives with a glass pipe and a test tube containing thyme orange fumes. And you are supposed to take alternate sips of the drink and absinthe foam, which is served on the side. Bollywood Bhang (shown above) and Mumbai Matinee are definitely worth a try.
The food does do justice to the drinks. Crispy spinach and roasted garlic give a twist to Channa Tempura Chaat, the humble bruschetta gets a makeover with mushrooms served over crisp khaari naan khatai instead of bread and edible carbon dust gives the Carbon Bhaji and Pao a surprising black colour. Whatever you order is going to leave a mark, but one thing is for sure, this is the best place in the city for sundowners, period!
Address: Level 1, Gagangiri Apartments, Carter Road Bandra (W)
PA PA YA
I was baffled when I heard that this modern Asian cuisine restaurant was all about ‘High Energy Dining’. Besides the food, which is all about experimenting with modern Asian cuisine and of course molecular gastronomy, the interiors are funky and edgy with pale crimson walls, dim lighting, 3D hexagons, that keep changing with 3D mapped animation. The idea is to include all the five senses in the dining experience, but the music was too loud for a restaurant.
The energetic servers told us to go for the Sushi Matrix. A dream for sushi lovers, the matrix comes with 19 pieces on a vertical wooden block. Spicy tuna, cured salmon and the innovative carbon sushi were the best. Carbon sushi is dark in colour thanks to the squid ink used in the rice and crackles as you bite into it because it is topped with Bubu arare (Japanese crispy rice balls).
Next we tried the bite-sized Crab and Scallop Ravioli that was served with chili sesame soya. The Chili Tamarind Beef comes highly recommended and so does the Butayakitori, Apple and Betel Leaf Tartare, super soft pork belly skewers that were glazed and chargrilled with Shichimi, a Japanese spice, mirin and soya. The Soft Shell Crab Buns had a tad bit of sweetness thanks to the honey glazed buns. The Peanut Crusted Ikan bakar and Khao Pad Kar Pao (rice) are perfect for the main course. When it comes to desserts, you can’t go without trying the Chocolate Ball of Fire, a sinful ball made of chocolate which cracks open when flambed with anise seed flavored rum. There’s just one word for the experience at Pa Pa Ya – heavenly.
Address: Level 3, Palladium Mall, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
NRI (NOT REALLY INDIAN)
One look at the menu here and I was smiling because it didn’t run into several pages. That’s a relief for a foodie like me who wants to order each dish. When two Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar decided to open a restaurant in his country, he came up with a quirky name – Not Really Indian. That’s because the dishes are those adapted by immigrant Indians who settled in different corners of the globe.
So they have a touch of Africa, South East Asia, West Indies, Kenya and the Caribbean as well. The signature dish, Bunny Chow, is hollowed out bread filled with mutton or vegetable curry that was used by Indians who worked in the plantations in Durban since the 1930s. The chicken wings, made with a tangy South African spice mix are quite good.
The Sri Lankan Potli and Malaysian Korma also have a story. They have nine signature cocktails and I chose Mumbai Martini – curry leaves and ginger muddled with vodka. He has included two dishes from the menu of his London restaurant Benares – Karara Kekda, which is crab served with passion fruit dip and Chicken Tikka Pie.
Address: 2 North Avenue, Maker Maxity, Bandra Kurla Complex
Right next to NRI is chef Atul Kochhar’s second restaurant in Mumbai which is all about Peruvian cuisine. It’s interesting, but it takes a while to get used to this cuisine. The flavours may not suit the Indian palette, especially the signature dish Sea Bass Ceviche, a raw fish that’s been cured and marinated in leche de tigre (tiger’s milk) and is served on a bed of ice with lime, avocado, red chillies and onions. I was a bit apprehensive when I was asked to try it, but it turned out to be delicious.
The Tuna Tiradito, which looked very similar to sashimi, had thin slivers of fresh pink tuna sprinkled with lime juice, chia seeds and a slathering of yellow aji paste, that is similar to mayonnaise. The delicious Multicolored Quinoa and Mint Salad with passion fruit leche was excellent too. We also recommend Limo Chili Prawns and Yucca Chips.
Address: 2 North Avenue, Maker Maxity, Bandra Kurla Complex
THE BOMBAY CANTEEN
This restaurant celebrates all things Indian and they call themselves Indian Café & Bar and everything here, from the drinks to the dishes has a touch of our country. We started off with ‘Fancy Drinks’ as they called it in their menu and ordered Tar– Booze, delicious watermelon and pomegranate juice with vodka and a sprinkling of black salt and Incredible India, an ice cube made of basil, fresh ginger and orange and a decanter of vodka and pineapple and orange juice that’s slowly poured over the ice cube. As the ice melts the flavours get better with each sip.
The food menu is divided into seven sections – Canteen Tiffin Box, Din Bhar, Chhota, Bada, Patiala, Khaane ke Saath and Sweet Dish. The Curry Leaf & Ginger Prawns served with grilled lemon are absolutely delicious. Pork and Goan Choriz Pulao topped with fried onions is sinful too. The Masala Chai Popsicles with biscuit crumble and caramel sauce is something every tea lover should try. The Bombay Canteen is a must-visit for those who love Indian food.
Address: Unit 1, Process House, Kamala Mills, S.B Road, Lower Parel