Here’s a feast to beat all feasts. It pampers all my senses…there is light, sound, dance, music and ofcourse food. As though all this were not enough there is also the worlds tallest building and the worlds biggest choreographed fountain to keep me company. If the accompanying photograph had a video and sound track, heres what you’d see and hear… glittering and shimmering fountains leaping and swirling and twirling into the evening sky as different colored lights bathe and sway with them. These fountains dance to music and Whitney Houston’s husky ”I’ll always love you” echoes sensuously as the fountains sway to it’s melody. And as though blessing it all and taking the ringside seat like a benevolent all-caring Pasha is the worlds tallest building, The Burj Khalifa which shimmers glamorously. And right here while feasting on this spectacle I am feasting on the freshest of fare created by the brilliant Executive chef Alain Gobeil . All this is the glamorous Zeta Restaurant where the heart of Dubai seems to throb in all it’s glory. In many different ways.
Cracklingly new. Shiningly new. Newingly new. Now, that Ive hammered the message through about this brand new Italian restaurant, let me tell you that I got to know about it not through a PR release or chef, but through my long-distance call to my very knowledgable foodie-dynamo buddy Dilip Joshi who has answers to all (almost) my questions.
Nudged into the armpit (almost) of my most beautiful T2 airport (Im quite crazily in love with it) the brand new JW Marriott glitters. Walk past the shimmery lobby with dripping chandeliers and youre in for a surprise. The sprawling, high ceilinged, dimly-lit dark wood, very handsome and macho restaurant is a total contrast to it. A pleasant contrast. An open kitchen bustles into view and two staircases lead into the bar area on the mezzanine.
Traditional Italian. Short menu. No pizzas. No Ossobuco coz no beef (ofcourse) Im told their chef is from Naples, but was on leave when we ate here. Food was still good. Which is a super sign. For starters, the Buratta (Rs 695) (from Bangalore) was voluptuously creamy, kissed by basil pesto and a must try. It was the superlative sea bass (Rs 1595) baked in parchment paper, flavorsome with lemon sauce and clams that was the star of the show. Delicious Pepper spring chicken rosemary potatoes pickled chillies (Rs 1295). Huge big sharing portion of delightful tiramisu (therefore priced at Rs 650).
Okay! since it is not even a fortnight old, there being no Gelato no Proseco no Grappa is understandable. But why was the spaghetti alio olio so limp and overcooked? And the
Scallops in Butter brandy (Rs 745) with grit in them? Vegetarians need more dishes, please. The side dishes of vegetables do not count (though our side dish of green beans was yum) The sommelier was knowledgable, helpful, though the wine list could do with more Italian wines.
Though Romano’s homestyle Italian menu and cooking aren’t particularly adventurous or inventive, (not enough vegetarian dishes) it’s dishes do a deft, unusual seesaw between heartiness and delicacy. These strengths and the restaurant’s macho cozy setting will take Romanos a long way.
P.S.Even though only a fortnight old, it was already quite packed.
ROMANO’S JW Marriott Sahar, IA Project Road, T2 Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport
RATING FOOD 3.5 DECOR 3.5 SERVICE 3.5
Open for dinner only
Meal for 2: Rs 5000
Whats going on? Why has Bandra’s newest restaurant been proclaiming it is a “Latin American fine dining restaurant”? Help! I am seriously questioning my own knowledge of geography. Does Latin America include Italy and Japan et al? Ofcourse, this cuisine does have influences from all over the globe. But confusion gets more confounded when the waiter in Asado tells me that “pasta is a Japanese dish”. Thankfully, my guest Pierre Ortoli has not only lived and worked in Buenes Aires as has Dr Mathilde Richou osteopath but her father also has vineyards in Argentina. Our review follows
Kitschy or cute? Handpainted walls recreate a quaint Latino town in this 65-seater. Clear blue skies, fake birds perched on fake lamp posts too. Outdoor seating too. Casual, relaxed ambiance.
So don’t get stuck on the label and go looking for “Latin American” fare (they do have a few names of dishes from there. No ceviches). You’ll enjoy the flavorful edamame truffle risotto, okayish beef empanadas. It’s the Brazilian beef steak (Rs 2000 plus) done rare that dazzles. Both our desserts…churros and Tresleches were just about okay.
Stodgy Kataifi prawns and vegetarian flautas. Ditto for the veg wraps. Fatty pork spare ribs, though Bbq sauce delicious. All the Vegetarian dishes we tried were limp and floppy. The servers were uninformed about the cuisine.
Asado “Mumbai’s first Latin American fine dine” doesn’t just flit tentatively across a few borders but knocks down a whole bunch of them altogether.
It bops around the globe and serves some okayish though expensive dishes and wines (our bill for three was Rs 14000, with wine). Our meal began with great expectations and ended with a whimper.
P.S. But then I walked outside onto Bandra’s SV road and found myself wanting to give Asado the benefit of the doubt. It has the location. It has the enthusiasm. With better judgment, research, a lowering of prices and a Latin American trained chef perhaps it could live upto it’s ambitions. We wish it all the best!
ASADO Monorama Chambers, Ground Floor, S V Road. Bandra West
Ph 6568 6666
RATING FOOD 2.5 SERVICE 2.5 DÉCOR 3
First Question: Is BKC’s new wife any good? Answer:Take a look at the photograph I shot. Second Question: At The Good Wife, how was my foodie blind date with six readers? Answer: Take a look at the photograph. This new bar serves up a cocktail of relaxed merriment which is infectious. I am absolutely over the moon to spend an evening here with my fabulous foodie blind dates.
There’s fun written all over this new bar. It’s large, has a warm, welcoming feel and is packed. We love the wall mural sketch with it’s Neanderthal man, Batman and Spiderman playing cards and so on. There is a choice of seating arrangements…comfy and dinner table too.
FOOD AND DRINK
The co-host of Discovery Channel’s series Cocktail Kings spearheads the bar here. So there is drama and flavour, my drinking buddies rate these highly, be it The Good Wife, a whisky sour cocktail ( sprayed with a vodka based black cardamom spray) or The Wolf Of BKC, ( orange vodka based with a rose aroma.) The tostada sprout chat brims over with zing and texture and is a must try. Tasty Baby Lamb Sliders – and their vegetarian version of corn jalapeño sliders too. Goodwife home salad, fresh and well made. Okayish though oversauced pasta ( Fetuccini, penne). Succulent Five spice crispy duck delights, Vanilla Panacotta and chocolate fondant pass muster.
Here’s the irrepressible Shayan Italia’s fun take on the Rosemary Chicken Tikka – “A touch dry for my liking and everyone questioned where the Rosemary was? I thought it being late and she may have gone to bed” It certainly was dry and lacklustre. Ditto for the Forest Mushroom Filo, stodgy Chicken Gyoza, and three Peppercorn Chicken. The roast chicken disappoints.
Why did the Rocking Tham brothers (of the award winning Trilogy fame) name this relaxed, fun, buzzing bar “The Good Wife”? I don’t know of any good wife who conceives cocktails with such imagination and mixes them with such skill or magnetizes such a buzzing crowd. The food is a mixture of appealing and ho-hum. Dont go for the food, go for a fun-time to this open-through-the-day bar. This Good wife is a plausible cynosure of a fun night out and not just a grubby refuelling station.
P.S.Our Shayan Italia has the last word about The Good Wife “ The Queen Bee took so many of our photographs that we left the place like rock stars. In the end they all concluded that I was the one making the most of the evening, purely because I’m a complete loser, hopelessly single and still looking for “The Good Wife”
The Good Wife, The Capital, ground floor, Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), call 40109433
Open 11.30 am to 1 am
RATING FOOD 3 SERVICE 3.5 DECOR 3.5
MEAL FOR 2: RS 2500
MY FAB FOODIE BLIND DATES
This is it. This is why I love my work as foodcritic…to connect to and meet foodies Ive never met before. To feel the foodie pulse of the city through them, to discover new places, to get their reactions and ofcourse I absolutely love meeting them. Each one is a gem: theyve taken the trouble to come from all over (Malabar hill, Jogeshwari, Ghatkopar, Khar.) The well-organised, dapper Jigar Parmar (@jigarparmar), construction maestro, foodie, diver books the table in his name. Ever helpful. Mohit Chatrani (@hungrybawarchi) head chef, blogger, YouTube channel owner gives his take on the food. Gorgeous girls sparkle the evening, be it Hunaina Sonsara (@hu_nai_na) housewife,stylist,foodie who loves travel Jumana huzefa electricwala, who is truly a multidimensional creative energy in human form. @ jumanahuzefa proud homemaker,adventure lover who brings along a handpainted creative gift. @PoojaDharani CS and Law student, Foodie and an aspiring Food Blogger charms. Not to be missed is the multi-talented, articulate, great fun (pl see photo again) Shayan Italia @biryani360 who has set just up Biryani360 a great new concept Im yet to try. .
HOW TO BE MY FOODIE DATE? Should you want to be my guest and dine with me, please email rashmiudaysingh2015@gmail,com, instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh and hashtag #dinewithrashmi. I will get in touch when Im back. And even as you read this, I am in Singapore as jury chairperson of my region, attending “Asia’s 50 best restaurants” awards (crossing my fingers for our Indian winners). Watch this space!
Indian Cafe & Bar
We are rejoicing! Many reasons…not only is it a joyful experience but there is distinct joy in the food too. There is a palpable youthful vibe not just in the ambiance, the staff, the diners but once again, in the food too. Bombay Canteen celebrates India and ofcourse Bombay. Much like my brilliant world renowned artist guest Jaideep Mehrotra whose works embody the melting pot of cultures in our metropolis, a melange of the eastern & western sensibilities. Like the Sachin Sculpture at Sasmira Junction, which pays tribute to a local lad using state of the art material to create it.Both, he and his lovely wife Seema feel that ‘Bombay Canteen’ has both these elements and manages to capture them well in their flavours and presentation.
Walk into this airy 4,000 sq. ft of brilliantly done up space and be charmed by the Bombay nostalgia in this unfinished “bungalow” with it’s stained glass, long rustic bar, printed tiles, manually lettered pricing boards.Thankfully it does not degenerate into a themed cutesy cafe,
space, Kudos to the Busride Design Studio.
NYC to MUMBAI
This Goan chef, worked in Mumbai and took NYC by storm way before glamorboy Vikas Khanna. I first met Chef Floyd Cardoz fifteen years ago, when I had been flown down to NYC by Asia Society for a panel discussion on Indian food with the icons, Madhur Jaffrey and Danny Meyer. I ate with Danny Meyer at “Tabla” , Floyds introduction of Indian food to America and loved it. A couple of years ago, i ate at Floyd’s “Northend grill” and came away disappointed. Both have since shut, Floyd still straddles both continents (Whitestreet in NYC and Bombay Canteen here). This one marks his return to and celebration of Indian cuisine. Along with Chef Thomas Zachiaras they use only local ingredients (many not served in restaurants) and evolve Indian cuisine by making it “cool”. Their passion shines through.
Flavors and textures do a rocking jugalbandi! Like the crisp Arbi tuk and mugra chaat. Goan pulled pork does the dandiya with theplas. Eggs Kejriwal get yummier with Kerala coconutty chutney. It begins with the “chintus” (tiny floating snacks much like David Chang’s Ma Peche) super
Unda Curry Devilled Desi Eggs, paper-thin lotus-root fryums. Chhotas (salads, tacos and more) Badas (
Spiced Grilled Chicken Kaleji ) and we also ask for the “Patiala” ( large sharing dishes) fish. Chef Zachiaras’ coconutty My uncles mutton curry delights. Whoa! the rum-spiked Gulabnut, is Floyd’s improvement on the cronut, but for me its the fleshy guava tan ta tan ( tart tatin) with it’s red chilly icecream that works the magic. A fully stocked bar,c raft beers by The Gateway Brewing Co are the other upsides.
My assistant calls to book the table in his name (I never book in mine) and is told they are booked up till 9.30pm.He persists and finally secures a booking for 7pmand for atleast the first two hours the cafe is more or less empty. The loud music jars and keep getting louder. Multi-Grain Khichdi, Steamed Kokum Idiyappam, banana deep fried pakodas
are ho hum. Infact, the vegetarian fare does not sparkle as much as the non veg one. Milk Braised Kashmiri Raan not available.Ice Cream Sandwich and masala chai popsicle sound better than they taste,
Balle balle! Indian cuisine gets its much needed complement of playfulness, modernism and global sophistication. Thankfully no molecular gastronomy here! No chicken tikka masala either! Sure they don’t ace everything, the portions could be larger, the vegetarian fare more finetuned. Accessibility is the guiding ethos, it is a go-to, drop-in (open for dinner only) canteen for enlightened food lovers on all budgets. I love the way this canteen marries locally sourced, serious food with an ultra-casual, spontaneous dining ethos, Eating here feels unencumbered, honest and joyful…that word again!
P.S. I just hope this brand new Canteen keeps it up.
Bombay Canteen, Kamala Mills, S.B. Road, Lower Parel, Open for dinner only 7:00 pm – 1:00 am
Ph 49666666 Meal for 2 Rs 2000
RATING FOOD 4 SERVICE 4 DECOR 4
Vegetarian bakery, patisserie and cafe
Are you a vegetarian who does not eat eggs ? Read on and you will be happy you did. Over the years Mumbai has spawned many a shudh vegetarian Gujarati, Maharashtrian, Mexican, Italian, multi-cuisine restaurant. This is the very first dedicated Patisserie-Bakery-café serving not just vegetarian but “eggless-vegetarian” fare. “it’s a brilliant idea. India has the largest population of vegetarian Hindus in the world” opines my guest and blind date, London’s Michelin-starred Benaras restaurant ‘s Atul Kochhar (see box) To check out the patisserie I invite two gorgeous French ladies, Stephanie d Aboville who curates unparalleled access to Paris and beyond. Francette Harrison, a French “Jain” (she does not eat onions and garlic). She has moved here ever since her husband has been heading the Four Seasons and knows Mumbai amazingly well. We also meet two regulars Hiloni and Surabhi who swear by this café.
The large glassed in TRP stands right opposite the Phoenix High street. It is well light, airy, has an open kitchen and many a counter stacked with pastries, breads and cakes.
This includes eggless and gelatin free desserts, breads, croissants, burgers, sandwiches a few multi-cuisine light meals too. Amongst the savories, the soft paneer bursting with peppery notes is everyone’s favorite. Our Jain Francette loves the 3 jain sliders. The masala corn served in a cone is chatpatta good. The opinion starts getting sharply divided when it comes to the sweet stuff. The chocolate bar is everyones favorite.
The rest are not our favorites, But here again, the “eggless-vegetarians” like Hiloni Punatar point out that the
Madagascar mousse Chocolate mousse bar
and Raspberry princess are the best eggless desserts you can get in the city.
While some of the savory dishes like the Patti samosa are too spicy or too stodgy, the vada pao is okayish, the khao suey lacklustre. Many of the desserts are too stodgy, not light enough, the macarons chewy.
Kudos to the Guptas for catering to the niche vegetarian consumer (theyve set up pure vegetarian Mexican, molecular gastronomy restaurants too). In TRP, there are over 65 varieties of eggless and gelatin -free pastries and desserts. Here are some reactions on my instagram and twitter page… @anupa30Eggless macaroons is just absurd ! This is echoed by
@divyabarmecha and @chefkunal . say @chef_sandeep @tulsi78 “it is heaven for me as I always wanted to try macarons cos of eggs couldn’t try”. So while some of these desserts are yum, many more do not match up to the ones made with egg, but they do fill in a huge need out there. “Eggless vegetarians” this way please!
The Rolling Pin
Janta Industrial Estate, opposite High Street Phoenix, Lower Parel.
Open 9.30 am to 11.30 pm
RATING FOOD 3 DÉCOR 3.5 SERVICE 3.5
Meal for 2: Rs 800
Kya idea aaya! I love hunting. Hunting out lesser known foodie joints. Over the years, Ive been finding differenct ways of doing so. But 29th january’s idea was unique! Id already sniffed out “Kamdar sweets” in Prathnasamaj. And met the young entrepreneurial owner, the young Jimmy Thakker (Parsi nahi, Gujju chhe). I had bought yum undhiyo by the kilo (Rs 360) from him. So I requested him to not only help me check out the colorful cacophonic Prathnasamaj area (I love it) but also dine with us. One happy coincidence led to another. My guests Arjun Divecha high-flying financial genius from SanFrancisco, along with the foodie couple Amrita and Richard Kozarack first popped into Jimmy’s shop (we bought lots of savory and sweet stuff) . Then Jimmy took us to the brand new Vihar café, further round the corner.
Perched on the corner of the intersection (opp Tewari brothers) Café Vihar looks very handsome from outside. Inside it is a brightly lit, canteen like space with wooden tables and benches. The mezanine level (going to serve Mexican, Italian etc) was not ready when we visited.
While the basic South Indian fare is better than the rest of the dishes, it is nothing exceptional. Crisp vada, flavorsome sambhar, a tasty Chilly cheese rawa dosa are worth trying.The Bissi belli though overloaded with cinnamon is tasty, as is the Lemon rice and crisp ragi dosa (on offer are palak to nutella dosa). The banana stuffed Mangalore buns have the perfect sweetness, plumpness and crispness.
Limp and tasteless Akki roti. Ditto for the Amma’s appam, idiappappam. oversweet .sheera and gloopy payasam. Rasam lacks punch and the Paneer makhanwala et al not worth trying.
A pity that the South indian fare here does not pass muster. Friendly quick service, affordable price points (Meal for 2: Rs 600). They are still to get their act together and have plenty other cuisines planned. We wait and watch.
P.S MUST DO. Do you love authentic Gujju vegetarian savories (undhiyo, muthia, khakhra, rajkot se chutney…) sweets (kesar peda, raas malai) then head to Kamdar sweets. Jimmy has over 300 savory items and over 80 sweet ones. Go check out. Kamdar sweets, prathnaSamaj.
524, SVP Road, Opera House, Girgaum. 23821116
Meal for 2: Rs 600
RATING FOOD 2.5 SERVICE 3.5 DÉCOR 3
“Smiling BKK” thats the name of the Dubai restaurant, recommended by my blind dates. Mona Lisa (with a moustache) graces this Thai eatery, ( the owner looks like Mona Lisa, we are informed). While the young luxury inventory controller Mohit Bidchandani is holding a gun (given by the waiter to call him) PR consultant Vaishali Chatterjee, trend spotter, dancer is smiling with the menu. As is Tech & digital enthusiast, travel pundit Aneesha Hingorani (thanks @petpujaris). We love the small, vibrant tucked away eatery with it’s Thai curries and fish cakes. Watch this space for more hidden secrets which my blind dates help me sniff out. Be my foodie date Instagram, twitter @rashmiudaysingh