The advent of the metro line in Mumbai has brought about a sea change in Saki Naka, an industrial neighbourhood of Mumbai. With its proximity to both Powai and Andheri, this area is actually ripe with potential. I remember being surprised that BSE (Bar Stock Exchange) chose to open an outlet in Saki Naka. But in retrospect, it makes a lot of sense. The area crawls with white-collared office goers, many of whom would look for a good watering hole post working hours. But BSE’s niche is different. The newly opened Asia Kitchen & Bar stands in a league of its own as a swanky, spacious and understated restaurant with a fine listing of oriental drinks and food.
I missed the launch party due to a work commitment but the flurry of positive reviews in the succeeding days made me keen on visiting the restaurant. I finally made it there at around 8:30 PM on a weekday evening. A few tables were occupied by distinguished-looking guests who spoke in murmurs and seemed to relish both the food and the conversation. Quiet restaurants in Mumbai are a rarity and at least for now, Asia Kitchen & Bar ticks the box. The lighting is muted and the decor is all blacks, browns and reds with deep golden lights. The resultant effect is that of a privileged space.
We asked the staff to bring us the recommended starters once we settled in. All the waiters seemed well-versed with the menu and the concierge was a great help. But for drinks, I zeroed in on the sake sangria because I was keen to taste the drink that Japan is so famous for. My friend, a whiskey connoisseur decided to try a Japanese variant called Akashi Red. The menu consists of all the usual suspects – dimsums, baos, Ramen and of course sushi. Prices aren’t cheap but neither are they astronomically high. Looking around, we noticed a lot of Asian customers, all in formal attire. The restaurant seems to be popular among the locality’s working populace already.
A series of starters began to land up at our table in no time but first, a little about the drinks. The Akashi Red was a beautiful departure from many popular whiskeys with a sweet vanilla flavour and honeyed smoothness. If you’ve always wanted a scotch whiskey devoid of any bitter notes, this one is your pick. The sake sangria came in a fancy and very heavy receptacle and was topped with various chopped fruits. The very first sip had me nodding in approval. It was sweet, refreshing and the sake’s spicy and fruity flavour lent it extra punch. At the time, I didn’t feel it was very potent but later, I did feel the impact of the Japanese rice wine!
Purists generally turn their nose up in disdain whenever I mention vegetarian sushi. But Asia Bar & Kitchen once again reinforced my faith in its deliciousness. The asparagus and avocado tempura rolls had a crispy interior and softer exterior. The combination of ingredients and textures, combined with the creamy sauces made this dish a real winner. It was as good as the vegetarian sushi I’ve had in the orient and that’s perhaps this restaurant’s biggest edge – its authenticity.
I love the baos at 145 Kala Ghoda but the ones at Asia Kitchen & Bar are even better. The Chinese version of a bun is softer and the steaming process lends it a delightful moistness. Inside, our bao had a sweet and sour filling of cottage cheese, sundried tomato, pickled carrot, sriracha mayo and scallion, among other things. They might seem like a lot of ingredients but the combination was nothing short of delicious. The only downside was that the bao had to be eaten quickly as it began to crumble and get soggy. The rice crackers served with the bao provided a refreshing change in texture.
So far, everything at Asia Kitchen & Bar had been delightful. I wouldn’t call these green basil dumplings a total non-performer but they didn’t do much for my taste buds. There was too much spinach in the filling and I couldn’t taste any basil. There are however, other dumplings on the menu that may be worth a try such as the edamame and truffle oil dumpling and the corn and water chestnut dumpling. The steamed dumplings are certainly a lighter alternative.
The Asian pizza is the restaurant’s oriental take on the traditional Italian pizza. The bread base is swapped for crisp tortilla and the toppings consist of typically oriental vegetables, zucchini, baby corn and cheese. But what can make or break this pizza, depending on your preferences, is the use of Korean chilli sauce and what tasted like palm or peanut oil. The innovation didn’t work for me but if you like the idea of a sweet pizza, give this a go.
During the course of the meal, we tried another signature cocktail but this one was whisky-based. The White Asian was a frothy and exceedingly pleasant concoction of Jim Bean whisky, absinthe, yuzu lime and lychee. Rather like a pina colada, I can imagine a tempting virgin version as well. The sweet and tangy coolness went very well with our starters.
We were quite replete with the starters and drinks and decided to skip the mains in favour of some chocolate indulgence. The two chocolate-based desserts on the menu included a chocolate dome and an oriental cigar. Both sounded interesting but the waiter promised us that the dome was the superior choice. It took quite a while to be readied so if you do order it, be prepared for a 10 to 15 minute wait. The dome was huge and so shiny and perfect that I couldn’t imagine shattering it. The waiter poured hot chocolate sauce over it and then it was time to dig in. Inside, we encountered cool vanilla ice-cream and outside, there were sweet and crunchy noodles. As a devotee of anything that owes its origin to the cacao plant, I enjoyed it. But I missed the presence of cake and something to break the cloying sweetness.
Verdict: Asia Kitchen & Bar is a must visit for its authentic and delicious oriental cuisine and assortment of interesting signature cocktails, not to mention the exclusive ambience and proximity to Saki Naka metro station (a 2 minute walk).
Address: Ground Floor, Neelkanth Udyog Bavan, Near Sakinaka Metro Station, Sakinaka Junction, Andheri Kurla Road, Sakinaka, Mumbai
Phone: 022 30151694
Timings: 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM, 7 PM to 1 AM
Damages: Rs 2000-3000 for two