Category Archives: Food

Delving into the nuances of fine dining and even finer wine

The curative power of friends and a good breakfast

Somehow, pancakes and eggs do a much better job of soothing ruffled feathers than pasta or biryani

If you really love someone, meet them over breakfast (and that includes yourself). Don’t be weighed down by the carbohydrates of a heavy lunch or the illusory high of drinks at dinner. Allow good conversation, a sunny table and honeyed pancakes to infuse freshness into your life and spirit. And a nice double espresso can do wonders to bring you back to the pleasant present. You smile, you laugh and you learn to live in joy for the rest of the day.

I’ve had some of the best breakfasts in my home city – Mumbai. Be it brun maska and mawa cake at an Irani café or croissants and coconut crepes at a French one, the city has always filled my belly with good food and my soul with utter contentment. My best friends are also my favourite breakfast buddies. Over forkfuls of syrupy waffles and inappropriately large bites of basil and mozzarella sandwich, we nudge each other to offer up our dreams, secrets and pet philosophies. And they add their own unique flavour to the dishes.

Sometimes, I breakfast with a pen and book instead. We’ll bond over hot chocolate and talk to each other in verses, with nothing to interrupt us save a twittering bird or an interesting song. Books are just like people in that they both get consumed into your own self, altering you ever so slightly. And with both, you learn a different nuance every time you do a reading.

Whether your preferred breakfast company is of the breathing or the bound kind, here are twelve cafes and restaurants in Mumbai that won’t disappoint. Each one has a special place in my memories and all have borne witness to minor mutations in my view of life.

  1. St. Xavier’s canteen: Chocolate croissants, illicit affairs and struggling to fit in

But after a while, I simply stopped struggling. I wasn’t ready yet, to stop being a child and start being a ‘cool’ teenager and that was all right. I spent my days reading, writing, studying French and learning HTML, while my peers found boyfriends, bunked classes and auditioned for plays. I learnt that it is possible to be content doing things that are different from the norm.

P.S.: I don’t know if they still serve soft, warm croissants oozing with dark chocolate sauce. But back in 2005-06, they were legendary. And they only cost 15 rupees!

  1. Cha Bar, Oxford Bookstore: Exotic teas and the reassuring fragrance of books

Cafes in bookstores are one of the best inventions of our time (assuming they didn’t exist until the 20th century). You find a table, a book finds you and good tea keeps watch while you’re wrapped up in each other. Cha Bar was my first introduction to gourmet tea (I was pursuing my graduation then). One sip of their Kashmiri Kahwa could make me feel as elite as the crisp sari-clad artist at the next table.

Honorary mentions: Markiv’s Café for coffee and croissants, 210 Degrees for decadent pastries

  1. Gaylord Café: Kona coffee and wrought iron chairs

All I have are happy memories of this outdoor café, attached to one of the oldest restaurants of the area (Churchgate). Good friends, new friends, books, pens and solitude – I’ve brought them all to this place and they’ve all left happier and more caffeinated. My only grouse is that they’ve discontinued the fluffy whole wheat muffins.

Must try: Chocolate tart, tea cakes and muffins

  1. Food for Thought, Kitab Khana: Dark chocolate, apple tea and flavoured cupcakes

I finished reading the lion’s share of ‘Sophie’s World’, a fictionalised guide to philosophy, at this café in a bookstore. Whatever the temperature outside, I could never get enough of their perfectly sweet and tart apple tea. And their hot chocolate was as dark and murky as the mysterious portions in my book. Also, delicious as sin.

Tip: Have the cupcakes, priced at just Rs. 50 each (as of 2016)

  1. Suzette’s Creperie: Feeling French, watching people and passing time

I’ve been to two of their outlets. The one at Bandra has al fresco seating, which I love. The one at Nariman Point is smaller and stuffier, but dear to my heart for it has often helped me play the waiting game. Owned by a French woman named Suzette (but of course), the crepes here are perfection – both sweet and savoury varieties. I’ve met some forgettable people in those days (early working days) but perhaps the café remembers.

Honorary mention: Candies at Bandra (the one at Pali Hill), for its ample space and salad buffet

  1. Starbucks, Fort: Space, solitude and freedom

The only problem is their beverages are too light and lukewarm. On the plus side, the food is scrumptious – special mention to the chocolate muffin and paneer sandwich. This is the largest Starbucks I’ve seen and the area upstairs assures undisturbed privacy, not to mention an interesting view of the people downstairs. The best part is you can sit for hours without ordering anything new – perfect for getting work done. I’ve had some great business meetings at this Starbucks as well – I guess it’s lucky for me.

Honorary mention: The sea-facing Costa Coffee at Carter Road, Bandra offers breezy climes and a relaxing view

  1. Kyani & Co: Snobbish Irani café with humble pricing

You could eat and drink at this iconic Irani café for as low as 50 rupees but the waiters would have you believe otherwise. Be prepared for dismissive (bordering on rude) service and waiters who vanish before you’ve even finished speaking. But the mawa cakes, custard, tarts, puffs and tea make up for all of it. It’s strange but Kyani is special to me through a friend, who has enjoyed many lonesome breakfasts here and shared their accounts with me.

  1. Grandmama’s Café: A happy place where you’ll never go hungry

If ever you feel like the clouds in your life are obscuring all the rainbows, head to Grandmama’s Café. There are three outlets in the city (as of today) and all of them sport cheery interiors that are full of light. The menu is choc-a-bloc with waffles, pancakes, salads, eggs, sandwiches and pastries. Take a bite of their vanilla pancake, served with cinnamon fruit compote, vanilla ice-cream and maple syrup and contemplate the joy of existence. I was at their Dadar outlet with a friend yesterday and I can still hear the music – classic oldies played at just the right volume.

  1. The Nutcracker: Eggy goodness in a kitschy café

There isn’t much space here, so find a table quickly and order as much as you can stomach. Everything here is uber tasty and often heavy, so make this a brunch rather than breakfast. I travelled for over an hour to make it here for breakfast on a Sunday morning, but it was worth it, for the curative powers of friends and a good breakfast.

  1. Khar Social: Heaven in a tray, and drinks if you’d like them too

I have only a small number of close friends, so every other café/restaurant on this list reminds me of the same person. Memories of cheery conversations rush back, but I can remember exact experiences and weather details. Happiness isn’t all that easy to forget. By day, the Socials (there are several) are bright and lively breakfast joints. By night, they are bars that attract a youngish crowd.

I loved: Kiran’s Big Apple breakfast with pancakes, Oreos, fries, scrambled eggs and toast, all for Rs 280

  1. Annapurna Restaurant, Matunga: Give in to all your dosa idli fantasies

It’s tough to pick a favourite in a locality that’s dotted with authentic Udupi restaurants but Annapurna is special, for this is where my parents and I shared plates of perfectly prepared idli sambhar, uttapam and pineapple sheera after a hectic day of wedding shopping. I’m a Tam-Brahm with regular access to South Indian delicacies but I still don’t tire of tucking into Mysore masala dosas at restaurants. I think it’s all about the coconut chutney for me.

Honorary mention: Ram Ashraya, near the station

  1. Aaswad, Dadar: Quintessential Marathi fare in an artsy, air-conditioned ambience

I love a good Maharashtrian breakfast and Dadar is the best place in the city to get it. A few years ago, an acquaintance and I went searching for the famous Aaswad. It was unimaginably crowded, and after a 15 minute wait, we managed to get a table. “Be quick,” the waiter’s eyes seemed to signify. Poha, sabudana upma, missal pav and kothimbir vadi – this restaurant spins magic with everything on the menu. And you get to look at local art while you eat.

Go, meet a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Treat them to waffles and fresh juice. And enjoy the way their face breaks into a smile.

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Rediscovering the pleasure of slow travel at Fratelli Vineyards

In all my trips until 2016, I can only name one where I had the luxury of doing nothing. Trust me, it’s the greatest privilege there is in this world and if you have it, you’re lucky indeed. That I could begin 2017 with yet another lazy retreat is a fact as sweet as the lingering aftertaste of sparkling wine.

Ever since I tasted an exceedingly good red wine by Fratelli at Gaylord’s 60th year celebrations, I’ve wanted to pay a visit to their winery and witness the viticultural alchemy for myself. Wine harvest in India begins from Jab-Feb and I schedule a trip to Fratelli Vineyards in Akluj, Maharashtra in the month of January. I would’ve been content to spend a weekend there but they insist on hosting us for three days. I know now, that this will be a holiday where the clock stops ticking and I can allow myself a peaceful siesta or two.

Fratelli Vineyards and Winery, Akluj, Maharashtra
We spend our time at the guesthouse
Fratelli Vineyards and Winery, Akluj, Maharashtra
dining and wining,
The guesthouse at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra
sleeping off the afternoons and
Green grapes at Fratelli Vineyards
enjoying winery and vineyard tours
Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra
in the mellow light of sunset.

And how can I forget my disastrous attempt to ride a quad bike (a four wheeled contraption) which ended in me crashing into a wall? I have to admit though, it was exhilarating at first and I believe I’ll fare better next time!

The vineyard

Living next to acres of verdant vineyards has been a long-cherished dream and it comes true for a few days at Fratelli Vineyards. In the morning, I wake up to see the workers at the winery setting up the processes and the birds chirping excitedly in the garden surrounding the main building. That’s where our guesthouse is located, accessed by a spiraling staircase that is a work of art in itself. We arrive after a longish drive from Mumbai, have a late lunch in the dining room on the same storey and enjoy a little siesta, post which we are taken on a round of the Motewadi vineyards. We encounter row upon row of little green chardonnay grapes. Once they grow a little bigger, they will be ready for harvesting.

The winery

Our visit to the vineyard comes to a quick end with the descent of the sun and we promise to return the following morning. But for now, a tour of the winery lies between us and a much anticipated wine tasting session. The winery is vast and there are so many different sections, dedicated to various processes that are part and parcel of wine-making. In one automated belt, we witness the process of wine bottling.

In another, we see the process of labelling. But the most fascinating part of the tour is the room where countless bottles of white wine are being fermented, to be turned into sparkling wine. While there are many ways of making sparkling wine, the basic process involves the introduction of sugar and yeast to induce fermentation. Thereafter, the bottles are rotated (riddling) to allow all the sediments to accumulate at the neck and then be popped out. Finally, some residual sugar is added back to the bottle.

The process of fermenting wine at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra

While most of the wines at Fratelli Vineyards aren’t aged, the top one per cent of their grapes goes into making the premium SETTE vintage wines. The partly Italian heritage of Fratelli Wines was never more apparent than we entered the chilly, hallowed room where the casks and bottles of SETTE wine are displayed. I consider myself most fortunate that I was able to taste one of these the following day.

SETTE wines at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra

White and red wine-tasting

We have our tasting of three white wines on our first evening at Fratelli Vineyards and a session of red wine tasting with their assistant wine-maker the following evening. The wines we taste are chenin blanc, sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. They’re all more robust than the light sangiovese bianco we had at lunch but I love the spicy notes in the sauvignon blanc and the smoothness of the chardonnay. The chardonnay is technically the most superior, we’re told. But I know I’ve given my heart to the sauvignon blanc. When it comes to cheaper wines, I stick with whites because it’s safer but at Fratelli Vineyards, I am reminded afresh of my original passion for the reds.

Wine tasting at Fratelli Vineyards, Akluj, Maharashtra
This is where our white wine tasting takes place.

Our red wine tasting session with the assistant wine-maker Vrushal Kedari and one of the distributors of Fratelli Vineyards proves to be an eye-opener in more ways than one. We work our way through a sangiovese red, a vintage SETTE 2012 and a premium blend of sangiovese, cabernet franc and syrah. If the M/S blend has us closing our eyes in quiet appreciation, the SETTE vintage astonishes me with its unparalleled taste and texture. A better Indian wine I haven’t had thus far. It is the brainchild of Piero Masi, the Italian winemaker who joined Fratelli in 2006 at the behest of the Secci family, who were in partnership with the Sekhri brothers in Delhi and Mohit-Patile bothers in Akluj.

Dining room at Fratelli Vineyards
This cosy dining room is where we had our red wine tasting.

A slice of Switzerland

Imagine visiting a piece of paradise that isn’t even on the map. On the afternoon of our second day at Fratelli Vineyards, I come face to face with a living reminder of Switzerland’s terraced vineyards. Right from the mountains in the background to the vineyards at their feet and the glistening lake in their midst, everything about Garwar Vineyards feels like an echo of the European sojourn I had. Of course, these aren’t terraced but the sheer range and beauty of the landscape leaves me speechless. Here is a destination designed for panorama and 360 degree shots – because it’s practically impossible to capture it all in one frame.

Garwad Vineyards, Maharashtra

On the advice of a staff member, we drive ahead of the elevated machan where we were to have our lunch and chance upon the promised rows of black grapes – so large that they might burst out of their skins any moment. It gladdens my heart to walk among these fields in the fresh winter breeze and imagine them populated with dozens of harvesters once the season begins (soon after we leave, as it happens).

Finally, after much exploration, we settle down at a table in the machan overlooking the vast vineyards, lake and mountains and contemplate the beauty of life over sips of delicious sparkling wine. The wind whips tendrils of hair across my face and I seize the moment for some ‘dreamy’ photographs (you’ll see evidence of these on my Facebook page soon). Some lovely rose wine follows the sparkling wine and a cloud of contentment settles over me. I partake of the lunch spread sparingly and then we decide to go in search of that lake in the distance. It’s only a short walk away, we’re told. We walk in the late afternoon sun, giggly from the wine and replete with the fragrance of the terrain. Presently, we come across the lake we were in search of.

Garwad Vineyards, Maharashtra

Currently, Fratelli grows 12 varieties of grapes in their three vineyards – these include seven reds and five whites. The whites are Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Müller-Thurgau while the reds are Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon , Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Marselan and Petit Verdot. While all the wines are dry, they are very well balanced and leave a fruity aftertaste on the palate.

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Getting there: The route to Akluj from Mumbai goes via Pune and Phaltan. It’s a six hour drive but if you live in Pune, you can reduce that by half. Here is the Google Maps link.

The guesthouse: The rooms are spacious, air-conditioned, have HD television, tea-coffee makers, room service and direct access to the lawns. Rates begin at Rs 6500 per person per night. When not touring the winery and vineyards, you can play pool in the dining room or carom, foosball and table tennis downstairs. The surrounding villages are also a pleasure to explore.

Contact details: Website | +91 1126592900 | Email

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Joss, Mumbai: Swanky Asian dining in the ‘burbs

Here’s a little secret – I often skip my evening snack when I’m looking forward to a sumptuous dinner. After all, what use is a great meal if you can’t do justice to it? That’s how I came to be at Joss, Santacruz with a rumbling tummy and a roaring appetite.

The artfully lit-up interiors won me over instantly. Great evening ambience is all about an inspired interplay of lights and shadows and Joss does an excellent job. As I slid into my chair at one of the tables lined against the wall next to the entrance, I had a distinct feeling of being somewhere special. The feeling intensified as perfectly dressed customers walked in at regular intervals, speaking in hushed tones as the elite are wont to do.

Dining at Joss is an intimate experience and the low volume lounge music enables great conversations despite the considerable distance between both sides of a table.

A cocktail in a cigar pipe

Our smiling server (really, I wonder how he managed to have a sunny disposition throughout!) approached to seat us, offer us water and then the menu.

Prepare to be thoroughly pampered when you arrive at Joss and leave all those bourgeoisie self-help tendencies far behind.

The host recommended their ‘smoking cosmopolitan’ cocktail (Rs 450) for me while my friend decided to go with trusty Teacher’s Highland Cream (RS 250).

Smoking Cosmopolitan at Joss, Mumbai

The cocktail was a work of art – a bubbling pink concoction encased in a cigar pipe made of glass, topped off with swirls of white fumes. And it certainly wasn’t all looks and no taste.

The cosmopolitan was among the best I’ve had, with delicious notes of berry and a generous dash of potent vodka.

The host had recommended an assortment of new vegetarian sushi on the menu and they began arriving at our table soon after. The wait time between dishes was longer than average but we weren’t complaining – we were happy to extend our time at Joss.

Sushi with crunch

The pair of chopsticks beside my table luckily had regular cutlery for company. I wasn’t about to embarrass myself by toying with those contraptions in such an elegant setting. So I happily cut into my Vegas Roll (Rs 850), topped with crunchy corn tempura and sank into my seat with satisfaction. The combination of avocado and furikake sprinkle made this sushi quite delightful. Of the three new vegetarian sushi on the menu, this one was my favourite.

I also enjoyed the TNT Roll (Rs 870) with spiced edamame, avocado, ‘bidi bomb’ carrot and onion tempura.

TNT sushi roll at Joss, Mumbai

Tempura is such an integral component of vegetarian sushi – especially for those of us who need some change of texture with all that rice and seaweed.

While I personally preferred the Qi Roll (Rs 820) the least, it is a great combination of ‘power greens’, shitake mushroom and smoked mayo. Altogether, the sushi made for an excellent appetiser and left us with just enough room for a main course and dessert. I’d love to hear your views on their dim sums if you’ve ever had them – hope to try those on my next visit.

Spicy khow suey and golden chocolate

We were torn between the Thai green curry with rice and khow suey (Rs 690) for mains but in the end, my passion for the soupy delight won over. The version Joss serves is on the spicier side, though with the inherent sweetness of coconut milk intact. The portion size was ample for two people and slurping up the gravy was my favourite part of the meal. The khow suey came with six different accompaniments ranging from chopped spring onions to sauces and crispy noodles but when I went a little ballistic adding these to my bowl, I realised I’d made the khow suey too thick. Play it cool (unlike me) and add only one accompaniment, if at all.

Khow suey with vegetables at Joss, Mumbai

The best part about Asian food is that it’s light on the tummy, given that most dishes are steamed and full of nutrition-rich elements.

We were game for some sinful dessert after the sushi and khow suey and decided to give the new dessert menu a try. After all, you’ve probably heard enough about The Big Bang Theory (their signature dessert). We zeroed in on the only chocolate item, which also had seasonal strawberries in it and the server echoed our choice. So The Midas Touch (Rs 450) it was.

The Midas Touch dessert at Joss, Mumbai

The Midas Touch is, as you’d expect, golden in colour. It’s essentially an egg filled with rich chocolate mousse and strawberry and cinnamon gel at the centre. But it’s served with popcorn and chocolate crumble that are really fun to eat along with the mousse. A combination of textures is very important, especially for the Indian palate and I couldn’t have enjoyed that egg without the crunchy, crispy elements. As for the portion size, it was on the smaller side for two people who love desserts but definitely not meant for just one.

A drink to remember

Somewhere between the sushi and the mains, I finished my cosmopolitan and the server (God bless his soul) recommended the sangrias. And a better recommendation I have never received. I chose the sparkling wine sangria (a 500 ml jug for Rs 1100) and it brought back fond memories of my sojourn to a vineyard the previous week.

Sparkling wine sangria at Joss, Mumbai

The wine hadn’t been watered down – it was merely topped with chopped fruits and the result was a delicious concoction that can only be described as liquid joy.

Be sure to order the one litre jug and nothing else if you love your wines.

Sushi lovers who live in Mumbai’s western suburbs would do well to book a table at Joss right away. And if you’re a townie, you could always hire an Uber. 😉

Joss Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Address: Savoy Chambers, Next To Mini Cooper Showroom, Santacruz West, Mumbai
Phone: 022 26617772 / 022 26617771
Timings: 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM, 7:30 PM to 11:30 PM, daily

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In photos: Vinsura Winery, Nashik

Nashik is India’s own Napa Valley, dotted as it is with wineries and vineyards of all shapes and sizes. And while I’ve passed through several times, I’ve never really been to the famous vineyards thus far. Little Vinsura Winery tucked away in the onion village of Lasalgaon was my first proper visit to a winery in India’s Wine Capital. I didn’t have time to go to their vineyard but I did enjoy a sumptuous lunch, a visit to the rock garden and an enjoyable wine tasting session with proprietor Vikrant Holkar guiding us through the history and nuances of wine.

Vinsura Winery, Nashik
The entrance has a cellar door to distinguish it from a conventional ‘wine shop’ where often, every type of alcohol apart from wine is sold!

It’s surprisingly difficult to find a history of viticulture in India. Given our religious aversion to alcohol, the wine industry didn’t have much encouragement until the 20th century. I even recall a Sanskrit verse that preached against the ill effects of sura or wine. That wine needn’t be just an intoxicant but a healthful journey into the awakening of one’s taste buds is a notion heartily endorsed by Vinsura Winery. The owners Sadashiv Nathe, Pralhad Khadangale and Kishor Holkar were initially grape farmers. They decided to try and produce quality grapes for the many wineries in Nashik. When they met with success, they inevitably experimented with setting up their own cooperative winery.

Vinsura Wines
If you have time, you can watch a documentary on viticulture called ‘Grape to Glass’ before the wine tasting session.

Sankalp Winery eventually became Vinsura Winery after Vikrant Holkar went to New Zealand to study the science of wine production. Today, they have 250 acres of vineyards with a production capacity of 600,000 litres. I saw and tasted a variety of table wines at Vinsura Winery but they also have their own label of sparkling wine. They are in fact the third Indian wine maker (after Chateau Indage and Sula) to produce a sparkling wine in 2007. Come 2010, the proprietors introduced three aged wines, termed as ‘reserve wines’. Aged for two years in large oak barrels, these premium wines are much more expensive than the other table wines. (Source)

Vikrant Holkar, owner of Vinsura Wines
Vikrant Holkar expounds on the nuances of wine tasting.

According to Wikipedia, Persian traders introduced wine in India in the 4th millennium BC. The mughal emperor Jehangir apparently had a penchant for brandy wine. India’s burgeoning wine plantations suffered a setback when the phylloxera epidemic, also known as the Great French Wine Blight swept across the country. But everything was back to normal by the time The Tonia Group in Goa began manufacturing wine. This was the early 1980s and Tonia was assisted by French winemakers in its endeavours. Today, India is home to at least 90 wine producers and around 17 million litres are produced annually.

The rock garden

Rock garden at Vinsura Winery, Nashik
The rock garden has been built as a family recreational space
Rabbits at Vinsura Winery, Nashik
with cute birds and caged rabbits for petting.

The restaurant

Restaurant at Vinsura Winery, Nashik
We had a spicy thali consisting of gigantic portions of rice, roti, two vegetables, onions and pickle for lunch.

The terrace

Terrace at Vinsura Winery, Nashik
The terrace is a beautiful windswept place
Tent at Vinsura Winery, Nashik
where you can rent a 7.5 feet tent for the night.

Wine tasting session

Wine tasting at Vinsura Winery, Nashik
Different kinds of wine glasses – the smallest is for dessert wine while the tallest (a flute) is for sparkling wine.

Before tasting the wines, Holkar took us through the familiar process of swirling, sniffing and then swishing a large mouthful of wine to ascertain its various notes. One myth he helped dispel is that only red wine is healthy. The antioxidants in wine come from the skin of the grapes and while it is true that all of it is retained in red wine, around 95% is retained in rose wine and 90% in white wine. So the difference is negligible. Holkar also told us how port wine is made – it’s essentially wine remnants mixed with sugar and alcohol and hence much cheaper. He told us that red wine is the most bitter and white wine the sweetest. Rose wine is the oldest type of wine but today, people prefer either red or white.

Vinsura Winery, Nashik
Oak barrels in the wine tasting area

To be honest, I did not enjoy the red wine at all (too many dregs) but I quite liked the white wine and took home a bottle. The rose wine left me unmoved (too light) though my impression was far from negative. The dessert wine was treacly and sweet and though pleasant, not ideal for extended consumption. A wine-based soft drink we tried proved to be quite interesting and is an inexpensive choice for non-serious drinkers. We were unable to taste any of their sparkling wine. Holkar also showed us a device used to extract the oxygen out of an opened wine bottle so as to keep the rest of it fresh.While storing wine, remember that heat and oxygen are its worst enemies.

Wines at Vinsura Winery are available at heavily discounted rates. The wine tasting is priced at Rs 100 for four wines. Find more information here.

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A whiff of the orient at Asia Kitchen & Bar

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.

Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai

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.

Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Large bells with oriental carvings are arranged in neat alcoves along the wall

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.

Asparagus tempura rolls and sake sangria at Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Asparagus tempura rolls and sake sangria

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.

Open bao with cottage cheese and sundried tomato at Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Open bao with cottage cheese and sundried tomato

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.

Steamed basil dumplings at Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Steamed basil dumplings at Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai

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.

Asian pizza at Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Asian pizza with oriental greens

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.

white-asian
White Asian

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.

Chocolate Dome at Asia Bar & Kitchen, Mumbai
Chocolate Dome

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

Asia Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato