From gastronomical theatrics to ghar ka khana, chefs took the road lesser travelled to make it worth the meal
The joke in the food circle is that for every restaurant that opens in the city, two close down. "But, Mumbai still remains an adventurous ground, for the savvy eaters know what they want, and are willing to take risks," restaurateur Zorawar Kalra, owner of Asian gastro pub Pa Pa Ya and Masala Library that serves molecular gastronomy fare, tells us.
Wine jus chicken wings at Irish House. Pic/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
"This year, molecular gastronomy made it to the common masses and wasn’t limited to high-end spenders. Use of yoghurt spheres, from Gaggan’s khandvi and butter lassi sphere, to Mumbai’s very own SpiceKlub, this theatrical technique was not restricted to fine-dining anymore. But, I am not sure how long this will last, as the trend is currently moving toward simplicity.
Two years ago, restaurants were intimidating spaces with a you-can’t-cook-what-I-can-cook attitude. Now, it’s all about I-too-can-cook-what-you-cook-at-home," says Chef Ranveer Brar.
Tofu and mushroom bao at Bao Haus Co
Bombay Canteen is one such example. One of their most popular dishes is a weird combination chef Floyd Cardoz happened to try when he ran out of bread at home. "We were having pork vindaloo and since there was no bread, I took some thepla my wife had got from Mumbai, and I was amazed how two contrasting well-known dishes from different cuisines can come together in the form of one comfort food dish," says Cardoz, adding that the Lower Parel restaurant uses shoulder pork which is prepared using his mother’s recipe with vinegar, garlic and chillies.
Chef Ranveer Brar
That the Mumbai eater is an adventure junkie helped Cardoz while designing the Bombay Canteen menu. "People want to share their food, serve themselves, and food has become an important community event. They want their food venues to be affordable and approachable at the same time, which is what Atul Kochhar is also hoping to do with NRI," he adds.
Chicken rules the roost
While deep-fried potato munchies remain an all time hit, variety works. At Kshama Prabhu’s kitchen at Bar Stock Exchange, popcorn chicken is the top selling item. "Bite-sized chicken pieces cooked in tandoori chicken masala are great with alcohol. Anything chatpata served in a different style works," says Prabhu.
Floyd Cardoz, director, Bombay Canteen
On the other hand, for Rahul Kulkarni’s Irish House, non-fried barbeque classics are a hit. "Early this year, we introduced classic barbeque grilled chicken wings. And now, we offer them in three flavours, including a spicy orange with honey glaze, and red wine jus."
Of baos and buns
While sliders have been a hit in the city since 2014, they remained popular this year too, despite the entry of baos, Chinese steamed buns. Though Fatty Bao introduced them in the city, in October Bao Haus Co, opened its doors. On the menu are chocolate baos and buttermilk fried chicken baos to quinoa and sweet potato baos. The big burger too made its mark at Chili’s American Grill and Bar. Chef Abhijeet Gomare even introduced a limited edition menu into the regular menu due to its demand. "In our last quarter, we did craft burgers, whose buns are made of potato flour dough. This keeps them moist and they don’t fall apart easily.
Sown of the soil
The year 2015, opened up many food conversations, and one was about grains. According to Brar, it began with quinoa. "After the buzz around the South American grain died down mid-year, people turned their attention to local millets, which are high in micro-nutrients," says the food consultant. Summing up the food year, Brar says, "What works in the rest of the world, fails in India. Take for example, Peruvian food. It didn’t do well here, due to its lack of vegetarian options. Homemade tofu, on the other hand, was big in demand. Till now, chefs were using commercially available tofu. Even I incorporated homemade tofu in my food. On the regional leg, Gujarat’s Kathiawadi, Pakistan’s Punjabi food, Aagri and Malvani food, along with Udipi beyond the dosas ruled," he signs off.
Salmon on fire
Our first pick is Salmon On Fire, created by Yuuka’s Chef Ting Yen. On plate, it looks like a piece of art delicately cooked in coffee-bean flames. “The Mumbai palate is finally going beyond sushi and sashimi, and trying cold appetizers (toro tartare) and raw food (carpaccios). For me, the highlight ingredient is black truffles, which I incorporated in truffle seabass, eei (prawn) carpaccio with truffle shavings and the special aalmon truffle,” says Yen.
While the jalebi caviar is leaving patrons mind-boggled, Zorawar Kalra’s Pa Pa Ya has an official brand ambassador. “Every table orders at least one portion of our edamame sliders, which are made with gluten-free lotus flour buns served with wasabi and Japanese mayo,” says Kalra.
Giving Malvani cuisine competition, Aagri cuisine entered the food scene with Aagri Culture Express at Lower Parel. The community that gave up its salt pans for farming, has the city asking for more of their fiery Aagri masala, khadiche mutton, and Aagri chicken. Chitrapur Sarawat cuisine, also got it’s first restaurant, Simply Saraswat, in Borivli.
Mumbai saw it’s first Irani café in 50 years with Café Irani Chaii at Mahim in August. In September, Parsi cuisine came into the limelight with AD Singh’s SodaBottleOpenerWala. “Our bestseller is the Mutton Berry Pulao,” says Singh, who has noticed a rising demand for fish too. “Non-vegetarians are turning to fish and even vegetarian options,” he says.
It was chef Manu Chandra who introduced regional food in a bar. “Our jackfruit biryani at Monkey Bar is a hit even with non-vegetarians. And that says it all. The idea was to include the humble, local fruit into a biryani, and it received an overwhelming response. Modern Indian cuisine repacked in a fun, relevant way, worked for us.”
Papa Cream: From jalapeno and cream cheese ice cream, to pani puri, chaas and sushi, this parlour at Churchgate that launched in October, changed the way we eat ice-cream.
Toshin: 2015 saw a lot of new entrants. Our favourite is Le Cordon Bleu-trained Toshin Shetty. Shetty, whose family owns Ivy Banquets, launched a patisserie that offers macaroons, pralines and baked desserts
La Folie Lab: While dessert queen Sanjana Patel is prepping for a world dessert competition, her La Folie Lab in Bandra is giving patrons a sugar rush with the Pecan Pie