London-based Michelin star chef Atul Kochhar's second Mumbai venture whips up distinct flavours from Latin America
As we sat across celebrity chef Atul Kochhar at his latest culinary venture, Lima, the simplicity of the space and the personality put us at ease instantly. The chandeliers that threw light on the pale pink and lime green wall set the mood. Designed by London-based Andy Lampard and his team at design studio Zopsigog, the interiors spelt vintage charm.
The Chicken Churrasco Grill
Settling in a comfortable red sofa, we asked Kochhar about his bold choice of cuisine, "South American cuisine is one of my favourites. Mexican, Brazilian and Peruvian food is very popular in London but is under-exposed here. Lima is the capital of Peru and also means lime. We were inspired to name it because of the latter, which forms an integral part of the South American cuisine. Each South American country has a unique cuisine shaped by its history, geography and culture, along with influences from Europe and other countries." He added, "You’ll be surprised at how much India has in common with South America. The food and flavours are as robust as ours. They use coriander, turmeric, chillies and many other ingredients like us. They are family-oriented too."
As we waited for the culinary experience to unravel, he shared that South America has its specialised cocktails and Lima, as a lounge bar, would showcase these. A tall glass with a red and orange-hued drink arrived at our table. Called the Peruvian Sunset (a mix of Pisco, peach, orange, lime and red wine), it transported us to a different continent, at once. By now, the vegetarian and non-vegetarian version of the Ceviche, traditionally, a popular seafood dish along coastal Latin America, was served. The dish is made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices and spiced with ají (pronounced akhi) or chilli peppers. While we loved the sea bass version, the veggie version, that included asparagus, button and oyster mushrooms, was a pleasant surprise.
The tri-coloured Quinoa and Mint Salad was next. The red, black and white quinoa was al dente. As we relished the flavours, Kochhar suggested that we wash it down with the Pisco Sour (a traditional mix of pisco, lime and sugar). This was a tad underwhelming.
The table was cleared to make space for Tuna Tiradito, a Peruvian dish of raw fish, cut like sashimi, and dressed in a spicy sauce. It reflected Japanese influence in Peruvian cooking; while both use raw food as the main ingredients, a Tiradito is sliced and a Ceviche, cubed. "South American cuisine also showcases influences brought in by immigrants from Europe, Asia and West Africa. After World War II, Peru became home to countless Japanese immigrants who fled their country. You will find even Chinese influences," Kochhar revealed, as we relished the dish (our favourite) and the five bean veggie version with fava bean, kidney bean, edamame, pigeon pea and lima bean that packed a citrusy punch. The Croquetas, served next, reminded us of the croquettes at Irani eateries (validating Kochhar’s comment about the culinary connect between Indian and South America).
The Churrasco Grills made a grand entry, taking things a notch higher as the meal climaxed. Grilled in South American style, the vegetarian version (it looked exactly like bhutta but tasted different) was a milk-infused corn cob served with a smoked chipotle rub. Its mild flavours impressed us. The chicken thigh, marinated with aji mirasol and grilled to perfection, had a robust flavour that stayed with us. Our last drink, Kumquat and Basil Caipirinha was a more flavourful version of the Mojito, The tapas-styled presentation can be deceptive as portions were generous. The vibrant samba, tango and salsa score in the background tempted us to shake a leg and burn the odd calorie.
Kochhar has plans to add a dash of Bollywood to the playlist too (think Senorita from Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara). We’ll dance to Lima’s tunes.
Timings 6 pm to 12.30 am
At Maker Maxity, next to NRI, Bandra Kurla Complex, Bandra (E).