Food special: Lean cuisine for the health-conscious Mumbaikar

From Couscous Upma and Fermented Soybean Miso Soup to Seared Reef Cod and Greek-style Skewered Chicken, lean menu options are emerging as a reality across city eateries. the guide debunks the myth that lean can just be healthy but not tasty and appetising, for the calorie-conscious Mumbaikar

The next time you head to Café Sundance at Churchgate, give their regular sliders a miss and instead, dig into Couscous Upma, dip the Herb Pilaf into Puy Lentil Ragout or grab a slice of Four Seasons Pizza that comes topped with artichokes, asparagus, zucchini, young spinach and black olives. To be introduced on Friday, these dishes are part of the lean options available on the revamped menu. “Today, diners have become increasingly health conscious. We, therefore, felt the need to feature permanent healthier options on our menu. Some of the offerings include quinoa salad, scrambled eggs with kale and a burger with edamame, shiitake and brown rice patty,” says Sumeet Nankani, owner of the eatery.

Marinated Beetroot Salad
Marinated Beetroot Salad is one of the many lean options at Bandra’s Olive Bar & Kitchen

Meanwhile, Lotus Café at JW Marriott is set to organise Wellness Wednesday buffet lunches starting next month. Comprising a specially curated menu with different live stations, the buffet features Omega-6 grills where you choose to grill Norwegian Salmon, Shimla Trout, or Mackerel with veggies or make your own broth with buckwheat noodles, black eyed beans, soy chunks, etc that makes for a fat-free protein lunch or you could opt for steamed dimsums. “Using the right ingredients is the mainstay of a healthy menu. The buffet is divided into hot and cold stations and the idea is not just to serve healthy food, but to also educate people about it. We’ll have boards displaying the properties of these ingredients and how to cook them correctly,” informs the hotel’s executive chef, Himanshu Taneja.

Fad or here to stay?
In recent times, several city eateries have woken up to the demands of an increasingly health-conscious Mumbai, adding such options to their existing menus, across sections like soups, appetisers, mains, desserts and drinks. With 65% of the current menu at Bandra’s Olive Bar & Kitchen featuring lean cuisine options, Chef Abhijit Bitla says, “Patrons are travelling more than ever before, and observing how even globally, being healthy is incorporated into every aspect of daily life, especially cuisine. This awareness, as well as the predominance of many expat families in the city, looking for fresh, healthy meal options at restaurants, has led to eateries revamping their menus to create healthy yet tasty dishes. The current trend, which is only growing and gaining popularity, is a movement towards lean cuisine.”

Lean menu: the lowdown
While many may believe that a lean menu only means cutting down on the use of oil and butter or reducing the portion size, it’s much more than that. “A lean menu comprises low-calorie dishes which are high in fibre and protein, but low on saturated fats,” says Tanu Narang, owner of Andheri’s The Little Door that features six lean dishes on its menu including Souvlaki Swords (Greek-style skewered chicken) and Pesca Scottato (Pan seared fish with tamarind sauce and mushy peas).

“We’ve incorporated these lean dishes in different sections of our regular menu instead of creating a separate section due to the general perception that health food is boring. While planning these dishes, we ensured that all of them are under 450 calories,” adds Narang.

Local flavours
In order to provide fresh fare to their patrons, many eateries have started scouting their own backyards for substituting
imported ingredients with local, organic produce. At Salt Water Café, patrons are served granola bars made in-house and lean dishes like Crisp Vegetables and Zattar salad and Mushroom Couscous with Broken Wheat and Onion Stew have been included in the menu. Chef Gresham Fernandes says, “For the granola bars, we used puffed rice, rajgira, etc. We’ve moved away from roasted and regular potatoes and use foods with Low Glycemic Index like broken wheat, couscous, asparagus, artichokes, nuts and local grains like jowar, bajra and barley. The only ingredient we import is quinoa, from Peru.”

Even the juice bar at Renaissance’s Fratelli Fresh located at Powai is stocked with indigenous fruits like rose apples, bers(jujube) and chickoos as well as homegrown natural sweetener. “We do not add any sugar into our juice offerings but use Stevia, a natural sweetener, scientifically proven to reduce diabetes. We grow this plant in our kitchen gardens,” informs Executive Chef Sandeep Pande.

Cuisine connect
While North Indian cuisine in the city is yet to go the healthy way, cuisines like Chinese, Japanese, Continental as well as Mediterranean lend themselves well to including lean dishes. For instance, the seven-month old The Guppy Pop-Up at Olive Mahalaxmi, serving Japanese cuisine is completely lean. “Japanese cuisine is known to be very healthy. Moreover, we don’t use cream cheese or butter in dishes like teriyaki-glazed Artichoke and Tofu as well as Minute Steak Tuna Tataki. Indian, Chinese and Japanese cuisines — all have the ability to include lean dishes, using the freshest produce, simple cooking techniques, and staying light on the oil and spices,” concludes its executive chef, Vikram Khatri.

What to try

Chef Viren Joshi with lean dishes like Four Seasons Pizza, Tenderloin Carpaccio, Puy Lentil Ragout with Herb Pilaf, Couscous Upma and Indian Salmon at Café Sundance. PIC/Bipin Kokate
Chef Viren Joshi with lean dishes like Four Seasons Pizza, Tenderloin Carpaccio, Puy Lentil Ragout with Herb Pilaf, Couscous Upma and Indian Salmon at Café Sundance. Pic/Bipin Kokate

For a lean breakfast
Opt for Couscous Upma that replaces semolina with couscous and Key Lime Pie Greek Yogurt Parfait served with house-made granola and freshly squeezed orange and watermelon juice.
From: February 20 onwards
At: Café Sundance, next to Eros Cinema, Churchgate.

Salad binge

Salad binge
Dig into Marinated Beetroot Salad that also includes goat cheese mousse, Feta and Pine Nut Stuffed Mushrooms as well as Portuguese Chicken Espetada.
At: Olive Kitchen & Bar, 14, Union Park, Bandra (W).

To a healthy tipple
On a drinking spree, order their healthier appetisers like Souvlaki Swords (Greek-style skewered chicken) and Fish Kabob (Chermoula marinated skewered fish) made using lean poultry and seafood.
At: The Little Door, off New Linking Road, Andheri (W).

Black Cod

A lean, mean dinner
Opt for healthier mains like Mushroom Couscous with Broken Wheat and Onion Stew, Smoked Salmon Crostini and Grilled Peppercorn Chicken with side salads.
At: Salt Water Café outlets.

Go Japanese way
Sample authentic Japanese dishes like Mushroom and Asparagus Gyoza made with gluten-free flour, Sushi Rolls, Takikomi Rice Pot, Agedashi Tofu and the Black Cod.  
At: The Guppy Pop-Up at Olive, Mahalaxmi.

Wellness lunch

Wellness lunch
March onwards, get your dose of mid-week calorie-count with Wellness Wednesday lunch buffet comprising detox salads, grills with Omega-6 rich fish, high-protein broths and dimsums among others.
At: Lotus Café, JW Marriott, Juhu.

Juice it up

Juice it up
Sip on coolers made from fruits like rose apples, ber (jujube) and chickoo. These juices comprise natural sweetener, Stevia.
At: Fratelli Fresh, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel, Powai.

Nutritionist speak

It is great that city eateries are going the healthy way with use of high-fibre and Low Glycemic Index ingredients in their lean menu options. Apart from calories, these also help reduce trans fats in one’s body and as a result, the heart remains healthy.

Tripti Gupta
— Tripti Gupta, Lifestyle Nutrition Consultant, Ipink

Many people in the city also suffer from fatty liver because of eating too much packaged or readymade food. The lean menu helps keep your liver healthy and you end up feeling lighter and more active.

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