Each time, restaurateur Zorawar Kalra plans to open a new space in the city, it is difficult to skip the buzz around it. The point of discussion here is MasalaBar, Kalra’s first bar project in India that is scheduled to open in a month on Bandra’s Carter Road. Dressed in a grey suit, he meets us at his popular Masala Library to talk shop. Well, almost. At the onset, he isn’t ready to reveal all to our first question about the much-hyped bar, "I want to lobby for copyright in the food industry," adding that the biggest restaurants are rehashing ideas of existing successful restaurants.
Ras Malai Tres Leches, Fresh Fruit Cream, Cookie Dough Essence
Enter the lab
Finally he blinks. "Ayaz Basrai has redesigned the bar that will have a 270-degree panoramic view of the Arabian Sea," he shares. It will be a candle-lit-only bar that will use all-organic, beeswax, locally sourced candles.
Zorawar Kalra at Masala Library in BKC
As for the cocktails and food, it promises to recreate the laboratory experience. "The stuff that we will be using to make our cocktails will be straight out of a lab. It’s a science lab and bar. Every cocktail will come with food that matches it," shares Kalra. He cites the example of rotary evaporators which will be used to infuse their in-house vodka — a process that will require three hours to prepare a single bottle. A centrifugal machine will offer drinks such as a clear Bloody Mary. All the equipment will be in full display of patrons, to see and use, and not just for décor. Aman Dua (Farzi Café and Pa Pa Ya) is working with Kalra on the menu.
Also read: I play to win, says Zorawar Kalra
"The keyword is post molecular — most of the cocktails won’t use any chemicals, but just techniques. We will be introducing this new term for our cocktails as the techniques will be fairly advanced. Tapas-style menu will mean only small bites. Each cocktail will be a story. I will give a docket with each cocktail, which will tell you what we were thinking when we created the cocktail; it will be hand-drawn. There will be 12 signature cocktails, which will be an experience for your five senses. Everyday, the restaurant will open with a sundowner. The website will mention the time when the bar would open," reveals an excited Kalra.
The menu will be a celebration of local cuisine — good enough to make you nostalgic. Most ingredients have been sourced within eight miles. Chefs will step out and forage ingredients to place on a dish.
Think crazy stuff with South Indian food, and popcorn too; he teases our mind that’s curious already. Other elements will include customised ice cubes, soapstone ice cubes that don’t water your drink, instant chilled glasses that won’t need you to add ice in your cocktails.
A risk worth taking
The ideas might wow us, but what about an industry that is ridden with failures, we ask? Kalra has his winning formula — "Innovate and plan well in advance for the property to be a success. It took me six years to open Masala Library. It’s the highest failure rate business in the world and getting licences is a task. It is necessary for a restaurant to innovate to stay ahead of the curve and make a mark. I can get a good bellini or a cosmo in 30 bars, but will I get carbonated screwdrivers everywhere? No," he reasons. Kalra feels that one of the biggest reasons for a restaurant to shut down is under capital, with owners having money to build a restaurant but not sustain it.
Kalra is a champion of Indian food and ingredients, and believes that it will stay strong and long. "Nobody was looking at regional food; Indian food was uncool. Today, Farzi Café is a place where you will go with your family, corporate lunches and even dates. Chefs dropped by my restaurants on multiple occasions, and in two month’s time, you notice a copy cat version of the restaurant," he divulges.
Kalra will be all guns blazing in 2016 with plans to open 15 new restaurants. Farzi Cafe will open in Kamala Mills (and Dubai); there’s a new restaurant in Colaba while Pa Pa Ya will see another outlet. A project that he is most excited about is Mithai – a modern Indian mithai shop that will offer even packed khameeri roti and taftans.