We are on the top floor of The Palladium Hotel in Lower Parel. To misquote John Lennon, The world below us, above us only sky. The view is spectacular. Li Bai and Mekong, the hotel’s newest Asian bar and restaurant looks impressive at first glance. It’s big. In fact it’s massive. Will the food match the ambience? We get set for a happy test. The name of the bar (Li Bai) draws its inspiration from the famous Chinese romantic poet of the Tsang dynasty, serving new age, edgy cocktails created with distinctive Chinese ingredients. A rather interesting installation -- a statue of Li Bai -- stands tall as one enters the bar.
We move past it and into the very long and vast restaurant, with an equally inspiring view of the city. But it’s the food that we are here for. The menu is large, with several pages dedicated to each of the three cuisines -- Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese. The idea, explains the chef, is to follow the cuisine of the lands that the 4300km-long Mekong river goes through from Thailand, past Vietnam an on to China.
We begin our meal with the interestingly presented Vietnamese Shrimps & Pork Rolls (Rs 950), with the meats wrapped first in a green cover of lettuce, followed by an outer cover of rice cakes. It goes delightfully well with the honey-chilli sauce. We want the spiciness toned down a notch in our food and the chef obliges. The Wok Tossed Black Fungus & Lotus Stem (Rs 700) is a bit of a letdown though, since it is a bit too bland. Maybe our request to cut down on the spice has caused it! But the Crispy Boneless Chicken with Honey (Rs 900) more than makes up for the earlier disappointment. The pieces are succulent, yummy and wok-tossed to perfection. They disappear off our plates as fast as they are served.
The food is coming thick and fast now and, as we discover, the chef has kept the best for the last. The Shimji Mushroom and dried chillies (Rs 850) is surprisingly delightful (high praise coming from a conformed carnivour) with the mushrooms slow cooked on a wok and steamed in its own juice. We pair this with the Wok tossed rice noodles with sliced tenderloin (Rs 700). Heaven! The noodles are soft and not chewy at all and the tenderloin slices melt in the mouth.
How come we never manage this consistency and softness when making tenderloin at home? We make a mental note of abducting the chef at a later date.
We are loath to admit we are full, since we spot the Mango Pudding (Rs 550) and a Raspberry Ice Cream coming our way. The mango pudding is low on sugar (so probably low on fat and healthier) but ah! We have a sweet tooth. Good, but not great. The ice cream however, is awesome. Full marks to the raspberry.
If you are not on a budget, head to Mekong right away.
We cannot rate the experience as it was a preview