O Mai God!

When a new restaurant opens minus a starry launch party oraggressive pre-launch media campaign, and still runs to packed houses on a Tuesday evening, it deserves more than a dekko.

A restaurant critique doesn’t make for good television. Gossiping with friends, repeated glances at the menu, always in thought, attempts to figure the missing links to a dish; barring that moment of opinion after the first bite, there isn’t much to capture on camera. At the newly-opened international chain Trader Vic’s Mai Tai Mumbai outlet, however, a food critique would make for a fun reality television episode.

Spiced Poached Pineapple is a delectable dessert, which is a must-try

Enter the dimly lit, Polynesian themed open-air restaurant with wooden Tiki carvings, dark wood tables and a live DJ playing thumping beach party music, where you’ll be introduced to your happy waiter. He’ll sit you down, have a fun, random chat, and recommend cocktails like TikiPukaPuka and variants of Mai Tai that sound as if straight off the menu of a little pub at the base of a (dormant?) volcanic mountain in Hawaii.

The alfresco section of Mai Tai Lounge. Pics / Bipin Kokate

You place your order as you imagine the attendant dance his way to the bar for your drink. Once in hand, you’ll sip it while grooving to the music and suddenly, you might be tempted to take your shoes off, roll up your denims, make a sand pit on the beach and marvel at the sea; except that here, you have the PVR Box Office for a view. Mai Tai is happy place — the kind that’ll force you to let your hair down, we figured soon. Rum is in the restaurant’s DNA, the only spirit they consider while making happy cocktails; try some and you won’t complain.

TikiPukaPuka comes as a highly recommended rum-based cocktail

The food menu is shorter than the cocktail menu, with an eclectic mix from across the Pacific Islands, with dishes like Trader Vic’s Thai Red Curry, Maui Steak Sandwich, Island Burger and Jamaican Jerk Chicken. We steer clear of the easily available Asian dishes, and venture into the unknown Polynesian and Caribbean cuisine terrain that we haven’t encountered in Mumbai. First up — Maui Waui Shrimp (`426) and Trader Vic’s Burger (`378).

The dozen odd batter fried prawns were coated in the nicest sweet and chilli sticky red sauce that enhanced the taste of the succulent prawns. The Beef Burger was served with excellent fries and in between the sesame bun was a juicy, well-cooked and seasoned beefy patty with slices of yellow cheddar and pork slices.

This is not meant for someone with a normal appetite to wolf down in a single sitting. Next up, from the grilled mains, we opted for the Jamaican Jerk Chicken (`396). It came with the option of garlic mash, island pilaf or sautéed vegetables; we opted for garlic mash, which proved to be the best decision of the evening. The thin slices of spice-rubbed grilled chicken were served with the most outstanding mash we’ve tasted in the city, recently. A bite into the chicken smothered with creamy, garlicky, velvety potatoes, and we could imagine ourselves do the popular Chris Gayle jig.

The dessert was the evening’s biggest surprise: Pineapple poached in Chili and Star Anise served with Vanilla Ice Cream (`250). It was brought to the table by two wait staff and wasn’t far away from a mini-celebration. There were six wedges of sweet and spicy pineapple on skewers with vanilla ice cream and a bowl with blue chaffing fuel flames to char the fruit. The combination: freshly charred hot, spicy and juicy fruit dipped in ice cream was simple and unlike anything we’d expected. Friendly service, good food, happy music and killer cocktails, we suggest you book your table in advance. 

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