Dancing in the kitchen

Updated: Jul 14, 2019, 09:01 IST | Anju Maskeri

What makes a star choreographer-filmmaker-reality show judge add 'h' to his resume? You got it right. Daddy issues

Dancing in the kitchen
It was Remo D'Souza's father, Gopi Nair's dream to open a restaurant. Senior Nair was a chef at the Air Force mess in Jamnagar. "He passed away due to an illness and the dream remained a dream. Now that I have the resources, I decided to fulfil his dream," says Remo. Ministry of Dance will launch in Andheri on June 17

Sitting inside a restaurant suffused with rich gold tones, art deco light fixtures and heavy chandeliers, choreographer Remo D'Souza and wife Lizelle are unmissable for their hipster coolth.

Twinning in tracksuit and sneakers—in fact so comfy was Lizelle that she refused to pull down the hoody even for the shoot—the couple has had a long day of shoot with actors Shraddha Kapoor and Varun Dhawan, and might have to return to the set of Street Dancer 3D soon after our chat. But, before that, they have a number of things to look into: get the graffiti on the wall finalised, replace the current design on the tables, check acoustics and put the champagne bottle display for celebrities to sign on. All this before its launch on July 17.

Mary Jo Footloose
Mary Jo Footloose

The hospitality hustle is all very new to them, considering they are now officially the first-generation restaurant owners in the Nair family—Remo was born Ramesh Gopi. So, if Ministry of Dance is palpably plush, modern and mainstream in its decor and offering of global cuisine, they are the edgy, alternative force behind it.

And quite a force, at that. "We got the idea six months ago, and the space was done up less in than two months," says D'Souza, who chose Andheri's New Link Road as the location for the lounge bar, given its proximity to his residence. With a successful hyphenated career as a choreographer-director and reality show judge, the 45-year-old says he is excited about venturing into new territory. After all, it was his late father, Gopi Nair's long-nurtured dream to open a restaurant.

Cosmopolitan
Cosmopolitan

"But he fell ill and passed away in September 2014 before we could put the thought to action," says D'Souza. Senior Nair was a chef at Jamnagar's Air Force mess, and D'Souza would often make a dash for the mess after school. "I went there because I was always assured of a lot of food," he laughs. He recalls being transfixed by his father's theatrical flips while making rotis, which were prepared every day for no less than 500 people. "If I was lucky to reach the mess in time, I would get to taste the food before the officers." But the staple was dahi mixed with sugar and puris.

Interestingly, the original location for the restaurant was Gujarat, but they later chose to zero in on Mumbai because of logistics. "The backstory was really a serendipitous sequence of events. During a casual conversation with fellow dancer Krunal Shah, I bounced the idea of a restaurant. It turned out that he too wanted to open one," he says.

Coconut, lime and chilli soup
Coconut, lime and chilli soup

Shah, who runs his own dance school and has also mentored participants on dance reality shows, joined hands with D'Souza and got down to business. While D'Souza might be the face of the venture, he admits it's Lizelle and Shah who've done all the groundwork and execution. But he's quick to add that it's not a side hustle or a fallback career for him. "It is passion," he says.

Talking about passion, it's difficult to not discuss dance with the man, who started his career as a background dancer, went on to assist choreographer Ahmed Khan and later came out of the shadows to become what he is today. It's during his days as a struggler that his romance with Lizelle blossomed.

A traditional Caesar salad
A traditional Caesar salad

"Back then, I didn't know how to cook so he would whip up masala rice for me. Although, now, I'm the better cook between us," she says. Masala rice, however, continues to be the couple's comfort food. "In fact, the other day, after a long round of tastings, I saw one of the kitchen staff tucking into dal rice. I told the chef, I want that and both us ended up simple dal chawal with achaar,"
she laughs.

D'Souza's two cents are usually given when it comes to food, because a couple of the dishes are ones that have been dredged from his father's repository. For instance, the mutton curry. sSiddharth Chogle, sous chef to renowned chef Rakesh Talwar, says dishes from memory are the hardest to recreate.

Mexican Wave or chipotle grilled shrimp tomatillo and feta relish
Mexican Wave or chipotle grilled shrimp tomatillo and feta relish

"We have tried to take signature Indian and European dishes and tried to give our own touch. For instance, the Roast Chicken Jus is finished in a tandoor." Some items, he tells us, have been named after dance moves such as the crumb-fried Hip Hop Chicken Wings, which is smokey, sweet and spicy.

"There's also a dish named after popular dancer duo, Dharmesh Yelande and Raghav Juyal." The dancers and actors became a household name after their performances in Dance India Dance season 2 and 3. "We tried to take the personalities of Dharmesh and Raghav and replicate it in a dish. So we have tomato and basil paneer tikka, both ingredients representing their characters. They are distinct flavours but also go well together which is symbolic of the duo," says Chogle.

Pics/Sameer Markande
Pics/Sameer Markande

At the restaurant, D'Souza has decided to convert one of the areas into a dedicated studio, where dance enthusiasts can come together to jam and showcase their talent. "I am not here to become a big restaurateur. I am happy being where I am, but if this labour of love becomes successful, I'll be a happier man."

The tomato and basil paneer tikka has been named after popular dancer duo, Dharmesh Yelande and Raghav Juyal, with the two ingredients representing their personalities
The tomato and basil paneer tikka has been named after popular dancer duo, Dharmesh Yelande and Raghav Juyal, with the two ingredients representing their personalities

Krunal Shah, partner, MOD
Krunal Shah, partner, MOD

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