Partners in dine
A famed chef from Goa, and another from a lauded Goan eatery in Mumbai join hands for a pop-up that's brimming with flavours and creativity
There are collaborations, and then, there are synergies. Seated at a table inside the vividly done-up O Pedro in BKC — where a 19-day-long Asian themed festival will kick off this weekend — the chinwag between Hussain Shahzad, the restaurant's chef, and Bawmra Jap, chef-owner of Goa's popular celeb spot, Bomras', resembles the kind between a mentor and mentee.
Before them, there is an array of beautifully plated dishes, like the smoked corn gnocchi (Rs 425). It's a visually stimulating platter of corn tidbits sitting on a bed of richly dark banana flower ragu and a black sesame puree. Jap takes a bite, drifting away in contemplation and says, "It needs to be more firm."
Tofu curry with Burmese palatha
"So, more cornstarch?" Shahzad, who is waiting for Jap's verdict with restless keenness, inquires.
"Yes, more cornstarch. Or maybe, potato. Does this have potato?" he checks.
"No," his mentee says. "Maybe potato then."
"Okay, let's try that," Shahzad responds, making a quick mental note on how to redo this gluten-free gnocchi that the two came up with in Jap's home in Goa, over drinks while a bowl of beef stew (Jap's famous midnight quick-fix) brewed away on the stove in a jus brimming with a random selection of spices and herbs picked from the Burmese chef's backyard. "That's what I like about him," Shahzad shares, speaking about the organic and playful approach Jap has towards food.
And that is basically what makes this collaboration more of a synergy, one between two chefs — an experienced and the other, on the brink of fame — both of whom look at food with the same curiosity that infants prod new things with. So, while Jap and Shahzad's food differ in terms of cuisine, in that one's is Burmese/Asian and the other's is Goan/Portuguese, they are similar in being meticulous, without being frilly.
Bomras chilli chicken
This comes through in the food, which is a hybrid of ingredients and influences, such as in the scampi ceviche (Rs 675), something Shahzad is obsessed with to the extent that Jap jokes and calls it a "Bohri delicacy". Shahzad is a Bohri Muslim from Bandra. It marries the young chef's techniques with the experienced one's knowledge of flavour, and so it comes in a robust yuzu ponzu sauce, delicately adorned with Burmese coriander. The offerings then, are as much a result of Shahzad giving Jap's thoughts shape on a plate, as they are a child born out of a genuine partnership.
"I just talk, and he experiments," Jap quips. Shahzad echoes this when he says, "It's a little bit like I am the sous chef doing all the cooking, and he's here to have fun, randomly throwing words at me and hoping I'll figure it out."
But he seems to be doing a good job of it, having mastered Jap's classics like Bomra's chilli chicken (Rs 495), a humble mélange of wood ear mushrooms, water chestnuts and fresh red chillies; or the tofu curry (Rs 625), a tangy and creamy gravy made with roasted pumpkin and topped with crispy lotus root chips, served with a side of Burmese palatha — similar to our desi parathas, although harder. There's also the steamed fish (Rs 725), dense with flavours, dredged in Asian herbs, and served with a side of Jap's famous junglee sauce, one Shahzad assures tastes and looks different each time, but always manages to retain a delicious piquancy.
Two months ago, when Shahzad approached Jap for this tie-up, despite having to struggle to figure the dates out, the latter agreed. "Coming from Goa, the idea of tying up with a Goan-Portuguese restaurant in Mumbai may seem strange. But I like what he does, because it's interesting without being super fine-dine-y," Jap says, explaining what urged him to come on board while his Calangute eatery took a monsoon break. "It took a lot of convincing, but once he agreed, there are so many things that I have learnt since," Shahzad adds.
With a strange mix of treats, drinks and desserts, on the menu, the fare adds up to give you a genuinely meritorious spread, at the crux of which lies the simple logic of serving honest-to-goodness food.
At: O Pedro, Unit 2, Plot C 68, Jet Airways — Godrej BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex.
Time: July 27 and 28 (Bomra's Takeover) July 29 to August 14 (Bomra's specials along with the O Pedro menu)
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