Stopping short of splendid

Updated: Feb 19, 2020, 10:03 IST | Tinaz Nooshian | Mumbai

Kala Ghoda's Americano inspires you to dress up, spoils you with its cocktails list and gets it right with ingredients. Yes, good restaurants are about good food. But first, they are about people

Raspberries and cream. Pics/Ashish Raje
Raspberries and cream. Pics/Ashish Raje

Food: Original
Ambience: Ritzy
Service: Out of step
Cost: High
Verdict: 2/4

It’s just as well that Alex Sanchez works evenings only. His American-inspired Italian bistro bar on Nagindas Master Road, sits like a lone luminous bauble on a dark Christmas tree; the cheek-by-jowl lawyer offices and stationary-Xerox centres who are his neighbours, having called it a night. If restaurants are about stories, this is a good address to have picked. Formerly called Medows Street after the Governor of Bombay General Sir William Medows, who lived in a corner house, it boasts of the city’s only Armenian church.

Spinach and ricotta cappeletti
Spinach and ricotta cappeletti

Its current name acknowledges the contribution of lawyer and Gandhian Nagindas T Master, who as head of the Boycott Committee was instrumental in the success of the Civil Disobedience Movement. His connect with the people was powerful enough for the British to have released him from confinement following the 1944 Bombay Docks explosion, to help with rehabilitation work.

Inside, Sanchez celebrates shared spaces. A community table with high chairs brings together strangers, as do the parapets in the fluted-glass window coves perfect for placing a glass and exchanging words in twos. The high ceiling supported by timber rafters painted Prussian blue, offers vertical relief even if down below it’s a buzzy Saturday night.

Americano spritz
Americano spritz

The bar is the vortex of energy, its many creations making up what’s one of the city’s most robust cocktail menus. (Darren Crawford, you’ve done well). We like that Sanchez is grateful for the opportunity Mumbai offered a 26-year-old from San Francisco when he joined Colaba’s The Table, evident in the tribute he pays to the city’s neighbourhoods. Worli bird is a muddle of tequila, Lapsang suchong tea and passion fruit liqueur. The Kejriwal pizza (not the man in Delhi, but Willingdon Club regular Devi Prasad Kejriwal) is inspired by gymkhana-style eggs on toast and uses fior di latte fresh mozzarrella, soft-cooked egg and green chilli.

The Gateway tonic (R775) is a fresh gin-lemon mix with a hit of ginger that makes this just the glass to order deeper into summer. Americano spritz gives a nod to Campari in a drink that’s crisp. Sadhu sour incorporates egg white but shows no trace or whiff. Bee sting, although initially appearing too lemony, settles; the pepper sprinkle lifting it. Night owl (R750) is a play on the Old fashioned, with a hint of sweet that doesn’t take away from its standing as the evening-ender. Jungle Book is a tropical, saccharine mix of rum and pineapple that would be more at home on a Goan beach. Skip.

Radha Bhavan

The cocktail snacks segment ranges from the barely-there (Warm spiced almonds tossed in smoked paprika, rosemary) to the slightly filling (Love Letters — wafer crisp tubes encasing avocado. It’s a fun pop of textures, even if a little too partial to the garlic in the creme fraiche). The sea bass crudo from the shared plates comes beaten down to a sheet, carpaccio-style, topped with meyer lemon, pine and capers (R700). The spinach and ricotta cappeletti is standout — buttery, with a touch of sage. The sausage and fennel pizza (R750) goes from all right to novel in our heads, as the triangles are ploughed through between conversation. The texture of the sausage — more seekh kebab than processed meat — gives it bite, and we like the clean dough base although there are three dips to dunk the bread edges into.

The warm almond olive oil cake with cinnamon gelato looks prettier than it tastes. And so, it’s the Raspberries and cream (R475) that we hail as showstopper of the night. Its mild, cold sweetness and tartness locks swords wonderfully with a steaming cortado.

Sanchez surfaces from the kitchen past midnight, his right arm in a cast, the last order for the day long delivered. The space is still brimful, with more guests standing around with glasses than seated at the tables, heads bobbing but courtly, to the music. It’s not every day, we realise, that a restaurant in this city inspires you to dress up.

We like the idea of the 10.30 pm seating, with the bar’s engine having revved up since the first orders went out at seven. But it gives you exactly an hour to browse an extensive menu and order all your eats. Including dessert. Just like so many fine-dine addresses that now prefer to split the evening in two. But here, the steward suggests we order mains with the small bites; checks twice about “any more” food orders; thrice about the desserts “waiting at the kitchen counter”, and twice about the bill.

Balance is a fundamental law of the universe. Sanchez should know. He picked a mobile ceiling installation inspired by Alexander Calder with metal plates that tilt to the wind as his restaurant’s piece de resistance.

Time 7 pm to 1 am (dinner only)
At 121/123 Radha Bhavan, Nagindas Master Road, Kala Ghoda, Fort.
Call 22647700

4/4 EXCEPTIONAL, 3/4 EXCELLENT, 2/4 VERY GOOD, 1/4 GOOD, 0.5/4 AVERAGE. Americano didn't know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals

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