A new Pan-Asian fine dine comes to Lower Parel, serving food that is at once soulful and dramatic, and unlike anything you've tried before
Crispy Banana Blossom Salad. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi
We are going to come right out and say it. In the months to come, Kamala Mills' newest restaurant, POH, is going to be a force to reckon with. Owned by restaurateur Anjan Chatterjee's Speciality Restaurants, POH (Progressive Oriental House) has been brought to life by Chatterjee's son Avik, who is also responsible for giving us the teen magnet chain, Hoppipola.
However, there's a stark difference between the two properties. It appears that with time, the young restaurateur's preferences have evolved, from a yuppy weekend hangout to one that's refined and, well, not raging with hormones.
POH doesn't scream fine dine, though, and we mean that in a good way. When you enter the space, you know what awaits you is a luxurious experience, but the wooden accents and pretty jade lanterns give the space the warmth that a hoity-toity restaurant seldom possesses.
At the yao dian bar (designed to look like a traditional Chinese pharmacy) sits a floor-to-ceiling chest of drawers, each holding a combination of ingredients that go into the 12 signature cocktails. We try the Wooden Smoke, a vodka-based drink with notes of basil and kaffir lime. What elevates this cocktail is the accompanying pineapple chunks sprinkled with bird's eye chilli powder - bite into a piece, take a sip, and voila, you have a beverage that is at once sweet and spicy, with an earthy fragrance.
No Burrata, No Tomato
Helming the kitchen at POH is chef Vikramjit Roy, who has spent several years honing his skills on the five-star circuit. The food is high on technique, but Roy lets some of his playful personality trickle into the dishes he plates up.
Our expectations for the meal are sky high as soon as we tuck into the first two dishes. The No Burrata, No Tomato turns the traditional Caprese salad on its head. In this version, Roy does exactly what the name of the dish claims. The 'burrata' is, in fact, curdled Japanese soy milk, while the cherry 'tomato' is tofu coated in red pepper gel. The dish packs in a punch from these elements as well as from the roasted white sesame sauce, textures of olive, pickled chilli gel, and the addition of herbs and microgreens. The Crispy Banana Blossom Salad, meanwhile, is all about highlighting the texture of the delicate flower and accentuating it with the use of coconut flakes and crunchy fried onions.
Guise and disguise
The dishes get better as the meal progresses. The Lamb 'Foie Gras' Gyoza is made up of pan-fried dumplings served with chickpea mash. Pop one into your mouth, and the chef will tell you the foie gras is actually bheja, puréed till it achieves a silken consistency. In the Scallops with Green Curry Butter, the scallops taste incredibly fresh, as though they've just been pulled out of the sea, and the Dehydrated Lotus Stem plays on your palate, with its crunchy lotus stems with black pepper crumble placed on a bed of zesty yuzu soy cream. The mains, although more straightforward, are delicious in their rusticity.
Avik Chatterjee and Chef Vikramjit Roy
The meat falls off the bone in the Lamb Shank in Masamman Curry, which is best paired with fried rice made with Kerala red rice. Dessert, yet again, hinges on drama. Eating the POH's Mess requires you to drop a pristine white shell that holds yoghurt done in different ways. As it lands, it sends shards flying neatly across the plate, and a rogue bit of raspberry leather might find its way into your glass. But, believe us, the mess is worth it.