Locavoriously yours

I didn’t know what to expect as I walked into Locavore.

I didn’t care if it featured on Asia’s 50 Best.

I did, however, care about the fact this was my big splurge on a budget trip to Bali

Hot Cold Awesomeness

It was almost impossible to get a reservation – even 2 weeks in advance – I played my ‘tourist’ card at the very last minute, Thank You very much. 

I’m familiar with Indonesian food but not so much with local ingredients and nuances.The Bombay Canteen does something very similar with Indian food and it’s one of my favourite places. So… Can’t be all bad, right?

The space itself is very simple – a contrast to some of the more popular restaurants in the city. Unassuming and discreet – you could tell me I’m in Bombay and I’d believe you.

The windows let plenty of natural light pour in during the afternoons, so there’s not much of ambient lighting to speak of.

The open kitchen is buzzing even as we arrive to an almost empty restaurant.

Black rice pancakes – Little bites of heaven!

The menu is slick, uncluttered and changes every few days and that means you’re always left guessing.

Our 5 course experience began with a series of teasers – the most memorable of which was a young tomato sorbet served with a warm tomato consomme and chilli. It was a beautiful melange of different temperatures and textures. 

The first course of Palm Heart salad was a perfect combination of comforting flavours. The creamy dressing alone is worth that flight to Indonesia. 

Palm Hearts and love!

The next course of Brown Rice and Mushrooms was full of tart, savoury elements (including a ridiculously addictive mushroom powder). Rightly named ‘Umami’, the bowl was wiped clean and I was left with withdrawal symptoms.

The main course with baby potatoes and carrots was a tad underwhelming after the rich second course. The sticky sauce beautifully complemented the tender vegetables, but the dish lacked the layers and complexity of the first two courses.

For our final savoury course, we chose their rendition of Tempe.

Perfectly crisp and coated in a sour-sweet sauce, it was wonderfully balanced. Every bite had a something new and the texture of the tempe was flawless. 

Bursts of Umami! Flavours to die for!

Our dessert course was the  Bubur Sum Sum. A beautiful bowl of creamy rice pudding and lighter than air coconut foam. Sigh. I still dream about it sometimes. 

Our meal was followed by the most delicate custard made with duck eggs. Almost as good as the dessert course, this was sublime.

The meal lasted a good 3 hours and got better with every passing course – almost like a symphony. Every single plate that made it’s way to our table (There were atleast 10!) was like a piece of art. Every little element played a part and lent something to the dish. 

The food is rustic yet has elements of theatre. It’s not just molecular for presentation but for the way an ingredient tastes. 

Comfort in a bowl – Bubur Sum Sum

We left deliriously happy and surprised at how simple, local ingredients can sit at a world-class restaurant and still make perfect sense. 

If there’s any place that manages style with simplicity – it’s this one.

So the next time you’re in Bali, skip that beach party for a meal here, will you? 

P.S – Locavore jumped from no. 49 to no. 22 on Asia’s 50 best in 2017. Even more reason to visit!

P.P.S – If you thought just the food is amazing, wait till you taste some of their cocktails. They’ve got Professor Snape at the bar for magic potions 😉

Restaurant Locavore –> Jl. Dewi Sita, Ubud, Bali

Cost –> A 5 course meal plus a drink would cost you about 4000 INR.

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Ven in Vietnam…

​It takes a special kind of passion to fully appreciate Vietnam in all it’s glory.
The crowd. Heat. Noise. Traffic. (God! The Bikes!).

The amazing people. Glorious food. Impeccable fashion. All of this in addition to the natural beauty and perhaps some of the best coffee in the world.

When buildings have serious game…

After you’re tired of shopping and haggling with local vendors, getting inspired and enthralled by the countless stories about the culture, wandering about the millions of labyrinthine bylanes (and if you aren’t knocked down by a two-wheeler in the process), you realise what a big part food plays in the lives of the people here.

Vietnam believes that there’s nothing that can’t be solved with a big bowl of steaming, hot Pho.

As I munched my way through this gorgeous country, I wouldn’t say they’re too wrong either.

Ho Chi Minh City

Begin your trip on a high with HCMC.

The city is all lights and chaos coupled with splendid architecture and a serious love for shopping. Valentinos for 2000 bucks anyone? (Copies, ofcourse!)

HCMC is where you’d want to get your party on with the most trendy rooftop bars in the country. 

It’s also home to some ‘really wakes you up’ coffee.

Iced Coffee at L’Usine

Start your day with a hot cup of coffee at L’Usine. This cute café is located in the middle of all the hustle and bustle and has intense drip coffee on offer. If you are a coffee novice (Like I was), their iced coffee can be enjoyed with delicious apple pie too.

Twinkly Twinkly

It’s a bit pricey but it’s perfect for a long, relaxed cuppa to energise yourself. (Psst… Or if you’re nursing a hangover)

Another great spot is Café Runam for their creamy, mellow Egg Coffee. It’s subtle and delicious. 

Tujhe dekhu ke pyaar karu?

It helps that the café is postcard-pretty and they have amazing cheesecakes as well!

For something more substantial, try Hoa Tuc. Their Shrimp Pancakes are gorgeous and their Daiquiris, fresh and delicious.

I seafood. I sawfood. Burp!

They also cater to vegetarians and vegans. So if you’re not a carniw(h)ore, you know where to go.

What not to miss? –> Shop till you drop at Saigon Square, Take a trip to Cu Chi Tunnels and Mekong Delta for a taste of Vietnamese history


Hoi An

Our second stop at Vietnam was the beautiful preserved town of Hoi An. Stuck in a time warp of sorts, you really can’t help but fall in love with the charm of the place.

Grab a cup of smooth black coffee at Hoi An Roastery before your journey begins.
Hoi An is best known for custom made suits and shoes. The most gorgeous leather shoes can be made specially for you for a small price and can be delivered to your hotel the next day. I dare you to stop yourself from getting atleast one!

After walking about like a bunch of nomads, we finally stopped for a quick Banh Mi fix at Madam Kanh. Rightly called ‘Banh Mi Queen’, she was like a magician creating something spectacular out of seemingly nothing.

The mesmerising town of Hoi An

Once you’re done getting pretty handmade notebooks and jaw-dropping paintings at practically throw-away prices, get some herbal tea to rejuvenate yourself from one of the street stalls.


What not to miss –> The Water Puppet show, custom-made shoes


Danang

If you are a beach bum like yours truly, Danang provides the perfect escape.
Relax all day on the pristine beaches with the only worry being whether the tide would get too close to your chair.

If you’re too tired with all the ‘doing nothing’, head over to Draft Beer for your beer and fried food fix. Get their surprisingly light fried noodles with their Saigon Beer for a happy, happy meal.

When coffee comes with it’s perks!

Walk a little further away from the beach and reach Cloud Garden for some caffeinated elixir. With a wide range of shakes and smoothies and an ambience that makes it difficult to leave, it’s the perfect spot for your evening coffee.


What not to miss –> Trip to Ba Na Hills for the spectacular view from the cable car

Hanoi

Our last destination was Hanoi. This capital city is home to some of the most splendid french architecture and mind-blowing street food. 

Almost as if it’s kept itself hidden from the outside world, Hanoi offers you an old-school experience like no other.

First stop, Cong Cafe for their unbelievable Iced Coconut Coffee. It’s milky, icy, coconutty goodness in a cup. Whatever you do, do NOT miss this! 

Next up is a Banh Mi from Banh Mi 25. It’s the best kind of wholesome, quick and hearty meal you can get. Take the sandwich to go and enjoy it by the Hoan Kiem Lake whilst watching the surreal sunset.

As you walk around Old Quarter and take in all the sounds and smells, do not forget to make a stop at Hanoi Social Club. Situated in a tiny, nondescript lane, the place is all heart and deliciousness. It won’t serve you classic Vietnamese food, but it does offer wholesome and delicious meals. Their Coconut Curry is something I’d want on every rainy night and their Falafel and Avocado Sandwich is the perfect quick hunger fix. Special mention to their on point iced coffee.

Goodbyes are the worst!


What not to miss? –> Kayaking at Halong Bay

To say that Vietnam is beautiful is an understatement. 

Sure you’ll have hiccups along the way. To survive here you’ll need to know the intricate art of bargaining and the language barrier exists almost everywhere. No, not everybody’s ‘out to get you’ and no, it’s ‘not all about the war’. It’s so much more. 

My trip couldn’t cover nearly enough of what Vietnam has to offer. It’s humbling and overwhelming to see so much warmth and love from people here expecting nothing! 

Thank You Vietnam. Till we meet again….

Prancing about in Pondicherry…

Your trip to Pondicherry can be a lot of things.
It can be a getaway for some much needed respite.
It can be a girls’ trip for your share of crazy.
Beach bumming. Heritage loving. Art gawking. Peace finding.
Whatever your deal is, Pondicherry has an answer.

Because simple just works...

Because simple just works…

Pondy (as it’s fondly called) is the perfect mix of French influence with quirky and ever-so-lightly dramatic Indianness. 
It’s sophisticated in it’s noise, snooty in it’s localism and yet has a kind heart. 

So while your mind feeds on all the cultural diversity and eye-popping architecture, what do you feed your body and heart?

Baker Street

Start your day at this tiny, nondescript self-service café located at the busy MG Road.
Pair their classic, flaky, buttery croissants with a cup of Cappuccino or have their indulgent Pain au Chocolat all by itself. 
Want to take it up a notch? Try their delicious and filling croissant sandwiches. Their creamy, mellow Chicken and Olive Sandwich is sure to put a smile on your face. 

Every sandwich should be a Croissant Sandwich!

Every sandwich should be a Croissant Sandwich!

They also have some amazing desserts on display. Choose their simple yet balanced Black Forest over their pucker-inducing Lemon Tart.

Note – Earn Brownie Points by conversing (or trying!… un peu?) in French with their staff.

Café des Arts

Café des Arts wouldn’t entirely be out of place in a quaint little street in a small European town. 
Boho-chic with the brightest open space in this part of town, vintage furniture and a kitschy boutique located indoors, it ticks all the right boxes.
With a simple menu that highlights local produce, the place is perfect for your early morning caffeine fix.
Try their perfectly made Cafétino with their deliciously crusty baguette sandwiches ( no, seriously! It’s a real baguette with a beautiful crumbly crust and chewy centre! ) or their light crepes with a refreshing house salad. 

Oh Crepes!

Oh Crepes!

But if you want one reason to come back here, let it be for their waffles and homemade jam.
Their perfectly syrupy, lime-ginger-papaya jam can make even cardboard taste good, leave alone a waffle! 
It walks the fine line between savoury and sweet with perfection and whatever you do, don’t miss this!

Villa Shanti

When you’re in the mood for splurging and want to hang out with all the cool kids, this is the place for you!

Practically anything can be amazing with good wine, soft music and the chatter of people having a gala time (read – drunk) around you. 
Couple this with the already delirious soul who is completely in awe of Pondy and it’s spaces and it’s culture, you have Villa Shanti.

Nothing I had here was particularly memorable or reminiscent of French influence. 
The only redeeming dish was their Almond and Orange Cake which had a flawless texture and a creamy bitter chocolate mousse.

This may be the ‘IT’ place but honestly, you’d do well to swap this for a meal at Carte Blanche

Carte Blanche

Located inside the Hotel De L’Orient is this gem of a place. 
Their open area is gorgeous with bright green wrought iron seating and marble tables with an old-world charm that’s indescribable.
Sit here and appreciate the time that passes by over a glass of wine.

With a view like this...

With a view like this…

When you're full but caramel is like Kryptonite...

When you’re full but caramel is like Kryptonite…

Food here is delicious and not too heavy on the palate.
Try their refreshing chilled Gazpacho to start things off and follow that up with a tangy, creamy Creole Fish Curry. The tamarind in the curry is just right and not overpowering on the soft, flaky fish.

End with a bowl of their decadent torched pineapple and Caramel. 
But I’d say their fish curry is dessert in itself

Mason & Co.

Can any visit to Pondy be complete without a visit to Auroville?

As you discover yourself in the peace and tranquility that surrounds this place, don’t forget to get some goodies from Mason and Co. Don’t be surprised if you’re overwhelmed and want to just pick one of everything – it can happen to the best of us.

It's okay to trip... on chocolate!

It’s okay to trip… on chocolate!

Get their Coconut Milk Dark Chocolate that has a beautiful creamy and toasty finish and if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, try their Cinnamon Chilli slab – it’s definitely not for the faint hearted.

While you’re at it – grab some delicious sticky chai and their astonishing chocolate tisane. It’s good, bloody good.

What you absolutely shouldn’t miss?

Kalki Boutique, Auroville – Pick some handcrafted paper that’s just… Art! 
Their clothes probably are best left on the racks, but what’s worth picking up are their bath salts – trust me! Magic!

A Massage at the ‘Keralaa Ayurveda’ – Feel your worries melt away over 90 minutes of pure bliss.

Auro Beach – Sure Paradise Beach is beautiful but it’s also crowded and has a long line both ways 
This tiny beach on the way to Auroville is everything paradise should feel like.
There’s hardly a soul in sight and the water is pristine.

Just look at this! Sigh!

Just look at this! Sigh!

A walk around White Town – Let’s face it…White Town is the poster child of Pondy Tourism.
It’s got good reason to be so too – it’s bloody beautiful. 
It’s like a small part of Europe hidden somewhere amidst all the chaos.
The architecture is grand and intricate, the hotels are vintage albeit a bit pretentious and this is as French as a Croissant!

How to get there? Flights to Chennai are easily available and you can drive down to Pondy in about 3-4 hours.
Where to stay? There are gorgeous heritage hotels as well as budget hostels to suit all pockets. We stayed at ‘Le Chateau’ in White Town (It’s a budget boutique hotel) and we loved it!

It’s impossible to fully appreciate the beauty of Pondicherry in a few days. Maybe not even in a few months.
It’s serene and wild and it’s ideal and obnoxious in so many ways.
Every minute was a discovery and every day was a journey in itself.

I know I’ll be back. I’m not nearly done with this place.

Thank You Pondy! You’ve been amazing!

Bastian – Time to get Crabby

Dear Mr. Cheung,

I know I’m a bit late but I’d like to jump on the ‘Open Letter’ bandwagon and what better way to start?

I can’t wait to tell you about my experience at your latest baby – Bastian.

Where were you hiding all this while?

I remember visiting Ellipsis right before you left and let’s just say it wasn’t their best day.
My experience at One Street Over was much better with my perfect Gin and Tonic and marvelous Waffles with Fried Chicken.

But this… This was just something else!

You’re getting better and better and I’m so glad! That means more great food is coming our way!

Let me start off by saying Bastian is just what I needed.
It’s chic and hep yet doesn’t let go of it’s casual vibe. It’s a place to unwind with a few drinks and it’s a place with elaborate, intricate meals.
The stone façade, the brightly lit bar, the velvety upholstery is just the right mix of class and subtlety.

Let’s be frank, I wasn’t here for the look of the place. I wasn’t here for the drinks either.

IMG_20160601_013033

Salmon with Ponzu and Jalapeno was a splendid start to our meal…

I must, however, tell you that the ‘Coconut Orgasm’ was seriously delicious.
If there’s one tropical-tiki-fresh-light-beach drink that I had to choose in this city, it’d be this one!
It was icy and just toasty and nutty enough to be enjoyed with practically everything on your menu.
Side Note – What’s with the name? Why?… Why?

While I was yearning for the crab already, it would’ve been mighty ‘shell’fish of me to not listen to my friends who had their eyes on the small plates. (Get it?? No?… moving on..)

IMG_20160601_012943

Cajun BBQ Prawns had a lot to love but were only second best…

The tender and silky Salmon with an acidic ponzu and fiery jalapenos was the perfect start to our meal. Light and beautifully prepared, it was so fresh and balanced.

Nothing quite compares to the delicious Animal Style Prawns though. The prawns were super plump and juicy and that animal sauce was killer good! Adding candied nuts to cut through the creaminess was genius and we couldn’t get enough of the stuff.

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Animal Style Prawns- what sorcery was this!?

The BBQ Cajun Prawns didn’t stand a chance. They certainly weren’t bad and I frankly enjoyed the smoky, slightly charred prawns with the light and summery bean salad and hummus. But it couldn’t match up to the rich savoriness of the animal sauce.

The Tuna Poke with torched rice crisps (great idea!) had some of the nicest fish I’ve had. It was simple and elegant and served with a mustardy-creamy hollandaise that really tied the flavours together.

IMG_20160601_013127

Your Lobster Rolls were super!

Now how could we have missed the Lobster Rolls?
It was a surprise that they were cold, but I enjoyed every single bite. The lobster was beautiful and the garlicky slaw-salsa was brilliant.

Because we’re fishy people, we just had to try the whole Red Snapper. We chose ‘Under the Bridge’ with the flaky, light, moist fish and it was bomb good!
The chewy, slightly bitter shallots and onions and the chillies worked really, really well.
So much awesome on one plate was too much to handle!

IMG_20160601_013532

Hello Mr. Snapper. You were really tasty!

Okay, now that I’ve covered the supporting cast, I can finally get to the hero.

That Mud Crab… phew!
We were told that Under the Bridge’ was the most popular choice but I personally think it’d be too dry with the crab.
We chose ‘Singapore Chilli‘ and whaddya know… match made in heaven!
First off, what did you put in that sauce that made it so bloody delicious?
It was just rich, tangy, creamy goodness and I was addicted to it.
The crab was tender and juicy (as expected) but that sauce… hubba hubba!
You know what was even better? Mopping up the extra sauce with the fluffy mantou buns.

IMG_20160601_014721

The OMGOMGOMG Singapore Chilli Crab

We spent over an hour with that single serving of gorgeous food and you know what? Totally worth it!

You absolutely could’ve underplayed it with the desserts after that kick-ass food menu but you just had to make it an all-cheesecake one right?
You just had to make it so bloody difficult to choose!

We went for the Sesame one because, where else do I get such quirky flavours? I loved the Asian influence and inherent savoriness but honestly, it was too mild for me.
I’d have preferred a more concentrated sesame hit with a creamier consistency.

But who gets just one? Pfft.. amateurs!

We got the Turtle too and you need to know that it took a lot of willpower to share that portion.
It was so good! The salted toffee was brilliant and this was just so conventional yet so unusual.

I understand that it takes a lot of work to run the show Mr. Cheung and I have no qualms about minor glitches in the service.
To be frank – you were just 4 days old and I could hardly tell.
You have a great team here! Some really enthusiastic people who love your food as much as we did!

My pockets felt a lot lighter after my meal here. Almost 14k for a deliriously heavy meal for 4 is a bit much, don’t you think?
But we had enough food to feed a small country. We did! And it’s all your fault!

I finally get it.
I finally get why you’re called a Mad Genius.

Thank You Mr. Cheung.

I already know I’ll be getting the Lobster in Sambal Sauce and the Elvis Cheesecake when I return. Or Lemon. I haven’t quite made up my mind yet.
Oh well!

See you soon!

Yours Truly,
~Dejastew~

Get –> The Singapore Chilli Mud Crabs, Animal Style Prawns, Lobster Rolls

Miss –> BBQ Cajun Prawns, Sesame Cheesecake (Seriously nitpicking here!)

Price for 2 –> ~6000/- with alcohol and taxes

Bastian –> B/1, New Kamal Building, Opposite National College, Linking Road, Bandra West

Bastian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

MasalaBar -Liquor. Lab. Love.

Do you realise how much we’ve evolved?
Just pause for a second and think about it. From ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’ to ‘it looks like milk but it’s actually spinach soup’ to ‘this tiny water balloon is a seven course meal in one bite’

Food is science! It always has been but we’re making the most of the endless possibilities only now.

The newest entrant to this sci-foo scene is MasalaBar.
With a location worth killing for, this bar-lab-pub is making headlines for it’s inventive tipple.
With stained glass motifs and dull blue walls – the seemingly innocent looking watering hole turns into a hep, candlelit, high energy zone once the sun sets.

You’ll want to believe in the healing properties of Chamomile with ‘Malabar Point‘ – a heady concoction with a deliciously sweet chamomile-apple infusion and vodka.

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Malabar Point with Chamomile and Apple and awesomeness

Sunset at Carter‘ is for those who like their drama and their whiskey – with a smooth, smoky finish and a malty aftertaste, this is one refined drink.

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Sunset at Carter – Give me such a view of the sunset everyday!

While their ‘Evening at Chowpatty‘ tries really hard to bring back memories of Sun n Sand, the coconut-curry leaf combination is too intense.
More like tempering than a cocktail, it’s a bold attempt that sadly, didn’t work.

Pick the more earthy and balanced ‘Great Hornby’s Cloud‘ with a pleasant cinnamon and vodka infusion rather than the ‘Filter Coffee Uska‘ where no particular element – the coffee or the spices – really pops.

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Bollywood Bhaang – Thandai Tripping redefined

It’s simply outstanding what these guys can do with classic combinations and their ‘Bollywood Bhaang‘ is just the tip of the iceberg.
This cocktail amps up a simple thandai with bursts of fresh basil and vodka. It’s milky and sweet and subtle and a refreshing take on something so familiar.

Their ‘Mumbai Matinee‘ with roasted chickpea flour, grapefruit and gin gives a whole new spin to a humble ingredient that was long forgotten.

Milky concoctions seemed to be the highlight of our evening as ‘The Sassoon Dock‘ made an entry.
With a creamy finish thanks to the Mascarpone Cheese and an exciting Absinthe Foam to keep it company, this drink was quirk and finesse rolled into one.

Our trip around Mumbai drew to a close with their ‘Bandstand Songkran‘ – a drink with classic, refreshing Thai flavours. Think something similar to their ‘Lighthouse’ at PaPaYa but more pronounced with Galangal and Thyme.

While drinks are clearly their USP, the food certainly doesn’t fail to charm.

First up was Channa Tempura tossed in a deliciously savoury Togarashi spice mix and served home-style with curry leaves and a whole roasted garlic head.

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Channa Tempura – Who says bar snacks can’t be sophisticated?

While I missed the characteristic crunch from a Tempura, this easily puts most classic bar snacks to shame.

Seldom have I seen such beautiful plating for a dish as familiar and simple as Calamari.
A bright orange ponzu mayonnaise splattered across the plate, a heap of crispy, perfect calamari artfully balanced on one end and finished with coriander sauce and micro-greens.
George would be so proud!

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Calamari. Masterchef Calamari.

A classic Bombay staple is reinvented in the ‘Pan Tossed Shrooms with Khari‘ as a smoky, earthy, creamy mix of mushrooms came gingerly balanced atop buttery, flaky khari.
Great flavours. Brilliant textures.

It takes someone really twisted to conceptualise a pitch black plate of food.
Yet as you take the first bite of their ‘Carbon Pav Bhaji‘ – their take on the flavours we love and adore – you taste something familiar even as your mind refuses to accept it.

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Carbon Pav Bhaji – Black is the new… erm, orange?

If you ride the ‘ Plain ol’ pub grub’ bus – fret not! MasalaBar serves up classics with equal élan.

Be it their perfectly crunchy, subtly flavoured ‘Truffle and Parmesan Fries‘ or their ‘Chicken Lollipops‘ that are so fancy and dressed up that you’d contemplate using a fork and knife to have them.

The black buns made a comeback in the ‘Prawn Dynamite Sliders‘.
Crisp (and tad bit too tough) prawns came enveloped in a seriously explosive, creamy, tangy sauce.
Messy? Yes! Delicious? Yes!

The much anticipated ‘Ghee Roasted Scallops‘ were a touch overcooked and chewy.
The accompanying potato-beetroot purée helped but the plate was screaming for a fiery, acidic element.

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Mushrooms on Khari – Fingerfood version 2.0!

The curtain came down on our evening with their elaborately plated ‘Bailey’s Lollipops‘.
(They do take their lollipops way too seriously!)
When you get over the large ceramic tree, you see tiny spheres of Chocolate covered rabdi-bailey lollipops waiting for you.
Having a texture similar to fudgy truffles – this is an adult-baby’s favourite candy!

It goes without saying that MasalaBar offers something this city has never seen.
The ideas are mind-bending and the execution nearly flawless in places.
Bartender extraordinaire – Arjun and his team have done a spectacular job. It’s not everyday that you see apparatus being used to prepare your drinks. No really! It’s like science class all over again!
Chef Vilas has done an equally commendable job tying up the food with the eccentric cocktails.

The place displays gumption, confidence and a whole lotta crazy.
Go get your dose of Masala while others still ride the Molecular Gastronomy Bandwagon!
The future is here folks!

P.S – The meal and drinks were on the house thanks to a generous invite extended by Renu Ubale (EATernity and Beyond) 🙂

Cost for Two –> Rs. 3000-4000 (Each Specialty Cocktail ranges upwards of 700 bucks sans taxes)

Get –> Bollywood Bhaang, Sassoon Dock, Pan Tossed Shrooms on Khari, Calamari with Ponzu Mayo

Miss –> Filter Kaapi Uska, An Evening at Chowpatty, Chicken Lollipops

MASALABAR->  Level 1, Gagangiri Apartments, Carter Road, Bandra West

MasalaBar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

N.R.I -Indian? Not Really.

It’s unlikely that you dine at a place that’s been the ‘blue-eyed boy’ of the city’s foodscape plus helmed by a celebrity chef who runs one of the best restaurants in London and not let the hype cloud your judgement.
Every dish will oscillate between ‘Okay! Now I get why this place is the talk of the town!’ or ‘Erm… Why is this so ordinary?’

My experience at NRI wasn’t any different.
While the food shows great promise and finesse in ways you’d least expect, the experience here is a mix of downright average and great yet unmemorable food.

Let’s start with the best thing about NRI – their drinks.
My Passionfruit Chutney Martini was zingy, fresh and was the perfect combination of intriguing and familiar flavours.

The English Summer was even better with subtle undertones of elderflower and lemon. It was refined and potent and easily one of the nicest things to have here.

While the Citrus Kiss with Pomelo and Pomegranate was nicely made with hints of  sour and delicate sweetness, the citrus flavours were too muted and subtle.

It helped that all the drinks we had looked like they were out of a very grown-up fancy-shmancy tea party.

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Citrus Kiss – As flowery and pleasant as it looks

One bite of the Chicken Tikka Pie was enough to realise why it was a signature dish.
The minced meat filling was perfectly spiced yet not too overpowering. The pastry could’ve been a bit more flaky but was crusty and delicious nonetheless.
The dish as a whole was very balanced and flavourful – even without the accompanying tart berry sauce.

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Chicken Tikka Pie – Takes some doing to elevate a done-to-death classic

We followed that up with an utterly disappointing Dalim Shakarkand Chaat.
Turning yoghurt into an insipid foam doesn’t make a dish exciting.
Neither does using Haldiram’s fried channa to add texture.
Nor does an overdose of textbook Imli Chutney.
It was generic, tedious and almost too dull to have.

Respite came in the form of the Calamari Seychellos.
The Squid was grilled to perfection and had an enticing smoky, charry aftertaste.
The lemony, slightly oily sauce worked very well with the lightly grilled squid.
Very restrained and subtle flavours that work well.

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Dalim Shakarkand Chaat that looks dreamy but tastes like it was from a cart

There was no dish in particular that stayed with me from our mains.
The Potli Murg was a lost opportunity because the dish had no robust tanginess that green tomatoes provide and was more a hotchpotch of dull flavours with rather limp Idiappam.

The Caribbean Goat Curry was well made with strong notes of cumin and curry leaf but was too familiar and staid to set itself apart. If I wanted run-of-the-mill, I wouldn’t be here.
The Buss Up Shut (basically Malabari Paratha that’s torn up) was nothing but a rip-off with a fancy name.

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SriLankan Potli Murg – Dry. Lackluster. Meh.

Thankfully, the Mithaiwala brought us happiness in the form of a Masala Chai Baileys Brownie. Barring it’s mossy-yellowish-green colour, there is little I disliked. The texture was exceptional and the mousse was a wonderful balance of spice and milky subtlety.

The Blood Orange and Guava Verrine was like an Indian Politician in a cup – promised a lot but delivered nothing. The citrus was too muted and the guava made a blink-and-miss cameo in the dessert. The flavours could’ve been amazing but the execution was too flawed.

The service was confused and almost funny. Our server had an obvious bias towards vegetarian food and had no suggestions from the meaty section. He was also categorically rude when we asked for customisations and seemed distracted. When I pay about 2000 bucks for a meal, I surely don’t want a side of sass with it.

Inspite of having everything that should work, NRI underwhelms where it matters most. The folks here insist that they’re ‘Not Really Indian’ and so far, I believe them.

Meal for Two –> Rs. 4000/- (including taxes and alcohol)

Get –> Passionfruit Chutney Martini, English Summer, Chicken Tikka Pie, Masala Chai Baileys Brownie

Miss –> Dalim Shakarkand Chaat, Potli Murg, Blood Orange and Guava Verrine

N.R.I –> 2 North Avenue, Maker Maxity, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai.

NRI - Not Really Indian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Mockingbird Café Bar – To drink or not to drink?

Why don’t we have more book cafes in the city? Why?
Because the idea of sitting curled up in a comfortable couch with your favourite book and some good food sounds so unappealing, right?

When I heard about Mockingbird, I was ecstatic for two reasons.
First off, Books and Booze! Ka-ching!
Also, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is one of my favourite books of all time and I was convinced that the folks here have great taste!

The first thing that struck me about the space is how simple it is.
No jazzy lights, no jarring colour palettes, no loud music that drowns conversations – it doesn’t try too hard to be everything to everyone.
Even on a weekend night, the place seemed relaxed in it’s vibe and almost refreshingly dull.

As I browsed through the punny cocktail menu, I couldn’t help but grin.
Gin Eyre? Romeo and Julep? Seriously, take a bow you guys!

I settled for the Cosmopolitan with Orange Liquer and Cranberries (Yep, One did fly over the Cosmo’s nest).
Tart, sweet, mellow and potent in all the right ways, it was a refreshing start to our meal.

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Sing a song for this Sangria!

The Blueberry and Basil Martini was brilliantly made with bursts of the fresh herb and the pleasant sour of blueberries working like magic.
It’s balanced and cheerful in every sip and made us smile.

Life is too short for bad Sangria they say.
And so it was that we called for the Rosé Sangria with some trepidation.
Much as I tried, I couldn’t make myself dislike their version of the breezy drink.
With just the right balance of fruity and acidic, this was summery and smooth till the last drop.

As exciting as the drinks sound, the food menu is as generic as you’d expect from any run-of-the-mill Café.

By far the most disappointing interpretation of a beloved classic is their Thai Pav Bhaji.
It’s definitely not Thai. There are traces of Kaffir Lime but that’s about it.
It’s nowhere close to the buttery, indulgent street food we love.

While their Rawas Bao had juicy fish with an interesting pseudo-khimchi salad, the overpowering sauce and flat buns threw it off balance.

The Seafood Pizza, on the other hand, came loaded with juicy prawns and calamari and pleased us to no end. The simple, no-frills pizza tasted like a slice of nostalgia.

Apart from the exotic name, there was little that surprised in the Seafood Fideua. Yet again, the dish had heaps of shrimp and calamari but the flavours were too muted and mellow with dill overpowering everything else. Also, bas with the Basa already guys!

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The Seafood Fideua from meh town

We opted for the Bread and Butter Pudding because we expected a warm, buttery English dessert drizzled with a Caramel and Orange Sauce. Although I quite enjoyed the light, creamy texture, this wasn’t a bread and butter pudding in any way. It was more a flan with specks of moist bread. The caramel sauce, though, was killer good!

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Call this a flan and you’ll be better off!

While Mockingbird falters in places, it’s got heart and character.
Enough character to make Atticus Finch proud.

I left with my pockets only slightly empty and found myself contemplating my next visit here. Perhaps on a rainy day with a nice book, nursing my Tequila Mockingbird.

Yep, that doesn’t sound bad at all.

Meal for Two –> Rs. 1500-2000/- (including taxes and quite some tipple!)

Get –> Sangria, One Flew over the Cosmo’s Nest

Miss –> Thai Pav Bhaji Seafood Fideua

Mockingbird Café Bar –> 80, Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate, Mumbai

Mockingbird Cafe Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato