Wine & Dine
Text by Sona Bahadur
A foo-dgasm for sushi lovers
You’d be hard pressed to find a better destination for a quick bite after a round of shopping at High Street Phoenix than the recently opened Foo, a joint venture between the Tham Bothers and Kishore Frederick.
Small plates rule the roost at this chic yet affordable 130-cover eatery, its eclectic vibe evident in the way classic Asian elements are blended with hints of contemporary design — think sprays of cherry blossom and sake jars, and rustic looking backlit arches set against rich burgundy walls.
Foo means good fortune or good luck in Chinese, a promise the eatery more than lives up to with its wealth of trendy tapas-style Asian winners from sushi and dim sum baskets to tempuras, gyozas, grills, stir fries, sticky salads and the like.
Affable staff help navigate the cocktail list and the sushi and sashimi options. The yam bean uramaki makes a striking visual statement, its striking blue colour deriving from cooking jasmine rice with butterfly pea pod. The jet-black charcoal har gow, all sleek and sexy, is another stunner. The pink pepper tofu and okra maldon sea garlic are worth a taste from the steamed basket.
The real standouts are the Nikkei dishes, bringing the world-famous mash-up of Peruvian and Japanese flavours to the Indian table for the very first time. The avocado uramaki, perked up with aji Amarillo sauce, is the perfect embodiment of this East-meets-West confluence, as is the lotus root ceviche.
The sashimi plates are elegance on the plate, with just the right amount of Latino zing. Try the yellow tail, paired with orange ponzu as well as the bolder sake salmon, paired with ginger ponzu.
It’s a lot more fun to graze endlessly on the tapas, but if you’re craving heartier fare, get something from the big plates menu. Like the silky snapper Thai bird chilli or mapo cottage cheese, paired with fried rice or noodles.
Cocktail guru Dimitri Lezinska has specially curated the bar menu to include over 30 types of sake and 8 varieties of Negroni-inspired cocktails. My vote goes to the zingy yuzu negroni, a knockout concoction of gin, Campari, yuzu, lime and maraschino.
Desserts don’t quite match the beauty of the savouries, but given the assortment of small plates on offer, you’re lucky if you get there.
Storm In A Sake Cup
There’s a disturbance in the force along the Arabian Sea. A troop of cool chefs led by Hong Kong-based celebrity chef Christian Yang has stormed Mumbai’s bastion of Indian Chinese food, transforming plates visually and conceptually with its brand of tempest-inspired oriental cuisine.
So what is it about Typhoon Shelter that makes it oh-so-mind blowing? Is it the quirky, old-meets-new vibe of the interiors reflected in the ceiling with billowing cloud patterns? The impressive sake list? Or those booths, so comfortable and inviting that once you slide in, you never want to leave?
The restaurant pays homage to the eponymous typhoon shelters of Hong Kong, which are used by ships as a shelter against gale-force winds and rough seas during a typhoon strike. These facilities were known to foster a distinct cuisine born out of a struggle to survive at sea by local fishermen. Cooking was done on boats with limited resources and ingredients using simple techniques like steaming, boiling and frying.
Thanks to Yang’s fascination with this fast-disappearing culinary sub-culture, Chinese comfort dishes get a lot more interesting. For instance, the signature Typhoon 8 Pomfret is really a Cantonese classic of whole steamed fish with garlic and scallions pepped up Sichuan-style with bird’s eye chilli. Less is more, and the simplicity of the ingredients lets the dish shine.
The hits are too good to miss, especially the juicy lamb crystal ball with a hint of basil, and the umami-packed wild mushroom and edamame dumpling encased in a ragi skin. The 24-hour Hakka braised pork belly is meltingly tender with sweet and savoury flavours that pirouette across the palate.
Seafood dishes get a star turn. Whether it’s the Tuna tartar, dotted with flying fish roe and served with cured eggs and mixed cress, the delicious Yolanda’s crisp prawns with horseradish emulsion and fragrant chilli or a bowl of XO-enhanced seafood fried rice, the ingredients are palpably fresh.
Carnivores can sink their teeth into the Xin Jiang Australian lamb chops, a hearty crowd pleaser. Or get the sous-vide duck leg.
Desserts by pastry chef Solanki Roy are probably the boldest. There’s theatre in the Zen, with edible stones of caramel vanilla and hazelnut crunch, as well as in the Luna, a mango sticky rice-stuffed sphere lit by a moon-shaped lamp.
I leave the restaurant with a happy smile. It’s one of those meals I’ll be reminiscing about for the rest of the year.
Rivers to Oceans — R2O
Time to be sea-duced
Local catch features so rarely on Indian restaurant menus, apart from the usual pomfret and the occasional rawas or bekti, that one has to applaud any restaurant that celebrates it. Add to that an impressive line-up of global seafood blockbusters, a caviar and champagne bar, and the option to down bubbly by the glass, and the sea-duction of Rivers to Oceans (R2O) is complete. R2O is the latest brainchild of restaurateur Zorawar Kalra and his wife Dildeep.
The unfussy aquatic-themed décor highlighted using shades of blue, white and sea-green, and the ripple-effect created across the restaurant — starting from the initial corridor, moving on to the glass façade leading to a wooden door — set the scene for relaxed fine dining.
The understated vibe is just as well, given the ocean of flavours the palate has to absorb. The diversity of seafood on offer is impressive and stands out for superbly sourced ingredients from India and across the world.
The eclectic 15-course tasting menu (a la carte is available too) is refined, balanced and elegantly presented with the occasional winning surprise. The shellfish lover in me is delighted to be served rock oysters (from Goa) with green apple mignonette and Asian soy dressing. The accompanying black lump fish caviar elevates the taste of the mollusk and evokes the sea.
Some of the entrees skew fancy — you’ll find a reworked Nicoise of tuna gritts, sous-vide egg and purple potato mash — while others aim for something more relaxed (like the slow-cooked Belgian pork ribs with maple and balsamic glaze). The truffled fresh lobster dotted with caviar and truffle oil is a study in umami flavours, even as textural contrasts are in play in a plate of assorted mushrooms. My favourite is a plate of mussels resting in a pool of buttery sauce.
The dreamy Eton mess, which ends the gastronomic voyage, is a rainbow of vanilla cheesecake cream, baked meringue, fruit compote and berry cream. But it’s the decadent gold leaf-cased black truffle ice-cream, that inspires my lust.
The service is informative, efficient and friendly. The chef and the sommelier present and explain every course. Vegetarians, don’t lose heart. There are plenty of meat-free options — wild mushroom stuffed morels, green garlic risotto with aubergine fritters and more.
The wine list is long and deep, embracing world icons as well as select Indian labels and stands out for offering champagne by the glass.
For me, the oysters alone are worth a return visit.