Modern Japanese Food Theatrics At Yuuka, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews Yuuka, a modern Japanese restaurant in Mumbai: “a theatrical flourish of art on your plate, heightening the sensory pleasures of all five senses.”

Multicultural and lauded Chef Ting Yen of the award winning Oishii Boston in Massachusetts, USA, opened Yuuka on the 37th floor of a hotel that is now the St. Regis Mumbai in August 2014 with a game-changing menu that went beyond sushi, sashimi and sake. Such is the temptation of the masterpieces created by Chef Yen that Mumbai’s discerning palates’ coquetry with Yuuka’s extraordinary Japanese flavours has swiftly escalated into an irrepressible culinary affair since. I first partook in this affair extraordinaire in the opening year with my favourite New Yorker and fashion visionary, Fern Mallis, and then again a couple of times in 2017.

Each dish is a theatrical flourish of art on your plate, heightening the sensory pleasures of all five senses, with your eyes taking in the visual magnificence of the food, some of which is literally on fire, your nose deciphering some familiar, and some unfamiliar ingredients of the dish and the accompanying cocktail, feeling the texture of a crispy lotus root in your hand, your ears resonating with the crunch of the first bite and the final explosion of exquisitely paired flavours in your mouth, making it an unforgettable experience that stays with you forever.

The Yuuka indulgence cannot but start with the Truffle Edamame, Crispy Lotus Root and Okonomiyaki, followed by the spectacular Avocado Tartare, an incredibly complex, but delicious creation with avocados, corn dashi, crispy shallots, parsnips and ice that Executive Chef Akhilesh Singh and Sous Chef Swapnil Doiphode create everyday for enthralled diners like me who can’t seem to get enough of its theatrical presentation and divine taste. The Hamachi or Yellowtail Salmon on Fire is another house special that continues to amaze patrons with its “lit” act, that’s akin to a performance really. Freshly grated wasabi roots make for the best accompaniment to the sumptuous Salmon Truffle, Tiger Tear Maki and Vegetarian Truffle Maki and even a seasoned wasabi lover needs to go easy on this as it hits hard, but feels so good.

Yamazaki single malt cocktails, Sake and Martinis add to the modern Japanese food experience, amidst the mirror and brocade deconstructed origami patterns and the black and gold reef inspired wall, with magnificent views of the city by day and sexy, shimmering ones at night. A new favourite of mine is the Gold Leafed Chocolate Mousse with Truffle Icecream. It just does not get any better than eating truffles in an icecream! “I added a tiny amount of truffle to the icecream for a subtle taste, because any more would overpower the flavours and kill the taste,” says Sous Chef Swapnil of his latest creation. The decadent Green Tea Cake, all 40 layers of it, with rum-soaked raisins and matcha dust is an absolute must at the end of your meal here.

I’d reviewed Yuuka for Harper’s Bazaar earlier, and what I wrote back then still holds true today. The fabulous new additions to its already enticing menu has me entranced and the consistency (a very rare attribute in Mumbai, and in life in general) of the distinct flavours and textures of the dishes I had eaten almost two-and-a-half years ago and most importantly, the knowledgeable, friendly and familiar service by the Restaurant Manager Prasad, who remembered my preferences from the last time around in 2014! Knowing what to order can be rather daunting, and uninformed choices can dull any culinary experience, but the service team here walks you through every dish, discreetly participating in your experience, making it a marvellously memorable one!

Yuuka is open everyday from 12PM – 3PM | 7PM – 12AM
Level 37
St. Regis Mumbai
462, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013
+91 22 61628422 Yuuka

©Rubina A Khan 2017

A Date With Estella By The Sea

Rubina A Khan reviews Estella, Mumbai: “a dreamy alchemy of sunsets, sea waves and sinful culinary indulgences”

Estella is Mumbai’s latest gastronomic dalliance since December 2016. The name Estella evokes a vivid recollection of the eccentricities of Charles Dickens’ legendary character by the same name in his book, Great Expectations, but a night out at Estella is anything but. Though there are great expectations from Estella, given it’s the first fine dine restaurant from Hitesh Keswani’s Silver Beach Entertainment & Hospitality, with its numerous bars and restaurants enjoying a credible culinary run in the city.

It’s the best time in the year to dine alfresco in Mumbai, under a moonlit, star-spangled sky, with a table overlooking the sea and a flirtatious breeze adding a romantic allure to the night. The color play of a February evening sunset, descending into the sea waves caressing the Juhu shoreline, is better than any app filter and the natural environs lend themselves beautifully to the restaurant and its island bar.

The predominantly Australian and Asian menu here is expansive, with the wines and cocktails curated in accordance to the cuisine being served here. The Smashed Avocado and Smoked Jalapeño Falafel was a great dish to start the rather indulgent evening, followed by Pistachio Crusted Lebanese Lamb Koftas and a Grilled Polenta Steak. The Spanish Seafood Ajilio was tweaked to my preference with only prawns but it wasn’t the greatest dish or something I’d possibly eat again. The Cauliflower and Blue Cheese Cannelloni drowned in a cheese overload, losing all flavour, but that of the dominant cheese, in the bargain, the Baked Mud Crab and Ricotta was good as was the Lamb Wellington Deconstructed – an innovative creation, but it could have really done without the heavy sauce and extra elements on the plate, as the wonderfully prepared lamb and its intrinsic flavors came through without the added trappings. But it’s the Estella Tenderloin Steak and the Estella Strawberry Martini (a must!) that I enjoyed the most here. The Blueberry and Lavender Short Bread is a sweet desire that one must cave in to whilst dining here.

A night out on the Estella deck in the cooler months is like a dreamy alchemy of sunsets, sea waves and sinful culinary indulgences, with an attentive, prompt and friendly service. Estella offers you a sense of space and privacy, despite the deck tables being set quite close to one another. This is primarily due to the candlelight on the tables, breaking through the darkness, with just enough mood light to see your companion’s face (especially if you’re on a first date!) and your food and drinks but of course. And most importantly, people dining on the deck are largely focussed on their food and conversations here without obsessing over selfies and food shots! That in itself is quite an achievement from the chefs of Estella!

Estella is only open for dinner everyday, 7PM onwards.

Nichani Kutir Building, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai 400049
+91 7999998232 estellamumbai.com

©Rubina A Khan 2017