Unmasking Sustainable Food At Masque, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Chef’s Tasting Menu at Masque, Mumbai: “an indulgent and wondrous night of sustainable culinary artistry, Indian style.”

The ‘it’ word right now, worldwide, is sustainable, making it lit to use it in any parlance. Sustainable and sustainability is used rather loosely by most fashion and food companies to sound evolved, aware and green-conscious, making the veracity of their sustainable credo rather questionable, but not at Masque, a wilderness-to-table restaurant in the erstwhile mill lands of central Mumbai. Masque’s ingredient-driven sustainable food experience is real, and how! Together, as owners of Masque, Chef Prateek Sadhu and entrepreneur Aditi Dugar have created an indigenously Indian culinary experience that is inimitably theirs, since September 2016, incomparable to any in the country.

Fern Mallis, creator of New York Fashion Week and the host of Fashion Icons With Fern Mallis at the 92Y, believes “sustainable is the new black”. A well-travelled, food enthusiast like Fern, not to mention fashion legend, made for the best company, unmasking sustainable food at Masque, starting the night off with a round of cocktails. She went with The Calabura, from their Wind series, made with Grey Goose Vodka, Aperol, Lemon, Panama Berries and Sweet Lime and I had the heavenly Aquacollins cocktail, from their Earth line, also made with Grey Goose Vodka, Rose, Fennel Seeds and Saffron Soda, which took me back to my time in Kashmir, watching my grandfather see off dinner guests at home with a box of the elusive saffron strands.

Masque’s 10-course chef’s tasting menu, a first for an Indian restaurant, comprises of seasonal dishes made from ingredients sourced locally and sustainably in India. The restaurant’s first course is always served on their pristine white kitchen counter, which is very conducive for the ‘gram. We chose to have all our courses atop their bar stools, amidst the harmonious and seamless action in the kitchen with a Harvey Specter (Suits) quote of the day courting us through the night. No screaming or flying pots and pans here – just a very decorous and synergised team alongside Sous Chefs, Kamlesh Negi and Rahul Sharma, creating art on our plates, taking us through the finest dining experience in Mumbai.

The first course kicked off with a sweet and savoury explosion of flavours with Kanji, made from seasonal black carrots usually found in Northern India, but are being grown on a land patch outside of Pune, especially for the restaurant. Next up was fresh Barramundi fish, not flown in from Australian waters, but from our very own Andaman Islands, with Raw Mango and Cucumber, followed by Masque’s version of a Caesar salad on a bed of ice – Romaine Lettuce with Garlic, Shrimp and Cured Egg Yolk which was beyond delectable. I had the the Eggplant Gujiya – twisted on its sweet ‘Holi’ head into a savoury creation akin to a Latin American Empanada, with Beetroot Yogurt and Fern had the Carbonara Gujiya. The Pani Puri was accompanied by a Cherry Tomato Tart after which the fresh Mackerel on Buckwheat Toast just blew me away! I have never had mackerel that didn’t come out of a tin, and definitely not one as delicious as this. By the time the Lobster Tzir Czot (Kashmiri style) with Gooseberry, the Katlam with Buffalo Tongue, Brain Butter, Salsify (a root vegetable I’d never heard of, let alone ever eaten) with Garlic Chive Butter, another round of Barramundi in a Curry Leaf and Coconut Broth and the Duck Liver with Gutti Aloo, Morels and Seaweed Butter came up, we were both overwhelmed by the culinary artistry of the chefs at Masque. “I could be anywhere in the world right now – it does not feel like Mumbai at all. This food is just unbelievable!” said Fern and I couldn’t agree more. The night ended only after four rounds of desserts (yes, four!) were washed down with the most deliciously warm Kashmiri Kahva (tea) with almond slivers.

Masque aims to use ingredients and produce that is locally grown and sourced, with exceptions like the duck, that doesn’t fly in from a freezer in China, but fresh off Gayatri Farms in Gurugram, Haryana or the Barramundi fish from the Andamans. The owners travelled across India to bring back the country’s forgotten ingredients, specifically from the Himalayan belt and it shows. There is no hard-selling of the food at Masque – it is all about the food you want to experience, with every dish telling it’s own flavourful story – from the roots it was made of to the salt sprinkled on it. The mountainous berry, Kaafal, a favourite, found in the Tehri Garhwal region, is what the chefs are working on to make desserts from, for their summer menu. The menu does not have any pretentious names for the dishes – just the ingredients, with the chefs expanding on how, and why, way they came to be. Informed chefs leading an engaged team is what makes for a memorable culinary experience at Masque. Occasionally, the restaurant hosts pop-ups with Michelin-star chefs, the next one coming up in May with Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo Eatery in the Philippines.

In a world afflicted, and unfortunately accepting of mediocrity, Masque is unparalleled in India in every aspect of hospitality – right from the reservations team, to its owners, bartenders, mixologists, management team, chefs and the star of the restaurant – its incredible food! Masque was an indulgent and wondrous night of sustainable culinary artistry, Indian style.

Masque is open Tuesday-Sunday, with 7:30-8:00PM and 9:00-9:30PM seatings for dinner. Closed on Mondays.
Sunday Brunch: 12:30PM onwards.
Masque Restaurant
Unit G3, Laxmi Woollen Mills, Off Dr E Moses Road,
Mahalaxmi, Mumbai 400011 India
+91 22 4973 7431/32 | 98 190 69222

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

@Rubina A Khan 2019

RUBINA’S RADAR | THE FIRST WEEK OF 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR 

2017 ended with a thunderous affirmation of Salman “Tiger” Khan being more than just alive with ₹300 crore and counting at the box office with Tiger Zinda Hai. 2018 opened with a worldwide reverberation of Oprah Winfrey’s acceptance speech, in Atelier Versace in Time’s Up black at the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. Add a celebrated Sri Lankan/Japanese masterchef to that and the first week of 2018’s been all about film, fashion, food and fiercely female.

Sri Lankan chef, Dharshan Munidasa of the famed Ministry Of Crab in Colombo, Sri Lanka, is finally bringing his restaurant to Mumbai in May 2018. Munidasa, of both Sri Lankan and Japanese descent, owns Ministry Of Crab, one of the World’s Top 50 Restaurants 2017, alongside business partners and cricketing legends, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra in his home country. The masterchef was in the city for a day with Jayawardene to announce the opening of the restaurant, in collaboration with Gourmet Investments Pvt Ltd at the newly opened, The Runway Project, in Phoenix Mills. The signing of the partnership amidst flashbulbs was rather unfashionably Trump-esque, but aside from that, it was a mirthful evening. There’s always a story behind everything and everyone famous today, including Munidasa. India’s best known wine connoisseur, Sanjay Menon, chanced upon Munidasa’s culinary skills at his standalone Japanese restaurant, Nihonbashi in Colombo, about a decade ago, when Ministry Of Crab did not even exist. Menon is a friend Munidasa values highly as his word of mouth, and a private pop-up dinner at the ITC Parel that he organised with Munidasa in the kitchen some moons ago, created the Munidasa magic that subsequently led to the opening of the first Ministry Of Crab. Mumbai will be the second outpost of the restaurant, the location of which still being a classified secret, and the third is slated to open in Bangkok, Thailand later this year. Mumbai is ready for some “crab excellence” Munidasa style, this summer.

A new resto-bar, Mashhad is opening this January at a first-of-its-kind location in Mumbai. Mashhad is situated right inside the entrance corridor of the Taj Santacruz hotel at the city’s domestic airport in Santacruz. Comprising of Persian-Lebanese-Indian cuisine, it is an unusual spot to open a fine-dining, only by reservation, restaurant and lounge. Mashhad was scheduled to open on Salman Khan’s birthday on December 27th, with him as the guest of honour, but it had to be postponed to January due to unforeseeable circumstances. Khan will be at Mashhad on opening night, supposedly on the 10th of this month, alongside a smattering of celebrities and wannashines who’d like to reaffirm their own existence in the presence of the elusive Tiger.

And the United States created fiercely female history that stands testament to the fact that America is a land where dreams and aspirations come true. Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award Lifetime Achievement Award at the 75th Annual Golden Globes in LA with an acceptance speech that will reverberate for years to come, not to mention the long standing ovation she received from everyone in the room at the Beverly Hilton. Winfrey is the first African-American woman to receive this award, bestowed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for “outstanding contributions to the world of entertainment”. “In 1964, I was a little girl sitting on the linoleum floor of my mother’s house in Milwaukee watching Anne Bancroft present the Oscar for Best Actor at the 36th Academy Awards. She opened the envelope, and said five words that literally made history: ‘The winner is Sidney Poitier.’ Up to the stage came the most elegant man I had ever seen. I remember his tie was white and, of course, his skin was black. And I’d never seen a black man being celebrated like that. But all I can do is quote and say that the explanation in Sidney’s performance in Lilies of the Field, ‘Amen, amen. Amen, amen’. In 1982, Sidney received the Cecil B. DeMille Award right here at the Golden Globes, and it is not lost on me that at this moment, there are some little girls watching as I become the first black woman to be given this same award. I’d like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press Association because we all know that the press is under siege these days, but we also know that it is the insatiable dedication to uncovering the absolute truth that keeps us from turning a blind eye to corruption and to injustice, to tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. I want to say that I value the press more than ever before as we try to navigate these complicated times, which brings me to this: what I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I’m especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories,” said Winfrey on stage.

If the rumblings of Winfrey running for the US Presidency 2020 are true, and she does run, I will be the happiest girl in the world. I too, was once a little girl, watching The Oprah Winfrey Show every chance I got, being mesmerised by her work, her kindness, her humour and laughter and her unflailing faith in the fabric of humanity. I learnt a lot from her talk show – right from serious issues plaguing the world, exposes on the macabre practices of mankind, every fun fashion and makeup item on her favourites list, what books to read, Maya Angelou poems, her philanthropic work across the world and every celebrity I should know of, and wanted to meet, through her show. She made me believe I could do anything I wanted to, and in the greater tomorrows to come.

Disclaimer: Any part of the content on the rubinaakhan.com website cannot be reproduced without prior permission and crediting the website and the author.

©Rubina A Khan 2018

RUBINA’S RADAR | SHOBHAA DE’S BOOK LAUNCH IN MUMBAI & A CELEBRATORY FASHION MILESTONE IN LUTYENS DELHI

RUBINA’S RADAR

The magnificently restored Royal Opera House a historic address in Mumbai since its inauguration by King George V in 1911 and India’s only surviving opera house relegated to redundancy in the 90s, is now open to the culturati. It is no longer just a geographical landmark on the Uber app, but a live destination that’s marking up newer glories contrasting from its original, sepia-toned ones today. This vintage Baroque edifice was where author and columnist, not to mention “ready-to-be-lynched-for-anything” Shobhaa De launched her latest book, Seventy And To Hell With It on a fine December evening last Wednesday. At the garden gathering amidst family and friends, De was on fire, as a discerning hostess in a cobalt blue, custom couture blouse by Abu Jani-Sandeep Khosla and a real zari Jaipur Kota Doria sari greeting her guests, with her luminosity lighting up the de riguer photo-ops and selfies. She then went on to breathe fire in her role as a celebrated author on stage, in conversation with journalist Barkha Dutt and Bollywood actor Kangana Ranaut.

The conversation revolved around sex, the celebration of age and beauty in every stage of a woman’s life, the empowerment of women and the power of speaking up, changing the patriarchal guard and living your life wholly on your terms to a full (Opera) House. De’s quintessential ability to turn anything on its head without so much of an arch of her eyebrows or her “De resting face” with a diverse point of view that could swing from radical to pure nonchalance is what makes her one of the most read and heard “Made in Mumbai” voices in India. Had I been in conversation with her about the book on stage, my opening question would have been “How is sex at seventy, Shobhaa?” because her immediate response would have been far more entertaining and memorable than the latest Bollywood film!

In Delhi, designer Ashish N Soni celebrated a milestone in the fashion business, with a Lutyens lawn gig at The Lodhi. The mannequins looked exquisite in Soni’s all-black Spring Summer 2018 line in a contemporary hard-metal open-air installation tent, alongside a white garment installation which was as enchanting as it was dreamy, exhibiting his structured and minimalistic design ethos beautifully.

894905398

Ashish N Soni SS ’18

894905276

Yuvraj Singh and Ashish N Soni

There was Artificial Intelligence to talk to Soni nd Saif Ali Khan (Taimur’s father!) about all things fashion which was interesting, but the Glam-Cam was a monster fail. A garden gig on a Saturday night in the freezing cold temperatures of Delhi surprisingly brought out the warmth in all its glamorous guests, well, almost all. To attend an alfresco cocktail event like this is a Game of Thrones gamble – you either winter wing it in Uggs and cashmere or you whinge all night about the cold, over endless drinks, which is rather unfashionable.

©Rubina A Khan 2017

Shaken, Not Stirred Martinis At The House Of Nomad

Rubina A Khan reviews the House Of Nomad, Mumbai: “this is where the wandering liquorists are at, conversing and laughing up a storm over shaken martinis, cocktails and wines.”

There’s a splendid new drinkery in Mumbai that’s shaking and stirring things up, in and out of the Bandra zip code. It’s called House Of Nomad at the Taj Lands End hotel in picturesque Bandstand. This is where the wandering liquorists are at, ensconced in its mellow confines, conversing and laughing up a storm over shaken martinis, cocktails and wine. An intimate space, designed on the lines of a 19th century British private club, it is just the place to kick back a few, away from the endless human footprint at the astir hotel. The Taj Lands End is a quintessential Bollywood sighting spot in Mumbai, with Shah Rukh Khan’s residence, Mannat situated a mere second away from the hotel and Salman Khan’s apartment a minute further down at Galaxy, not to mention an events calendar that has celebrities walking in and out of the property almost every single day. It is also the Khans’ preferred choice of venue for most of their work commitments, making fans gravitate to the hotel in a bid to catch a glimpse of them, or better still, score a selfie with the indomitable Khan’s or Bachchan’s or Kapoor’s.

House of Nomad’s Guava Martini, which is not on the menu at the moment, is delectable and you just can’t stop at one, or two or six! Be sure to request for at least one. The Slap & Tickle cocktail crafted with Aperol, peaches, mint, lemon tea syrup and bitters on cracked ice is just as heady as it is refreshing. The julep tin it was served in took away from what I like to call a flaming orange sunset in a glass, but none of its divine flavours. The Chanel No 6 vodka martini with lychee, coconut and bitters makes a pomp and show of an entry on your table, replete with an edible lipstick made of raspberries and an atomiser, and it tastes great! A floor to ceiling wine wall stocked with wines from India, South Africa, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, France and the United States of America has wine aficionados and connoisseurs enthralled.

House of Nomad serves up tapas and small eats like Lamb Sliders with Spiced Potato Wedges,
Peri- Peri Popcorn, Jalapeno and Cheese Popcorn that are delightful, my favourites being the Wasabi Popcorn, the Burrata Focaccia Croutons and the Bandra Sheermal Lamb Seekh Rolls. You can never go wrong with smashing cocktails and kebabs, ever! The Lamb Pie with Tomato Chutney didn’t quite cut it with its dry pastry and overdone lamb filling.

Not everyone likes to hang out at the hotel’s very popular atrium for the very abused “coffee catch-ups”, and the disinterested “Hi’s” you have to engage in for politesse.  House of Nomad, however, feels like your very own private bar, with a playlist that ranges from progressive to house to pop music, where you can have a good time with friends or be deeply engrossed in a business conversation, even on a busy Friday night.

House of Nomad is where Scandal Water happens, except it is not in olde England, but in modern Mumbai over Tea Punch and Slap & Tickle and not English afternoon tea!

House Of Nomad is open everyday Monday-Sunday 3.00PM – 1.30AM
Taj Lands End
Byramji Jeejeebhoy Road, Bandstand, Bandra West, Mumbai 400050 India
+91 22 6668-1234 House of Nomad 

@Rubina A Khan 2017

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

The House Of Medici Nightclub & Lounge #PartyingInPune #MediciMagic #WestinWeekend

Rubina A Khan reviews The House Of Medici, Pune: “a nightclub that takes the hashtag #PartyingInPune to an all time dazzling high”

There’s always a party in Pune, but Saturday nights in the city’s haute new nightclub and lounge, The House of Medici, is where the party is really at! The House of Medici is the Westin Pune Koregaon Park’s Florentine inspired nightclub and lounge, with a dominant Renaissance theme playing out a seductively glamorous vibe. It has people queuing up on weekends outside the imposing brown door, in anticipation of drinking and dancing the night away (yet again!) under the light of glimmering chandeliers, taking the hashtag #PartyingInPune to an all time dazzling high.

An extremely busy, 104 feet long bar, the longest by far in India, withstands a whole lot of champagne, whisky and cocktail and what-have-you libation serve-ups through the night by an affable bartending crew as the music thumps on. The music is contemporary world with a smattering of Indian and international DJ’s playing at the club, and Bollywood music is not on Medici’s playlist. The horse-shoe shaped bar seamlessly amalgamates the three bifurcations in the club’s space, each echoing the luxe vibe it’s going for. The House Of Medici unabashedly takes inspiration from the life and styles of the original Medici family from Florence, Italy that gained prominence with the Medici Bank, the largest in Europe in the 15th century and went on to become a political dynasty and a royal house subsequently. An inanimate pig called Lorenzo occupies a place of pride in the nightclub, and even though I’m not quite sure of its significance during the Medici era, it does lend a comic flair to the design, with its head full of delicious cocktails and maybe even Coldplay’s dreams! There are many reasons why the couch next to Lorenzo the bartending pig is a favourite with the club’s crowd, but one of them has got to be that it has the best light, adding virtual photoshop, making you look good, for real, not just in pictures!

The House Of Medici’s contemporary world cuisine bar eats comprises of delectable favourites like Lemongrass Prawns with Raw Papaya Salad and Sweet Chilli Sauce, Mushroom and Spinach Ravioli with Feta Salad and Potato Wrapped Tilapia with Jalapeno and Caper Tartare under the culinary expertise of Executive Chef Rahul Kaushik and Sous Chef Rishi Verma. It is a rather impressive menu and the presentation of the food is as beautiful, as it is contemporary. The House Of Medici’s Live Pantomime Acts add a novel excitement to the pre-dinner drinks ambience in the club.

You must hit up The House Of Medici when you’re in Pune next – it’s got the vibe, the music, the food, the drinks, the crowds AND the best service. There is no way you can call it a night here once you’re inside, but only in the wee hours of the morning. And that is how you get THOM’d! And if you’re still up for another round of partying, then surface at 3PM, whether you’re a Westin hotel guest or not, get some coffee into your bloodstream and head over to Mix@360 for a raging Sunday Sundowner to shoot some cold ones in this beautiful weather.

This was my fabulous #WestinWeekend with unforgettable #MediciMagic thrown in!

The House Of Medici is open for drinks:
Tuesday-Saturday 7.30PM onwards
Sunday 5PM onwards

Westin Pune Koregaon Park
36/3-B Koregaon Park Annexe, Mundhwa Road, Ghorpadi, Pune 411001 India
+91 97654 93216 The House Of Medici

@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

The Best Nightclubs In Dubai! #TGIT #DubaiWeekends

Rubina A Khan reviews Dubai’s best nightclubs, “bedazzling nights on Sheikh Zayed Road or as I like to call it, the Party Mile in Dubai.”

#TGIT is the Middle East’s #TGIF when the weekend rolls into the week with a bedazzling glamour that is quintessentially Dubai on a Thursday evening. When you’ve been TGIF-ing all your life with #FridayFeels #Friyay and #Fridaze Instagram hashtags, it feels like you stole Friday a whole day ahead on a Thursday in Dubai, and it’s thrilling. Maybe there should be a legit #ThrillingThursday hashtag for this part of the world as the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag seems redundant as you have to throw it all the way back, which is a little meh for now. The only shift here is that Sundays can NEVER feel like Mondays to me, but Thursdays are beginning to feel a lot like Fridays already. Convenient, right? I know!

It’s another Thursday night and as the pop culturist in me acclimatizes (real easy, this!) to the new weekend style in Dubai – a country most contemporary, with its incomparable vision of the modern world. I have a huge favorite on its explosive night scene. There are nightclubs and then there’s the Cavalli Club Dubai, ruling your nights and owning your days! The other favourites of mine  are mostly on Sheikh Zayed Road, or as I like to call it, the Party Mile in Dubai:

CAVALLI CLUB DUBAI | THE FAIRMONT DUBAI

IMG_8290

Cavalli Club Dubai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

This is undeniably the BEST nightclub in Dubai with its hedonistically dazzling interiors, replete with wild cats emblazoned on the doors of the lifts, designer Roberto Cavalli’s inimitable animal design flair resonating through the space, the glimmering ‘You are Gorgeous’ powder rooms notwithstanding, and of course, the eponymous Roberto Cavalli Vodka cocktails. The Cavalli restaurant serves Italian and international culinary fare, and is set on three levels, where you can dine on Roberto Cavalli crockery and cutlery (but of course!) under the scintillating crystal chandeliers.

IMG_8268

Cavalli Club Dubai | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Cavalli is where elegance and sophistication turn into a sexy beast of glamour called the Cavalli Club run by the Pragma Group. The only way to describe a night at Cavalli is to call it legend ‘cos it just is! Just last week, Drake hit up Cavalli on an extremely private visit to Dubai and it was unreal to dance to his tracks, especially One Dance, with him around! It just doesn’t get better than this, does it? Not in Dubai! You’ll only know when you dance to the last track of the night at 3AM and not want the music to stop, ever! Cavalli owns it with the best DJs and the greatest music lineup and is packed every night with the world’s most glamourous people. Well, not all, but I believe everyone is beautiful from the inside. I love the music here and Cavalli just gets my vibe.

THE ACT DUBAI | SHANGRI-LA HOTEL 

IMG_8124_2

The Act | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Act Dubai is an experience and I love it! The Act, created by New Yorker Simon Hammerstein, is located on the 42nd floor of the Shangri-La hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road, making it the highest theatre venue in the world. The Act Dubai is akin to an artistic ménage à trios of fine dining, theatre and nightlife, in a space that sees risqué aerial theatrics right above your dinner table and looks just as effortlessly cool with a life size cutout of Kanye West on a hip hop night, amidst its Victorian decor. The Act Dubai serves serves Peruvian | Japanese fare for the dinner shows along with Pisco cocktails. There’s a great Californian Rosé I discovered here. The spectacular performances at dinner are mesmerizing and will leave you looking up at the performers for most part of the night but it will be a crick in the neck that’s definitely worth it!

VESNA RESTAURANT & LOUNGE | CONRAD DUBAI

IMG_8401

Vesna | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Vesna is a contemporary Slavic restaurant and lounge at the Conrad Dubai Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. Deep purple and fuchsia pink hues dominate the space, with extremely warm, not to mention beautiful Ukranian hostesses, adding glamour to the royal vibe it’s shooting for, making the experience so intrinsically Ukranian you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d flown into the country for the night! Owned and operated by the Aston Restaurant Management Group, Vesna Dubai’s Karaoke Nights are just so much fun, especially when you’re singing your heart out on an Adele track, but not sounding even remotely like her! The singing and dancing (in all languages literally) start around 11PM, making it such a happy place, and go on till 3AM.

BILLIONAIRE MANSION | TAJ DUBAI

IMG_0056

Billionaire Mansion | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Italian businessman and Formula 1 bossman Flavio Briatore’s Billionaire Mansion, with its  panoramic views of the Burj Khalifa, has Dubai entranced since it opened in April 2016 at the Taj Dubai hotel in the Business Bay area. The Mansion is spread out into  five different venues – Sumosan – a Japanese restaurant, Billionaire Grill – an Italian restaurant, Karaoke Prive – a karaoke lounge, the nightclub and Diamond Kalian – a shisha terrace. The club pulsates with a thumping crowd and a busy bar every night and is a ‘go-to’ in Dubai with its varied dining and bar options, but I’m not so hot on the music at Billionaire, which I really think should be amped up, and fast.

I am sure I’ll find many more favorites to add to my Dubai nightlife list, but Cavalli will always own it!

©Rubina A Khan 2016

My Top 5 Restaurants In Dubai, So Far!

Rubina A Khan reviews some of her favourite restaurants in Dubai, “tempted by the expansive culinary temptations in the city.”

I have been so busy eating my way through Dubai, and loving it, that I just didn’t get down to writing about all the amazing food here! I have been distracted, tormentously so sometimes, by the expansive culinary temptations in the country. So, here is my first feature on my top five favorite restaurants in Dubai, so far:

1. THE IVY | JUMEIRAH EMIRATES TOWERS | BRITISH

IMG_4508

Roast Duck Breast & Confit Leg | Rubina A Khan

The last time I enjoyed duck was at the exquisite Duck de Chine restaurant in Beijing, China and boy, was I blown away with its culinary excellence! The duck was so exceptional that a shrill “This Beijing Duck is to fly for, not die for!” escaped my lips, right there on the table, just as I had the first taste of it, cracking everyone up and nodding in unison. I have not been impressed by any restaurant after that (repeated) ceremonial duck experience, till I chanced upon The Ivy Dubai’s Roast Duck Breast and Confit Leg with Choux Farci, Boulangère Potato and Fois Gras on a busy working afternoon in March. I have only ever eaten this dish at the Dubai outpost of this British restaurant, nothing else, yet. That’s how good it is and so is the service! The Ivy’s vibe can be as languid as you want it to be or as boisterous as a British pub, depending on the time you go there. Needless to add, I don’t need to die or fly to Beijing for my Beijing Duck fix, even though Duck De Chine reigns supreme in my world favorite list forever more, now that I’ve got The Ivy in Dubai to rein in my duck cravings for a bit.

2. THE MEAT Co. | SOUK AL BAHAR, DUBAI MALL | AFRICAN

IMG_5340

Gourmet Wagyu Burger with Steak Cut Chips | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Leveraging off its African heritage, The Meat Co is a steakhouse with a selection of premium steaks like Japanese Miyazaki Wagyu to natural grass-fed Argentinian Pampa Humeda bred beef to Australian Angus. This restaurant has the best view in all of Dubai – the Burj Khalifa and the Dancing Fountains on the Burj Lake and is the coolest place to just hang out in, with the warmest and friendliest service staff. It is the best spot for selfies too but trying to get the Burj in the same frame as your face will be cumbersome. I managed to a couple, but only after a couple of trips to the restaurant. I love the Gourmet Burgers, Steak Cut Chips, Chocolate Bread, Jumbo Prawns and the Maracaibo cocktail here.

3. OLEA | KEMPINSKI MALL OF THE EMIRATES | ARABIAN

IMG_5971

Lamb Kebabs & Kebdet Dajaj (Chicken Liver in Pomegranate Molasses | Photo: Rubina A Khan

Olea is a contemporary Arabian restaurant, specializing in Levantine (Eastern Mediterranean) cuisine, within the majestic splendors of the decade old Kempinski Mall Of The Emirates Hotel, that was recently refurbished for over a $100 million. Olea has a vast Levantine menu with dishes like the El Homos Beiruti of Lebanon and Nayeh (raw meat) selection of Syria to the Sultan Ibrahim of Cyprus and Soft Kunafa of Palestine, as also dishes from Cyprus, Jordan and Turkey, each prepared in the traditional manner, staying true to their origins and intrinsic flavors. Sidebar: Did you know Baba Ghanoush is Arabic for Spoiled Papa? Neither did I!

4. PAUL CAFE | MALL OF THE EMIRATES, DUBAI MALL | FRENCH

IMG_7711

Coconut and Mango Mille Feuille | Photo: Rubina A Khan

I am in love with the Coconut and Mango Mille Feuille here and the perfect Iced Lattes, just the way I like it, no special customizations needed. I have always had to specify the amount of coffee versus the milk and ice in the blend, pretty much everywhere in the world, be it London, Maldives, New York, Hawaii, China, India, Berlin… you get the drift. The cheery vibe at this French cafe is as inviting as the sugar artistry on its bakery shelves. And the service in this bustling cafe is so quick that even before I have paid up for my “to go” order, it’s all packed and ready! I have so far indulged in a sugar dance here and just not had the time to sit down for a meal yet, but I will do so soon. Till then, keep the Palmiers and Pain Au Chocolats coming Paul!

5. ARMANI / HASHI | ARMANI DOWNTOWN | JAPANESE 

IMG_5698-2

Kumquat Caipirinha | Photo: Rubina A Khan

With the Burj Khalifa rising into the Dubai sky like a glimmering spire at sundown and the Dancing Fountains’ musical show on Burj Lake, sundowners at the Armani / Hashi lounge are a sublime seduction into the night ahead. To be right in the midst of the lofty Burj Khalifa, the tallest man-made structure in the world, gives your evening an exceptional high. Armani / Hashi has some of the most exciting cocktails like the Kanji Martini and the Blushing Geisha,  matched with exemplary service, not just at the bar and lounge, but at all points in the hotel, making it one of my favorite places to go to in Dubai. After the cocktail rounds, you can always have dinner at the Armani / Hashi restaurant that serves contemporary Japanese cuisine.

PS. I just realized that my favorite places in Dubai are so diverse from one another – ranging from Japanese, British, French, Arabic and African cuisines – a happy inadvertence. Well, I have always liked to think of myself as a world citizen, and this commingling falls right in to my citizen of the world vibe.

©Rubina A Khan 2016

Taking In London From The Highest Bar In Town, Gong, At The Shangri-La!

473399194

London has never looked as spectacular as it did from the 52nd floor of Gong, the bar with THE view at the Shangri-La hotel at The Shard that opened in May earlier this year. Well, unless you flew over in a chopper earlier, but now all it takes is an elevator ride up to the bar and a cocktail of your choice to take in the London views, right from the St Paul’s Cathedral to the Big Ben to the London Bridge. The drinks at Gong are just as stellar as the views and the staff is very friendly and ever ready to snap your pictures for you as selfies are just tedious here as they cut out the background completely. And even if you do manage a good shot, by the time you get the light and angle right, you’d look a bit looney to the rest of the cool crew. And it might be a tad disrespectful to your waiting drink on the table too. Everyone was flying on those tangy and sour cocktails, but the question that remains unanswered though is, how high will YOU get at London’s highest bar?

IMG_6465

Photo: Rubina A Khan

©Rubina A Khan 2014