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

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@Rubina A Khan 2019

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

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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

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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

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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

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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 

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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