Italian-American Cuisine At The BlueBop Cafe, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews The Bluebop Cafe, Mumbai: “Italian-American gluttony at its authentic best, with live jazz performances.”

The Bluebop Cafe is a new jim-dandy of a bar cafe in Mumbai, serving Italian-American cuisine along with a musical side of jazz blues and bop, live. Inspired by the musical evolution of jazz, which came to mean jazz music in Chicago, USA, around 1915, and bebop, which is a style of jazz that came to be in the United States of America in the 1940s, Eesha Sukhi, the owner and creator of The Bluebop Cafe, decided to name her first independent culinary space thus.

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The Bluebop Cafe entrance | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The restaurant is located right on Linking Road, Khar, and not on some long-winding inner bylane with the dreaded no-entry signages. As you walk into the inviting, verdure (a rare sighting in Mumbai) courtyard with wrought-iron benches and an old Peepal tree leaning into it, you are instantly drawn in. I can just imagine myself sitting on one of the benches on a December night, breathing in fresh oxygen from the Peepal tree that it produces at night.

I fell in love with the Asparagus and Polenta that set the tone for the Italian-American food gluttony ahead – the crunch of the freshly sautéed green asparagus spears, along with the polenta and the manchego cheese was beyond delicious. There’s grits of the American South, and then there’s the vegetarian, Indian version, of the classic Italian polenta right here in Mumbai at Bluebop. I’d order two the next time around!

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Asparagus & Polenta | Photo: Rubina A Khan

The Spaghetti Aglio Olio was flavoursome, right down to the last spiral and chilli flake as was the creamy Mushroom Risotto, accompanied by a delightful cocktail called the Citrus Spritzer. The New York style pizzas, and I’m not a pizza person at all, as I owe all my indulgent allegiance to burgers and fries, were delicious. I tried the Goat Cheese and Spinach as well as the Jerk Chicken pizza and the dough was so good that I never thought I’d say that except of course when I’m talking money! Bluebop bakes all their breads in-house and that made all the difference to the pizza crust really.

The desserts are innovative, particularly the Matcha Mousse with fresh Blueberries. The Tiramisu, with a caramelised head with dustings of coffee powder, served with a wine biscuit is as good as it can get outside of Italy. Bluebop sources all its produce locally, all the time staying true to the  regions of Italy and America that the dishes originate from. 

The wine walls, patterned flooring, cane-backed chairs with arm-rests and seating booths lend a 70s vibe to the cafe, but not entirely, as the illuminated bar breaks away with its contemporary design, with mixologist Dinesh Mondkar concocting and crafting the heady cocktails. The culinary team is led by Chef Saurabh Raturi, who interestingly, also moonlights as a musician (a guitar hangs above the kitchen entry) when he’s not developing and perfecting a new dish for the cafe. As I see it, the Bluebop team is poised for culinary greatness as it is knowledgeable, curious and willing to adapt, without a trace of the “I know it all” affectations, in an ever evolving and extremely competitive business.

You might slip up on the ‘gram at this swingin’ cafe, diving into the Italian-American cuisine at its authentic best as soon as the dishes are placed on your table, overcome by the gluttony of it all. But then again, it’d be sinful not to give in! 

The BlueBop Cafe is open all days, from 12:00PM-1AM.
Sunday Brunch: 12PM-3PM.
The BlueBop Cafe
318, Linking Rd, Khar West,
Mumbai 400052 India
+91 22 62366444 | 93 722 02586

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

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

Maharashtrian Food Festival At Tiqri, Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Maharashtrian Food Festival at Tiqri, Mumbai: “a sweet and spicy culinary experience of Indian coastal cuisine.”

Maharashtrian food is delicious! And it’s not just about Vada Pavs and Kothimbir Wadis! From Nagpur Pudacha Vadya (Fried Gram Flour Snack) to Sungte (Fried Spicy Prawns) to Jowar Bhakri (Sorghum Bread) and Techa (Green Chilly and Garlic Chutney) to Tamatoche Saar (Spiced Tomato Broth), it is an expansive food realm that should traverse across India with its flavorous coastal cuisine as I found out at the ongoing Maharashtrian Food Festival at Tiqri, the all-day restaurant at Taj Santacruz, Mumbai.
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Chef De Cuisine, Dinesh Joshi, has curated a well-rounded menu to exhibit some of the many delectable dishes of Maharashtra, Vada Pav included. Joshi loves traditional Indian recipes and he’s most inspired by Maharashtra’s culinary history in the kitchen. “Maharashtrian food is very light, and it consists of fresh produce, from dry coconuts to fresh coconuts, procured from the coastal regions as well as the ghats (mountain passes). The cuisine is an amalgamation of the varied influences of the early settlements in Maharashtra from the Portuguese to the Mughals to the Koli fishermen,” says Joshi of the cuisine.

This festival was a great introduction into a whole new world of Indian food, and I even managed to pick up some words of the Marathi language of which I’m the least proficient in. The succulent and fiery Kolhapuri Muttonacha Rassa (Mutton Curry) with Bajra Bhakri was flavourful, as was the Tamatoche Saar (Spicy Tomato Broth), Masale Bhaat (Spiced Flavoured Rice) Kothimbir Wadi Canape (Coriander Fritters), Chicken Sukka Bhakri Roll and my quintessential favourite, Vada Pav. The Vada Pav was better than any “famous” street stall in Mumbai – the Vada (potato patty) was spiced just right, the crust was golden and made the right crunch on first bite, with the accompanying burnt red and green chutneys. The imaginative new dessert on the menu is Joshi’s version of a Maharashtrian festival favourite, Puran Poli (Sweet Indian Flatbread) where he’s taken the Puran made with jaggery and swirled it into an icecream wonder! My new favourite is the coastal sweet, Naralachi Karanji, also made of jaggery and fresh coconut shavings. It’s an addiction in itself wherein you just can’t stop at one. As is amply clear, I enjoyed every dish I tried on the festival menu.

If you’d like a cocktail to go with the spicy Maharashtrian culinary delights on your plate, then the sprightly Preeti at the Tiqri bar will shake up a neat Pometini for you made with fresh pomegranates, elderflower and bitters or an Espresso Martini or whatever you’d like. And, a cheerful bartender is always the best bartender. An afternoon like this, taking in a novel culinary experience, made for an indulgent, lazy weekend in Mumbai.

The Maharashtrian Food Festival is on from January 11-30, 2018.

Tiqri is open 24 hours, except Monday when it is closed from 11.30PM – 6AM
Taj Santacruz Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Domestic Terminal)
Off Western Express Highway, Santacruz (East) Mumbai 400099 India
+91 22 62115211  Tiqri 

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 | 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

Christmas Brunch At Tiqri, Taj Santacruz Mumbai

Rubina A Khan reviews the Christmas Brunch at Tiqri, Mumbai: “the delectable turkey, carved beautifully, turned a sunny Christmas Day brunch into an exceptionally merry and indulgent one.”

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Roast Butterball Turkey

What’s Christmas without roast turkey, plum cake, mulled wine, gingerbread houses and Santa Claus bumbling around with merry ho-ho-hos? Tiqri, the all-day dining restaurant at the Taj Santacruz Hotel in Mumbai had all that and more. Watching the turkey being carved onto your plate in the sun-dappled restaurant, with its glass ceiling rising 60-foot upwards into the airport skies, alongside an inlayed mural of the Tree of Life was delightful, with the anticipation of it all adding to the excitement. The bird was succulent, with just the right amount of crackling and glaze with accompaniments ranging from the classic Brussels sprouts and carrots to panko-crust fried haricot beans and snow peas. The cranberry sauce and turkey gravy was exquisite in taste and texture, enhancing the intrinsic flavours of the roasted butterball turkey, a definite star of Christmas Day Brunch. Joy to the world!

Only in India can a Christmas menu comprise of Indian favourites like Mutton Biryani, Keema Kaleji, Appam and Vegetable Stew, Dahi Kebabs and Multi-grain Chillas, alongside Oysters, Cold Cuts, Caviar and Beetroot Ravioli and holiday essentials. But everyone seemed to have a favourite from the expansive menu. The fluffiest and most delicious appams, like clouds on a plate, made by Chef Subodh Katre, distracted me from the turkey so much so that I made a little Christmas Turkey Appam Wrap of my own. It was so good!

The dessert station, which was literally a mile long, was sinfully sweet. The Stollen, inspired by the traditional German holiday bread, was wonderful with a marzipan centre akin to Niederegger Lübeck, a favourite of mine. The Christmas Plum Cake was extremely addictive, and you just couldn’t stop at a single slice. That would be a travesty in itself to the hard work and innumerable hours put in to making it, along with the rest of decadent sweet heaven by Pastry Chef, Pankaj Chauhan.

Tiqri’s band of chefs did justice to a bird that most often than not, goes cold turkey in India, turning it into a memorable part of the decadent feast. With all that food and hotel staff warmer than the Mumbai sunshine, it was the happiest place to be on a Monday afternoon celebrating a joyous holiday with food, laughter and a fit and cheerful (albeit carb-starved) Santa.

Tiqri is open 24 hours, except Monday when it is closed from 11.30PM – 6AM
Taj Santacruz Mumbai
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (Domestic Terminal)
Off Western Express Highway, Santacruz (East) Mumbai 400099 India
+91 22 62115211  Tiqri 

@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

In A Goa Glam State Of Mind…

Rubina A Khan reviews the North and South of Goa and the beaches in between “in a glam state of mind…”

It’s the last few days of 2016 and everyone’s talking about New Year’s Eve parties and where they’ll be ushering in the first sunrise of 2017. But it’s Goa with its warm sun, salty sea and shaken and stirred patterns in the sand, where the beach-erati are at this holiday season, bidding 2016 adieu with a beachy bang. Goa fulfills the three most sought–after F’s of life – fun, food and fashion in a manner most susegad (living and enjoying life to the fullest with a relaxed attitude). And there’s no celebratory time quite like Christmas and New Year’s to be in Goa to make it a fiesta to remember. Here are the top five reasons to hit Goa, apart from its innumerable beach parties and music scene, from the North to its South to the beaches in between, making it an unrivaled party destination in India, every year, all year round:

GLAMOUROUS FUN: The opening of the first W hotel in India earlier this month, the W Goa in Vagator in North Goa, has flipped the olde Goan susegad mood board into a glamorously sassy one. W Goa is spread across 25 acres of luxuriant greens along the Arabian Sea, with unparalleled views of swaying coconut palms and the idyllic Vagator Beach shore from its elevated Rock Pool. The Goan red laterite stone is dominant in the hotel’s contemporary architectural style with installation artist, Subodh Kerkar’s art works from his Indigo and Chilli series occupying places of pride in the hotel’s design métier.

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Installation artist, Subdoh Kerkar’s art from his Indigo series

But it’s the W that shines bright like a gleaming diamond, at the entrance of the hotel, embodying its edgy and fashionable spirit that sets the tone of the heady times ahead.

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The glamorous entrance of the W Goa

The Kitchen Table, an all-day diner overlooking the pool, serves the best Goan thali ever! The Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi, a signature dish of Chef Tanveer Kwatra, Director of Cuisine, W Goa at Spice Traders, the hotel’s Pan-Asian restaurant is just exquisite, as is the Baked Singapore Chilli Crab and the Tuna Truffle Tostadas with Caviar.

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Baked Singapore Chilli Crab at Spice Traders

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Bamboo Charcoal Prawn Tempura with Mango and Wasabi

The food at W Goa is exemplary in its distinctive tastes, flavours, finesse and technique and is poised to become a culinary haute spot in Goa very soon. The neon-hued WeeKids, a kids club, a first for the W globally, is immensely popular, almost as much as the music and DJ line-up at the Rock Pool bar. And what’s a little glamour without some Bollywood thrown in? Bollywood superstar, Salman Khan and his family, were one of the very first guests’ in residence during the W Goa’s inaugural run in India. So, if you ever wanted to sleep in the same bed as Khan (without him in it, of course!) well, now you can in the W villa!

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Amit Bhosale, owner W Goa and Salman Khan

EPICUREAN TRAILS: The culinary scene in Goa is as incredibly diverse as its people, not to mention addictive. There’s no dearth of restaurants and bars in Goa, with world cuisine available right from a beach shack to a luxury hotel. The coolest places to hang out and actually eat in, rather than just be seen in, are undeniably Thalassa Greek Taverna (Greek / Mediterranean) on Small Vagator and Gunpowder The Peninsular Kitchen (South Indian) in Assagao. Eating here is akin to a food pilgrimage in Goa. Thalassa is always bustling with people, enjoying their Lamb Gyros, Feta Moussakas and Risotto Prawns, taking in the spectacular views from the restaurant, at any given time of the day or night. The blue and white Greek village environs add to the charm of Thalassa that entices you to eat (a lot!), laugh and shop without a care in the world. Gunpowder’s cuisine ranges from flavours from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and even some parts of Maharashtra. From Syrian Christian Beef, Kerala Mutton Curry and Andhra Prawns to their famous fluffy Egg Appams to a South Indian must, a steaming plate of idlis with gunpowder, it’s like a little bit of India on a very big, rotating plate. You might just run into Twinkle Khanna riding in on her yellow scooter here as it is one of her favourite restaurants in Goa.

FASHION: Fashion in Goa is refreshingly personal. It’s you and your vibe, but a new outfit on New Years Eve is de rigeur, wherever you might be in the world. Fashion designer Malini Ramani’s vibrant store in Calangute can help you get your Goa glam on with everything resort – from shimmering off shoulder dresses to feather flirt tops to sundresses to sequined shorts and bikinis. So whether you’re going to a sundowner at the W Goa or a fireworks and bonfire NYE party on the beach, or just taking a selfie with a cow on the streets, you’ll find something that works, and dazzles on you. Bold-hued outfits line the racks in Ramani’s store, with a large black and white embellished artwork by her on the wall, that balances the color play, reflective of the designer’s definitive sense of style, that is loved and worn by Bollywood beauty Deepika Padukone, who makes her Hollywood debut in XXX: Return of Xander Cage with Vin Diesel in the new year.

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Malini Ramani’s store in Calangute | Photo: Rubina A Khan

RELAX: What’s a holiday without a round of golf ala Rory Mcllroy on the Double T 9-hole golf course on the beautiful greens of the Lalit Golf and Spa Resort in South Goa or some good old soccer on the beach? Spread over 85 acres, the Baroque-Portuguese styled resort has an imposing hand-painted tile mosaic of Sao Rafael, the first Portuguese ship that landed in Goa, steered by Vasco De Gama to add to its cultural charm. With sweeping views of the Sahyadri mountain range, along the confluence of the Talpone river, the Lalit’s manicured grounds are ideal to commune with yourself. If sport is your idea of a relaxing holiday with the family with your kids running wild, then the Lalit has everything from Lawn Tennis to Table Tennis, Squash, Volley Ball, Badminton, Cycling, Zorbing, Parasailing, Archery, Air Rifle Shooting to fuel your athletic side. And if you love spas, then Rejuve at the Lalit is an added must to your itinerary!

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DETOX: The pursuit of a vibrant and energized spirit is on everyone’s mind for the new year and the Detox Detour at the Alila Diwa Goa set amidst luxuriant rice plantations and mango, banyan and peepul trees, along Gonsua Beach in Majorda, South Goa offers just that. Just the idea of a detox detour is so appealing that it does not take any persuasion to check right in, straight into the serene and soothing environs of Spa Alila. Specially designed as 3,5,7,10 and 14 night packages right from a body composition analysis to holistic and ayurvedic treatments to nutritionally balanced meals, the Detox Detour at the Alila works at correcting imbalances and health deteriorations due to the stresses of modern living and enhancing your optimal wellness. After all the hedonistic partying and food indulgences during the holidays, Spa Alila’s bespoke treatments infuse elements of Ayurveda, yoga, massage, fitness, hypnotherapy, pranic healing and nutrition to nourish and cleanse your mind, body and soul so you can take on 2017’s exciting new adventures with renewed fervor.

There’s a little bit of Goa for everyone, and in everyone’s heart, and the glamorous new Goa is where it is all really at!

This feature first appeared in Gulf News on December 29, 2016

©Rubina A Khan 2016