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 | HOLLYWOOD ONE NIGHTS IN MUMBAI TO CHAMPAGNE PAPI DRAKE PERFORMING LIVE IN INDIA SOON?

RUBINA’S RADAR

If anything is hotter than the summer of 2017, it’s Drake! The Canadian Grammy award winning artist who swept the Billboard Music Awards with 13 honors earlier this month in Las Vegas, Nevada, surpassing Adele’s record of the highest BBMA wins, is allegedly headed eastward to Mumbai for a concert. The legitimacy of this claim is as thin as paper, and damp too, in Mumbai’s humid weather forecast, but this seems to be the trend du jour. After Justin Bieber’s live gig in the city, anyone, and I mean anyone with a bank account (the many advantages of PM Modi’s demonetisation in the country) is dropping big tickets names like Drake performing in Mumbai, akin to these artistes’ dropping their platinum selling hit tracks! Except their music is real, but these flighty murmurings, not so much. Such is the residual fever of Bieber’s Mumbai trip that getting Canadian, Barbadian and British pop icons to perform in the country is now a conversation opener that can at best be described as delusions of pop grandeur of the highest kind. Vague as the conversations might be, with ambiguous overtones that could throw serious shade on US President Donald Trump’s speeches, they’re definitely in vogue, riding on names like Drake, Ed Sheeran, Rihanna and gasp, even Adele!

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Drake at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada with his 13 honors

It is suffice to say that May has been all about one nights in Mumbai as far as Hollywood goes. Brad Pitt flew in on Wednesday, May 24th to promote his film War Machine on Netflix, along with his director David Michôd. The visit was so short that even calling it a quickie feels abusive to the word itself. It was almost a guerilla surprise, with the film being screened at PVR Phoenix Mills, and Pitt and Michôd’s subsequent interaction with Shah Rukh Khan. Pitt had promoted the film earlier on in the month on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in New York by lying down with Colbert on a blanket on the CBS set to talk about the film, which was unusual and weird, but very entertaining nevertheless. Before he landed in Mumbai, Pitt posed for selfies and signed autographs for his fans at the film’s premiere in Tokyo, Japan but chose not to interact with his fans in Mumbai which was rather strange. Unless of course the one night in Mumbai was a part of some sort of nouveau stealth strategy, which is extremely doubtful.

Justin Bieber was all set to explore Mumbai on his first trip to India for his Purpose Tour concert, but his visit lasted a mere 20 hours with him spending one night in the city at the St Regis Mumbai, despite being booked for four nights and five days. He came, he performed and went straight to the airport to fly off to South Africa for his next show from the concert venue right after his gig. Confidential details of Bieber’s contractual asks and obligations made their way into the press as a “leak” prior to his arrival in the country and that wasn’t exactly the smartest move, making Bieber look like an extremely demanding artiste, not to mention it was a total breach of trust too. Bieber chose to respond to the screaming headlines of his exaggerated tour demands and party plans by staying on in Dubai post his gig there, enjoying the decadent Arab hospitality at the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, arriving in Mumbai only past midnight on May 10th, the day he was scheduled to perform and left before the date changed to May 11th. Touché Bieber!

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Justin Bieber exiting the Mumbai airport at 1.20AM on May 10, 2017

Mumbai has always had Hollywood and celebrities from around the world falling in love with the city, and definitely for more than just one night. Pitt was visibly charmed when he’d visited Mumbai back in November 2006 with Angelina Jolie and their adopted kids, Maddox and Zahara. So if Champagne Papi Drake does come to Mumbai for a live concert, despite all the ambitious conversations that do not seem conclusive in the least, I hope it’s third time lucky for Mumbai this year and the Hotline Bling singer stays on for more than just one night only, and One Dance.

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 2017