Here’s a round-up of some interesting places you can head to this weekend
Powai-based SugarPlay by Chef Amit Mehta is touted as India’s only online fine dining patisserie. Launched in December, it delivers an extensive range of signature desserts along with staples like macarons, tea cakes and chocolates.
What interests one most about the signature desserts is Mehta’s ambitious attempt to use spices, herbs and local flavours ranging from poppy and bay leaf to kokum, cloves, mustard and even peas. Our pick of the lot is Original Sin (dark chocolate, cloves, poppy, sea salt caramel) that is soft and luscious without being too decadent. A minor gripe is that the poppy seeds don’t seem to impart much flavour, only a little texture perhaps, which can be avoided.
With Paradox (coconut, pineapple, black pepper, chocolate), a heavy-handed sprinkling of pepper brings down the wow factor just a bit for us. A Beautiful Mess (raspberry, white chocolate, coconut, mustard) is anything but a mess. It’s gorgeous looking, and the mustard lends only a hint of welcome flavour to cut through the coconut – an ingredient that often overpowers others. Another success is the Limewire (lime, peas, blueberry, dill), where the sweetness of peas lends itself fantastically to the tart blueberries to create a marriage made in dessert heaven.
Blueberry, as an ingredient, also shines in a macaron where it is teamed with a hint of thyme. All the macarons we’ve tried are excellent. Hazelnut Praline-Whisky, Dark Chocolate-Sea Salt and Wine-Chocolate also form winning combinations.
From the range of pralines and truffles, coffee variants in dark and white chocolate are instant favourites. Passionfruit-Bay Leaf (dark chocolate) is interesting, while Malibu has just become our favourite white chocolate flavour after trying this one.
SugarPlay also sells tea time loaves in 300 gm portions, and we found ourselves gravitating towards the Dark Chocolate-Caramelised Bananas-Sea Salt-Dark Rum cake that is every bit as delicious as it sounds.
Suren Joshi is responsible for two of our favourite Bandra eateries – Pali Village Café and Pali Bhavan – so there’s no end to our excitement with Su Casa now entering the game. Housed in Bandra Reclamation’s Bombay Art Society building, the ground floor venue is bright and cheery, with indoor as well as outdoor spaces (yes, the glorious weather of the past few months is gone, but there are ample blowers outside to ensure you don’t incur the wrath of the sun).
The fitness freak side of Joshi – a muscular, friendly chap – reflects on the menu as well, and we’re glad to report that none of it tastes like health food. The menu is not extensive, but it manages to throw in adequate options for every kind of eater.
We decide to walk in on a Sunday afternoon, with a buffet + a la carte brunch in progress. A simple looking kale and strawberry salad packs quite a punch with its fresh ingredients and tangy dressing. Pea and beetroot hummus are both excellent – sweet, smooth and best enjoyed with lavash. Cheese and prosciutto are best avoided, but only because there’s so much else to try.
Ask for some fish or prawns from the live barbeque counter, or apportion of Eggs Benedict if you’re in the mood. Salmon and tuna fish cakes are aromatic and succulent, best teamed with a Sriracha mayo that deserves to be bottled and sold
There’s lots of pasta at the buffet counter, but we decide to count our carbs and stick with beef medallions (a press note informed us that Su Casa’s version might be the best in the city, so how could we not?). It may not have been the best, but we’re pretty pleased with our chimichurri coated steak either way – teamed with a side of broccoli and some mashed potatoes from the fish dish next to it.
The dessert spread is compact, but doesn’t disappoint with truffles, little shot glasses of mousse and assorted pastries. We decide to go a la carte instead, and don’t regret ending with a yogurt parfait topped with fruits.
Joshi tells us this is a vastly different space at night, for which we’re tempted to return soon.
A thousand hearts were broken when Juhu’s chic resto-lounge, Aurus, shut down. Its replacement, Estella, is a modern Australian restaurant that does well to change barely anything in terms of the interiors and the divine sea-facing outdoor space. Fine-dining by the beach here might perhaps be the best romantic meal you could plan in a city starved of similar options. Thankfully, the food doesn’t disappoint at all.
Chicken Wing Cakes Decompressed – yes, much like that dish everyone swoons over at Colaba’s The Table – makes an appearance here too, just as succulent, and teamed with BBQ sauce. Estella Tempura Uramaki Rolls are fantastic. Thinly sliced cucumber carpaccio and avocado are dressed delightfully in a splash of sweet pink ginger-mango soy that creates a riot of flavours in the mouth when coated with a tinge of wasabi.
The menu for mains is so extensive that one is bound to be really confused while trying to narrow things down. Our first pick was a Hazelnut and Parmesan Crusted Chicken Escallop – a hearty meal when teamed with a poached egg, warm and rich mushroom cappuccino and some greens thrown in for good measure. Better, still, was a masterfully executed Grass Fed Marlborough Lamb Rack with Gremolata and Grain Mustard that – despite its steep price tag – is a dish we’d gladly go back for.
Too full for dessert, our instinct is to skip it altogether, but the server insists we’re going nowhere without trying Estella’s signature dessert – Blueberry and Lavender Viennese Shortbread. He’s right, and we don’t regret the extra calories from that shortbread or the accompanying rose petal panacotta.
Head to Estella on date night, and your woman is going to be impressed. Trust us on this one.
Shizusan Shophouse & Bar
Busy Asian restaurants are our absolute favourites – and this one is well along its way to the top of our list. The two-storey structure, we’re told, used to be a textile warehouse in the early 1900s. It now boasts of a sushi bar and 18-foot log of teak that extends into a community table on the ground floor, plus a larger bar and live dim sum counter at the upper level. Shizusan is spacious and cheery, with interesting décor ranging from 3D printed motifs to murals inspired by changing seasons and abaci on the stairways.
The menu truly travels across Asia – not just a few countries, like most ‘pan-Asian’ restaurants do – and we travel into a food coma with it. Scallop Sashimi – you can tell instantly – is of the best quality you’ll manage in the city, especially at its price. Maki rolls look so innovative that you’d be hard pressed to make a selection. The Fish & Chips roll is good without being great, but maybe we feel that way only because the Surf & Turf roll is nothing short of spectacular.
Dim Sums, too, are well crafted – wrappers are just the right kind of sticky and translucent, and fillings are well seasoned. Sea Bass Rolls are outstanding with a salty hit of black bean sauce, Lobster Moneybags are so pretty and dainty that you almost don’t want to eat them (don’t make that mistake, though – they’re quite yummy) and the Pulled Pork and Kimchi Mandoo will definitely leave you hankering for more.
Starters pose the right kind of problem – which one to pick? The Balinese Ikan Bakar is so-so, but Adobo Braised Pork Belly will melt in your mouth. Seriously, don’t skip this one. Vegetarians, you might want to get the Penang Laksa Spiced Lotus Stem – the sort of dish that isn’t genius, but it’s finger-licking and you won’t be able to put down your chopsticks till you’ve scraped the bottom of the bowl.
Do save some room for mains, though, because like the rest of the food, they really are quite lovely. The Lemongrass and Coconut Cream Mussels have been beckoning us to return for them, and return we will at the earliest opportunity. Shredded Black Pepper Tenderloin is addictive, as are the garlic chips smattered across the dish, and Sumatran Rendang Curry might be the best cooked duck dish we’ve tried in this city in a long time.
For dessert, make sure you pre-order the Vietnamese Banh Chuoi Nuong – arguably the most enticing choice of the lot – because everyone had the same thought as us, and the restaurant ran out by the time we got to the end of our meal. Peanut Butter Pie is a less adventurous but reliable second bet.
There’s so much to discover on Shizusan’s menu that you might need five visits to try everything. What we can tell you with confidence, is that you won’t get bored doing it.
We love the Kala Ghoda favourite, so this one’s opening in the suburbs is delightful news. It’s an expansive space, designed much like the original outlet – minus those huge ceiling installations that use random objects – with a large bar sitting smack in the middle, a sheesha room on one side, and a pool table taking up pride of place next to it.
The menu includes most of our 145 favourites (why change a good thing?) along with a few more options. Steamed Fish with a side of soy fried veggies is wholesome, hearty and superbly cooked. Papaya and Quinoa Salads are as fresh and filling as ever, while the baos remain a popular order here – we saw practically every table order them. Raan and Butter Chicken Baos are delicious, but not a patch on the Pork Vindaloo Bao, that bursts with tart flavour.
Exclusive to this outlet is the delicious new Pork Sorpotel with Fugias, that is addictive, to say the least. The fugias (fried and fluffy) do well to soak up all the masala, and try as you might, you won’t be able to stop at one… or five.
For dessert, we recommend you try something new, light and fun – the 145 Cotton Candy Tower. Need we say more?