Soho Tapas Bar

Folks in Andheri, Soho is a must-visit for addictive tapas, fresh salads and an impressive cocktail menu. Although prices are reasonable, we’d recommend going in for Sunday brunch, where a karaoke setup and unlimited food and drinks for just Rs 1,600 sweeten the deal.

Small and Spartan, and the owner admits it’s been a challenge maximizing the space to accommodate more tables in the L-shaped air-conditioned area. The outer section, in Mumbai’s humidity, isn’t a great option if you plan to linger over your meal like we did.

Thankfully, a half-hour wait at the bar (fully worth it) leads us to a table, where we kick off proceedings with a near-flawless Eggs Benedict (the hollandaise needs a bit of a kick, we think), and a couple of salads. The Prawn and Kiwi Ceviche hits all the right notes, alternating between sweet and tangy. More impressive is the Pomegranate Pear & Pecan Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing – light, refreshing and with subtle flavours that work well together.

Cocktail lovers, you’ll be spoilt for choice. We left our bartender in charge and he didn’t disappoint – first serving up a competent Raspberry Gimlet and then the heavier, rum-based Bangkok Breez bursting with fruity flavours.

The all-new tapas menu is extensive, with plenty of vegetarian options. Zucchini Rebozado (fried zucchini lollipops) fare just about okay, but the Stuffed Pimentos de Padron (pimento chillies stuffed with cheese, mushrooms and served with a generous portion of feta yogurt dip) hit the spot. The Soho Adobo Chicken Wings are among the better ones we’ve had in the city.

The good run comes to a temporary halt with our first main dish, an Injected Peri Peri Chicken that could do with more flavour, gets slightly better with a reasonably good Nasi Goreng and then ends with our favourite dish of the day – a spectacular 3-hour cooked Lamb Ragout with Cous Cous Pilaf.

BBQ Chicken
BBQ Chicken
All American Pepperoni
All American Pepperoni

Chilli Flakes

Last year, former Two One Two chef Mikhail Shahani teamed up with Mohammed Bhol to launch Charcoal Biryani. The duo has followed up its success with the two-outlet, Chilli Flakes, which features a dine-in option in Dadar and a delivery kitchen in Lower Parel. While the former offers burgers, pastas and hot dogs too, we chose to order from the latter location, which focuses on their specialty – pizza.

At 14 inches each, with the option of creating half-and-half pizzas, we managed to sample six variants and came away immediately impressed with the quality of ingredients, and the generosity with which they are used.

The simplest offering – the Quatro Formaggi – is the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, with a spectacular blend of fontal, goat and blue cheese with buffalo mozzarella. Trust us, you can’t go wrong with this one. The Forest Mushrooms pizza is high on flavour, but unfortunately a bit soggy. A better option is the Exotica, which is loaded with corn, Portobello mushrooms, bell peppers, jalapeno, green chilli, smoked mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce, all marinated in delicious Cajun spice.

Non-vegetarians, the standard Barbeque Chicken pizza is failsafe, but we’d recommend the Bombay Masala Chicken. Spicy chicken mince, smoked mozzarella, cheese, onions and green chilli come drizzled with a finger-licking chipotle mayonnaise. Those who prefer more robust chunks of chicken, the Cajun Chicken is a decent bet.

While dessert options are scarce, the Chocolate Mousse is value for money. You won’t be wowed, but we don’t think you’d be complaining either.

The All Night Eggplant
The All Night Eggplant
Thai Me Up
Thai Me Up
Desi Cottage Cheese
Desi Cottage Cheese

Foodarto

As you read this, the boys behind the humble Mahim kitchen delivering baos and juices are in the process of opening an outlet in Bandra. That’s good news, because boas are the flavour of the season, and Foodarto does a great job of offering a variety for reasonable prices.

The star of the show here is The Chinese Cure – chicken slathered in hoisin and shiraz sauces, with mushrooms and peanut garnish. It’s sweet, sticky and bound to be devoured within seconds. For vegetarians, we have two recommendations. Desi Cottage Cheese is an unlikely combination – paneer in makhani gravy – that surprisingly works. The other paneer-based bao, The Three Baomigos, also works, with its unlikely combination of red beans and a yogurt-based sauce.

We’re looking forward to visiting the Foodarto outlet to sample some of their other creations, notable the two dessert boas and a range of healthy juices.

Atlantis
Atlantis
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
The Boy Who Never Grew Up
Sorry
Sorry

Chemistry 101

A much-hyped opening in Kamala Mills, chef Stephen Gomes does his best to ensure that his extremely creative looking offerings are high on taste too.

With a theme of this sort, Chemistry 101 could have easily pulled off a kooky décor, but instead they keep it classic, barring a few lab equipment installations. The experiments are left for the menu, which is presented like a story book, broken into chapters.

Pondering over our appetizers, we have the most phenomenal Bhel Puri Ice Cream for company. Apart from the puri and a sprinkling of sev, every other ingredient – notably tamarind – makes it to the ice cream, which is a flavour bomb and sets the bar high for the rest of the meal.

A dish called Sorry is named so because the chef is apologetic about deconstructing a classic dish like the Caprese salad. He shouldn’t be, because his mozzarella air balloon comes with a lovely rasam dressing, while balsamic vinegar is in the form of pearls. The only element we don’t love is the olive oil soil.

Another stunningly plated dish is the Atlantis – a mini aquarium of sorts that has a biscuit-based Nemo that’s too cute to eat. Well cooked prawns are enveloped in a moilee-inspired veloute, garlicky crumbs (made to look like sand) provide welcome texture, and the tart foam combines well with meringue. This is a far superior alternative to our other appetizer – English Stove & Desi Tadka, which has too many elements. We’re served a mini samosa with chicken stroganoff filling, a lamb kibbeh ravioli, bangers and mash and the best element – shrimp ceviche puri with gazpacho. This one’s a rare miss with only one impressive element.

Mains are redemption with our dish being more straightforward in terms of presentation. A Soho-inspired pork chilli with fried rice (and unnecessary soya foam) is lip smacking.

Desserts, again, return to experimental territory. We resist the urge to order the much-Instagrammed The Boy Who Never Grew Up and instead get the superlative Crystal Ball. A technical masterpiece, this one does justice to the chef’s skill – a flavourful saffron-cinnamon pannacotta in encased in a ball of champagne jelly, and placed atop almond meringue soil. A wonderfully executed end to our meal, and thankfully not overly sweet.

There are restaurants that push the envelope, and then there’s Chemistry 101. Lovers of innovation, head here for some truly quirky experiments that no other restaurant in the city has attempted.

Bakchoy Dumpling with Chilli Oil
Bakchoy Dumpling with Chilli Oil
Peking Duck Dumpling
Peking Duck Dumpling
Steamed Wonton Soya Chilli
Steamed Wonton Soya Chilli
Vegetable Bakchoy Dumpling in Black Bean Sauce
Vegetable Bakchoy Dumpling in Black Bean Sauce
Vegetable Gyoza
Vegetable Gyoza

Royal China

Our all-time favourite has a new menu, with plenty of dim sum and main course additions to jostle for space with some long-time mainstays. We sampled the dim sums and came away mind-blown. Fans of Royal China’s Peking Duck pancakes will be thrilled to find the succulent meat in the Peking Duck dumpling. The Beef Gyoza is another melt-in-the-mouth dish that deserves an order (or three).

For those who like to experiment with sauces, the Bakchoy dumpling comes in a bowl of chilli oil, which is almost as good as the soya chilli that accompanies a comforting bowl of steamed wantons. Vegetarians, you might also like the tender Vegetable Gyoza or the Vegetable Bakchoy Dumpling in Black Bean Sauce.

On our next visit, we’re keen to try out some of the new main dishes on the menu – Salt and Pepper Soft Shell Crabs and Fire Chicken in Taro Nest.

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