There was a time when Mumbai was the foodstuff money of India. But as just one technology of cooks and restaurateurs — the Hemant Oberoi, Nelson Wang, Rahul Akerkar, etcetera. generation — retired or light away, that title has been ceded to Delhi.
But as I learned on my visit there previous 7 days, Mumbai is battling back again. I ate incredibly well and most of the foods have been types that I could never ever have had in Delhi.
Let us get started with Seefah Ketchaiyo. I knew Seefah when she was the Thai chef at the 4 Seasons in Mumbai. Her foods was usually fantastic. But frankly, it was nothing at all to write property about. So, when she opened her very own cafe (called Seefah in Bandra), I was not significantly fascinated irrespective of the praise she acquired.
Then my son and daughter-in-regulation experimented with to transform my intellect by buying a huge just take-out meal from her. They ordered heaps of foods: Krapow, Khao Man Gai, Red Curry with Prawns, Buffalo Massaman Curry, Chicken with Cashewnuts, Prawn Cakes, Northern design and style Pork Neck and much a lot much more.
To my surprise, the food stuff was excellent effortlessly the greatest Thai food stuff I have eaten in India for a lengthy time and absolutely much better than anything at all available in Delhi — and a good deal better than the food stuff she cooked at the 4 Seasons.
I known as Seefah the subsequent working day and questioned how she was turning out food of this top quality. She explained she had invested her daily life cooking at accommodations (the Sofitel in Bangkok, the Shangri-La in Chiang Mai etcetera.) so she had realized how to make lodge-design and style Thai foodstuff. But when she finally struck out on her personal, she made a decision to abandon lodge-style cooking and make the foods her mom and dad had taught her to cook alongside with dishes she experienced picked up from the streets. That might demonstrate why her foods is so significantly better now than it was in her Four Seasons days.
Seefah has stayed on in India for the reason that she married Karan Bane who she achieved at the Four Seasons when he was doing the job with the hotel’s famous Japanese Chef Kato. Karan cooks Japanese food stuff and the orders at Seefah are similarly divided in between his Japanese and her Thai foodstuff.
Prateek Sadhu is a person I have known and preferred from his Bengaluru days. He is a person of the nicest guys in the enterprise so I was a little concerned when I believed he had misplaced his way right after he opened Masque in a significantly insalubrious place in Mumbai.
I really do not assume it mattered really considerably that I did not like his foods due to the fact he obtained rave assessments anyway and Masque experienced Indian foodstuff writers eating out of the palm of its hand thanks to the most remarkable PR machine of any Indian restaurant. It also hired Lotus, a major-flight London PR agency, to acquire the restaurant intercontinental fame and to set up collaborations with properly-identified international cooks, some of whom had been also clientele of Lotus.
In spite of all the buzz, Masque has by no means designed any income simply because PR and reviews are no substitute for flavour and I think about that lots of company may perhaps have shared my see that the food items was not especially very good. There was as well considerably about the story and the provenance of the elements and not enough about flavour. Most individuals don’t definitely care if a carrot has been grown on a little farm in close proximity to Pune if the dish it goes into does not flavor very good.
Just prior to the lockdown, I went back to Masque and thought that there had been a welcome change in target. Prateek was mining his Kashmiri roots alternatively than the influences he picked up during his stage at Noma and daring, exclusive flavours had been starting to characterise his food items. Eventually, he was back to staying the gifted chef I experienced generally regarded him as.
I went back again final week and was startled by how significantly he experienced progressed on that journey. It wasn’t just Kashmir now. His influences took in all of India. There was no pretentious storytelling and no nonsense about the provenance of each and every celery stalk just meals complete of flavour. These flavours were extreme (the blandness that experienced characterised his early Masque meals experienced vanished) and he had embraced sourness. Most vital, there was now pleasure and wit in the foods.
There was just so a lot fantastic food stuff that it is hard to listing all the dishes but in this article are some: a rice rich in morels had been cooked with miso so that the umami in the mushrooms arrived to the fore together with the regular morel muskiness. Prateek had sent me his delightful rogan josh sausages before but they labored much more brilliantly at the restaurant than I had realised when I experienced cooked them at house. At Masque, Prateek created a form of Kashmiri hotdog with them.
There have been vadas stuffed with prawn pepper fry and served with tempered dahi and a exceptional rasam. Barbecued pork came with a Khasi-influenced sauce and a yakhni formed a best foundation for slices of lamb neck.
This is a chef at the peak of his powers. Prateek has not only found his individual voice, he is confident plenty of to have entertaining with the food and to infuse it with pleasure. He is currently doing pop-ups all in excess of India. If he turns up in your town, you would be mad not to go.
I have written about Alex Sanchez and Americano below in advance of. Even with the crippling stress imposed by the lockdown and its constraints, Alex has fought back again, held his staff together and stored Americano going.
It was a pleasure to go back again to Americano, to sit in the cafe and to have the food items new as it came from the kitchen. All the things is precisely as it was in advance of. Service is even additional superb. When I dropped a little of the obvious broth that goes with a single of the pastas on my shirt, someone was at the desk inside minutes with a glass of soda drinking water and a serviette to thoroughly clean it up. Servers are just as enthusiastic as they were prior to the lockdown.
And Americano retains what I regard as its critical attribute: it is a cafe with extremely complex food that masquerades as a neighbourhood trattoria. You can, I guess, come and have a bowl of pasta or a pizza with a glass of wine at the bar.
But if you want something additional sophisticated, Alex is this kind of a fantastic chef that his food items will knock your socks off. He did two astonishing pastas for us, one particular of which came in a broth (brodo) that was so flavourful that the moment I had concluded the pasta, I drunk up the broth like it was a soup.
Even though pizzas were being intended to be a sidelight at Americano, they have now develop into the restaurant’s most well known dishes and if you talk to properly, Alex may perhaps customise them for you. I had a Naples-fashion pizza, properly wet in the centre with that crisp edge, charred and blistered from the oven. But if you want some thing far more standard, that’s even easier. As constantly, Americano continues to be one of the fantastic Mumbai encounters.
And last but not least, a nod to the Oberoi at Nariman Level where I generally continue to be when I am in South Bombay and exactly where the food is so a lot superior than the opposition.
The male dependable for the large regular of the delicacies is the hotel’s Government Chef, Satbir Bakshi. Just prior to I arrived in Mumbai, Satbir was promoted to Corporate Chef for the entire Oberoi group, a considerably deserved marketing that as soon as once more reinforces my feeling that these times, when individuals want fantastic foods and excellent cooks, they search to Mumbai.
The views expressed by the columnist are particular
From HT Brunch, September 5, 2021
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