For fans of Pan-Asian fare, there’s no shortage of exceptional food on offer in Mumbai. From Farrokh Khambata’s Joss to Wasabi by Morimoto, and Royal China to our old-favourite Thai Pavilion, the city has oriental restaurants aplenty. High-end fine dining eateries aside, the likes of Mamagoto and Kofuku make top-notch Pan-Asian food available in a slightly less intimating way; and then there’s a stream of take-away wok joints too. It does beg the question — is there demand and business enough for more oriental restaurants in Mumbai?
Going by the slew of new Asian eateries in the city, you’d be forgiven for thinking it is easier to open up an oriental restaurant than it is to buy shiitake mushrooms in Mumbai! That said, we have nothing to complain about. With every new entrant on the Asian food scene, we have more places to pick from when a sushi or bao craving hits and the bar keeps getting higher and higher.
So, instead of heading back to the tried-and-tested dim sum dive in your neighbourhood, why not prepare to plunge your chopsticks into something new and fresh instead? LIVEINSTYLE.COM lines up some of the most exciting new Asian restaurants in Mumbai for you to choose from when hunger strikes…
SHIZUSAN SHOPHOUSE & BAR
The very best restaurants in the world serve up stories between appetisers and mains, and with Shizusan Shophouse & Bar, the good folks at Bellona Hospitality have delivered a real page-turner. Inspired by the 18th century shophouse boom during the colonial era, Shizusan offers Southeast Asian street fare with a side serve of adventure and a generous garnish of fun. Even before the food hits the table (and that’s an ‘aha’ moment), the restaurant takes you on a compelling journey. Beyond their simple foyer, past the bar and a smattering of tables, a winding abacus-inspired staircase awaits. At the top, golden dragonflies dance as they beckon you to the ‘house’ that rests above the ‘shop’. Various Vietnamese-style lanterns and elaborate frescos paint a pretty picture, drawing your eye to the well-lit bar at the end of this long room with its impossibly high ceilings. Ambience, check.
The food: Only a cursory glance at the menu is enough to tell you that you will be spoilt for choice at Shizusan. The easiest way to explain its abundance is to share the fact that they have over 20 unique varieties of dim sum on offer. We tried the Asparagus Tempura Maki Roll and enjoyed it enough to ask for an encore. The Steamed Edamame with Garlic and Sriracha met our expectations, while the Adobo Braised Pork Belly exceeded them. One steaming miso soup, a few baos, some satay and Shizusan’s signature 17-ingredient slaw later, we were too full to tell tales of any further culinary adventures here.
The drinks: We kicked things off with a Double Apple Martini and considered a Japanese whiskey, but finally settled in to savour our scotch with this particularly memorable meal.
A final note: Both sweet corn soup and hakka noodles are conspicuous by their absence on the menu and that’s a telling sign. Clearly, this is not an Indian-Chinese adventure. Shizusan is fresh and dewy in its approach and vibrantly alive.
You’ll be hard-pressed to land a table at this Asian gastropub in mid-town Mumbai, where Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone have partied with Yuvraj Singh; and Sussanne Khan hosted her all-star birthday bash in October. It is clear owners Ryan and Keenan Tham have an innate understanding of Mumbai’s party scene — an aptitude gleaned in part from dad Henry, whose eponymous resto-bar Henry Thams in Colaba was once the city’s hottest lounge bar. I remember sitting down to a sumptuous meal with Prince Michael of Kent at Henry Thams many, many moons ago and loving the vibe — but that’s grist for another story. KOKO, Ryan and Keenan’s latest gift to the city’s gastronomic scene, walks the fine line between restaurant and bar with finesse. With a mix of high tables, plush velvet sofas, an island bar (its wooden counter polished to a shine) and cosy nooks, set against patterned floor tiles, KOKO is chic and inviting in equal measure. You may not realise that the space has world-class lighting control and automation or a high-end sound system, but you will certainly feel the good vibrations when you step into this expansive corner of Kamala Mills.
The food: Several critics before yours truly have raved about their Hamachi Carpaccio and with good reason. If you love your seafood, but aren’t comfortable with the concept of a carpaccio, try their prawns in XO sauce instead. Whether you opt for it crispy or braised, the pork belly on offer is scrumdiddlyumptious. Then there’s an inside-outside sushi roll, that has the distinction of being a house favourite, and a true treat tied up to look like a money bag: the delectable sweet pea, water chestnut and truffle dumpling. Kudos to Chef Eric Sifu for getting the ball rolling and raising the bar with many of KOKO’s signature dishes, but flair is perhaps to be expected considering he has worked at Din Tai Fung too — that Michelin-starred eatery in Singapore is one of our favourite places to nosh in the world!
The drinks: Acclaimed mixologist Dimitri Lezinska (aka Dimi) is the man to thank for all the magic that’s being engineered at the bar, making KOKO about a lot more than just its Cantonese and Japanese food. Savour a whisky sour that is infused with matcha tea, or down a few delightful rum-based White Day cocktails. Whatever you choose, remember that their Tom Yum Cup — a Bloody Mary with a twist — is to-die-for, so try that too!
A final note: KOKO isn’t attempting to reinvent the wheel, but it does repackage all the expected ingredients for a memorable ‘dine out’ in a fresh, fun way. You cannot fault these folk on quality, even when the service may be a tad slow on a bustlingly busy night. The music sets the tone for an up-tempo experience, ensuring that we will not only recommend this resto-bar, we’re making plans to visit again at the earliest.
There’s a lot you can say about AD Singh, but this man has his finger on the pulse of the country’s food scene and hardly seems to put a foot wrong in this department. Like his other recent ventures Monkey Bar (one of our favourite party places) or Fatty Bao, Japanese all-day cafe and bar Hello Guppy is as on-trend as it can possibly be. Colourful and funky, it’s all Pokemon pop and comic book geisha, with inflatable floats strung up to boost the vibe of their floral plates and multi-coloured chopsticks. For all its eye-popping interior design, the restaurant itself isn’t particularly large; yet, surrounded as it is by dozens of other BKC eateries, Hello Guppy does well to hold its own against a fair few all-star neighbours.
The food: It’s obvious we’re partial to pork belly, but that also means a poor rendering will earn scathing criticism. Not that head chef Vikram Khatri need worry. Hello Guppy’s Signature Pork Belly (slow-braised, glazed with soy honey and served with mustard miso sauce) is moreish and how! Though the Tenderloin Tataki is another standout, rare meat can be polarising, so we venture towards the vegetarian section. Starting with the Hello Guppy Salad (seasonal vegetables slathered with karashi mustard), we advance through edamame (opting for the chilli garlic dressing, though they offer just sea salt as well) before demolishing a fair few asparagus tempura rolls. A portion of their Exotic Mushroom Gyoza follows and proves to be the only entrée that doesn’t hit a high note — the wonton wrappers are a tad too thick to pass muster. Teppanyaki vegetables and mushroom-loaded udon noodles are ordered next, and enjoyed all around. Someone recommends the Mushroom Takikomi Rice (a no-cream, no-cheese Japanese risotto), so we order that too, but can’t get our heads around eating a dish that tastes like Italian fare in a Japanese restaurant. We won’t order this the next time we visit, but there’s no doubt there will be a next visit!
The drinks: Happy hours at Hello Guppy will encourage you to move past introductions into the real regular zone. Stop by between 4 and 8 pm daily for colourful cocktails and some smooth scotch.
A final note: Put it down to teething troubles, or right it off for unfathomable reasons, but this Japanese eatery received some unflattering reviews when it opened less than a year ago. Ignore the naysayers and go say hello to Guppy. You won’t be disappointed.
Image Credits: bellonahospitality.com; therepublic.in; facebook.com; helloguppy.com