The British rule in India lasted for over two eventful centuries that saw our country change, for good or for bad, will always be disputed. During this period a large number of Indians migrated to other parts of the world or to be precise to other British colonies around the globe. They carried with them two strong desires of returning to the country and their love for Indian food. Little has been spoken about how Indian food evolved during this process and how they tried to cook Indian food using ingredients available outside their motherland. Michelin star Chef Atul Kochar after a very successful British venture Benares has step into Mumbai with ‘NRI – Not Really Indian’ addressing the evolved Indian food from the British era.
On their opening night we decided to indulge in a Michelin star experience and there we were a group of seven friends (two joined at the main course) ganged up with a hope for some exquisite culinary experience. The word is hope!
From the designers perspective
The restaurant located on the ground floor of Maker Maxity is done with un-upholstered wooden seating against wooden tables, which are fairly comfortable. A mix and match of yellow decorative, somewhat dim, lighting fixtures that do not complement each other very well. Music is barely heard and it gets chaotic with noise from all the other tables around you, not something I expect of a fine dine. Interiors from a hawk eye look casually decent but nothing to be looked up to.
Drink it baby!
The drinks menu is a two-page book with very limited options for non-alcoholics like myself. The menu does hot hold a description of the drinks or the food given a rationale that they want the experience to be more interactive with the guests and the staff would make elaborate suggestions based on the customers palate. I was not very convinced though as I would love to understand my available options before making a choice.
Nonetheless, the first suggestion was the Konkan Medley and the ‘hope’ rose even higher. It is a very tropical dink. It blends kokam and passion fruit juices with a pinch of black pepper and a slice of Malta for garnishing. This was the best drink of the evening (my friend who ordered a Chivas Regal might disagree).
The Tuskar that was visibly suggested to every table was a mix of watermelon, lime, oranges and guava. I would give it a pass for a red bull.
The Affandi made of grilled pineapple and orange juice and the Durban cooler with oranges and galangal did no justice. They were almost unconsumed after a couple of initial sips.
For the love of food!
We were in mood to try almost everything on the menu. Sumit & Rohan who assisted us at the table made their suggestions for our vegetarian only table. At the start of the meal we were told that the restaurant believed in guests sharing food at the table. I was pretty surprised by the small quantities they served per dish given that belief. The starters were ordered in two portions each.
Lemon Coriander Cottage Cheese looked very well grilled and marinated, topped with chopped tomatoes, onion and cucumber. The paneer though was a little chewy and not very smooth in texture. The flavouring was again only decent and had quite a scope for improvement.
The Veg Tem Pakora was batter fried veggies namely broccoli, potato, onions etc. served with sweet chilli sauce. Do avoid this one for all obvious reasons.
Pind da Hummus was dal wada served with jeera flavoured hummus. The dal vadas were nicely crisp and the hummus had an innovatively different flavor and taste.
Dalim Shakkarkandhi sounded and looked like nothing else could beat it on the menu but in the real sense it was boiled sweet potatoes sprinkled with chat masala along with pomegranate seeds, lettuce and fried moong dal . It was again nothing to look up to.
Phaldhaari chat was the only dish that I would rate as good of what we ate over the evening. Barbequed fruits cooked in tandoori masala gave them a new definition. The smoked yogurt was something that I loved. Wow!
Made our own choices with the main course and landed up ordering almost everything vegetarian on the menu. Started with a Bunny Cow vegetable, which the staff had a story to tell about. It was a hallowed out loaf of bread (bun) stuffed with rajma curry. This dish is of South African origin made traditionally by the Durban Indian community. Looks and sounds amusing, does not taste as good.
Mombasa Jeera Paneer was cottage cheese cooked in yellow gravy. The gravy was well cooked and flavourful but the panner was the same as the lemon coriander cottage cheese starter.
Sri Lankan Potli vegetable was mix veg topped with steamed fine noodles. Either my taste buds were hallucinated or the food wasn’t really good.
Fairly liked the Malay Korma for my love of coconut milk based dishes but it wasn’t anything close to the best I have had. Malai Korma in India has always been seen as rich gravy vegetable with vegetable balls. I was surprised why the dish was called malai korma.
Dal Makhani was not as good as the veg Biryani. Not as creamy as the usual dal makhani it was decent in flavor and taste. The Veg Biryani was quite flavourful with correctly spiced rice topped with fried onion and cashew nuts. The raita complemented the biryani.
None of the breads require a special mention except for the Buss Up Shut roti, which was very soft and looked tempting as well.
They have a moving dessert kart concept called Mithaiwala where the deserts are brought to your table on the kart for you to choose from. Choose the Masala Chai Bailey Brownie, which to my surprise was a beautifully crafted piece of yumminess. If you enjoy a dish after being full, it surely is good. We also choose another dessert (with egg), the name of which I missed in my indulgence with the Brownie.
How may I help you?
Given the fact they had opened doors just that given day, the staff did a fine job. They did not answer the phone in spite of multiple calls made seeking a reservation and one of my friend had to pull sources for getting us a table. Claiming they were sold out for the evening, we were granted a table only to realize they were 50% occupied. There was some mismanagement with the servings. All the starters were served on the table at the same time leaving us in a fix of which one to consume first. It should have been better scheduled to max two at a time for the consumers to look, feel and cherish each dish. Just felt the warmth was missing.
Hawk eye view!
When you go to a place with a lot of expectation pre-built and it disappoints you, becomes disheartening. With all due respect to the skills and accolades of Michelin star Chef Atul Kochar, there is something that has gone drastically wrong with the execution on the food front. I did not intend to write NRI off but it was hard to convince myself that they will get better with time.
Ambiance: 3/5 Service: 2.5/5
Food: 2/5 Value for money: 2.5/5