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Chinese, for long, has been the favourite idiom of the Mumbai restaurant diner.
Asian (the American word for the Far East) has taken a lot longer to pick up in Mumbai though.
There were a couple of Thai restaurants in the city in the 90s. Anando Solomon’s Thai Pavilion at the high end, which still remains a classic. The other was the once very popular Thai Baan at Pali Naka which fell upon dreary days and has now given way to the more funky Eat Thai.
Nikhil Chibb set up Busaba and Farrokh Khambatta, Joss (which moved to Santa Cruz from Kala Ghoda), to provide popular Asian restaurant options here. These are more of ‘grown up’ places though with the serene and formal ambience, and the high pricing, making them more an option for upmarket family outings and dressy dates. Places the younger crowd would have to think twice before going to.
Things changed when the Delhi-based Mamagoto came to Bandra and then spread across Mumbai. It is a place that encourages people to have fun. The colours are bright, the décor casual, the food heavily sauced to appeal to Indian palates, the pricing moderate. Going by the crowds I have seen outside the Bandra outlet, they are on to a good thing.
Building on this genre is Chef Manu Chandra’s Fatty Bao which has moved into Bandra from Bangalore and opened this Monday (only for dinner right now).
I had a great lunch at the Bangalore outlet earlier this year and visited the Bandra outlet on Monday night for a tasting.
There is quite a nice and youthful vibe to the place. The slightly dim lighting was a bit of a contrast to my lunch in Bangalore where we had lunch on a nice and sunny day with the big windows bringing in a lot of brightness. It left you with a relaxed feel or ‘chillaxed’ as we say in Mumbai.
The Bandra outlet has an open air section which could get a bit muggy but works for smokers. The pricing seems pretty pocket friendly with a lot of dishes in the Rs 300 – 500 range.
If, like me, you love pork then you must have the double cooked PB&J pork belly which has the ‘inner thigh wobble’ Nigella speaks of, is beautifully juicy and has an enchanting thin layer of fat. They use Sri Lankan pork currently. Pair this with the incredibly well flavoured and yet simple bacon and asparagus rice which is made with Jasmine rice.
If you want to explore the kingdom of pork more then try the pork belly chashu bao which is slightly on the sweeter side or the very bacony chashu pork belly ramen where the ramen is made in house.
If you want to eat with a clearer conscience, and want to avoid red meat, then try the delicious and rather fatty black miso cod. Be warned, it is priced at more than twice the price of everything else here.
They also have lovely seared scallops which are cooked right and not rubbery unlike what I had in the recently shut Chinese restaurant of a local five star hotel. Chef Manu says, the trick lies in under cooking scallops as scallops apparently continue to cook when taken off the flame.
The scallops come enshrouded in a cauliflower puree which has intense flavours of the vegetable. Chef Chandra says they use organic cauliflowers for this and laments the ‘personality-less’ (my words) cauliflowers available in the market.
Chef Manu says that he makes no claims to ‘authenticity’ as he has to make do with locally available ingredients. So be prepared for a rather yellow, rather than the usual dark brown, duck rendang here where the Chef uses the French technique of confit to cook the duck.
As someone who loves Asian flavours I am quite excited to have such a nice option close to home.
Fatty Bao is a gastro pub, currently open only at night.
Photo credit: Kalyan Karmakar
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.