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It is no secret that oriental food is always very well received in Mumbai. After waiting with bated breath, this year has seen some excellent additions and Izaya is the latest one. Mumbai is no stranger to Farrokh Khambata, the chef who single handed made Khou Suey the most sought-after dish on many menus. After successful ventures like Joss and Umame, the chef is now proud of his latest venture.
Izaya is housed at the NCPA ( National Center of Performing Arts ) theatre along with his other restaurants, Amadeus ( more of a lounge and event space ) and Cafe NCPA. The decor at the restaurant is extremely subtle with grey coloured tables and chairs with dim lighting almost as if to ensure all the focus is given to their kitchen island which is brightly lit up with diners seated around to watch all the action at the Japanese inspired three-tier Robatayaki grill. We chose to sit up front by the grill which also makes a table for one seem a lot less pitiful.
In essence, the menu at Izaya is a Thai one. Khambata and his team have spent their time extensively travelling the length and breadth of Thailand in search of the perfect recipes and his treasure hunt turned out tremendously successful. He is the first to admit that a large percent of what he ate was not great but on further travels to smaller inconspicuous parts of the counter yielded in some stellar recipes and some that are hard to replicate. Take for example the Sa Khoo, a delicate dumpling made from a combination of different flours and cooked in an ancient art form of spooning the batter on a cloth tied over a pot of boiling water to steam the dumpling wrapper. A very different take on the usual dumplings but it is a traditional Thai recipe that you would not find in most Thai restaurants.
The Robata Grill is another Izaya special which might seem odd since it is Japanese in origin but to a chef, it seems natural since most Thai food is cooked over coal. The special menu is full of delicate dishes but the Chicken Satay and the Baby Back Aburi Pork Ribs are the highlights.
The menu has all the usual suspects from Som Tam salad, Pomelo salad, Pandan Wrapped Chicken, Pad Thai and Curries. All the familiarity that you would expect to see on the menu and all perfectly made but the real treat is indulging in their more unique dishes.
The Frilly Eggs are a brilliant addition with two eggs cooked till they form a crispy lace outside and serve in a bowl of soy, fish sauce, palm sugar, garlic, scallions and chillies. It is that perfect combination of Thai flavours and such a wonderful change from the way eggs are usually eaten.
The Fragrant Drunken Prawns are large generous pieces that come in a fiery sauce full of chilli and crisped basil and are worth a repeat order. The Tom Yum comes in a generous bowl full of seafood but unlike the watery almost rasam like texture, this one has a touch of evaporated coconut milk, a recipe that chef assures me is from the North Eastern part of Thailand. It still packs a punch but that milk makes all the difference between a tasty spice and unbearable chilli.
An interesting snack in Thailand called Miang Kham has found its way to the menu as a complimentary palate cleanser. A betel leaf stuffed with pineapple, chilli, peanuts, cashew and roasted coconut is served to every diner pre-dessert. In Thailand, you get sweet or savoury versions of the betel leaf snack. One of the specials on the menu is a Miang Kham style betel leaf stuffed with tofu, cashew and Thai coriander. It is an unusual dish but a super addition to their vegetarian selection.
If you find yourself dining here between Thursday and Sunday then make sure to check their Yokka Kan menu. It is a seasonal daily menu which will change every week with special dishes and the freshest ingredients. It is this menu that has Chef excited where he can get creative with flavours and ingredients ( Goose Feet and Wagyu are scheduled to make an appearance ). This is of course in addition to the main menu in case you do not want to be too adventurous with your food choice.
For folks with a strong sweet tooth, the Tim Krob Panna Cotta is a delightfully refined take on the ice-filled sweet treat usually served in a plastic cup. It comes on a bed of coconut ice cream with water chestnut and jackfruit along with white chocolate.
The 54% Chocolate Mud Pie that comes with edible gold and vanilla ice cream is not exactly Thai inspired but is hands down possibly one of the best mud pies in the city. It is a pure indulgence but worth every bite and additional calorie.
Izaya is not open during lunch hours and starts their service from 7.30 pm. A meal for two without alcohol is around Rs 2500 ++
Better known as the Tiny Taster, Roxanne is an internationally respected blogger and expert on the Mumbai food scene. She has hosted many events, including the Upper Crust Food & Wine Show and travels the world, sharing her knowledge and gaining more experience.