If you look at most of the new standalone restaurant launches in Mumbai you will notice that they offer Chinese, Thai, Korean, Lebanese, Italian, French, Greek, Mexican, Malay and American (deli-style) cuisines.
Everything except Indian.
It’s almost as if the belief among restaurateurs in Mumbai seems to be that diners are bored of Indian food and want variety when eating out.
You are probably better off heading to London to seek out exciting new Indian restaurants as Mumbai doesn’t offer much in this genre.
Thankfully things are slowly but steadily beginning to change with a few new restaurants offering interesting options in Indian food in Mumbai. The audience response to these has been pretty positive and this will hopefully encourage others in the genre too.
It all started with Jiggs and Zorawar Kalra opening Masala Library in Mumbai’s BKC. Masala Library brought in a few molecular gastronomy tricks, earlier seen at Gaggan in Bangkok, with dishes such as paapri chaat foam, mushroom consommé served as tea, jalebi caviar and the odd bit of nitrogen gas too which seems to have caught the attention of the city’s dining public.
Then you had Riyaz Amlani’s Bombay Social in Colaba which offers kheema ghotala and dhansak as a tribute to the Parsi side of his family as well as cheeky innovations such as butter chicken biryani, paneer makhni biryani and tandoori chicken bao.
This has been followed by the most talked about restaurant launch in recent times in Mumbai, that of The Bombay Canteen in Lower Parel. The menu here designed by Chef Floyd Cardoz and his protégé Chef Thomas Zachariah, uses local ingredients so this is a place where you will find mandeli (local anchovies) and not Vietnamese basa on offer. The flavours and plating are simple and uncomplicated here and often draw on local classics (such as eggs Kejriwal and ice cream biscuits) and present them a modern yet casual format.
Much smaller in scale than The Bombay Canteen and Masala Library is the five table seater, Villa Vandre, which has recently opened in the lane connecting The Bagel Shop to Shirley Rajan Road in Bandra. It is run by a chef and fomer hotelier couple. You will often find Chef Aloo (Aloysious) manning the tiny prep kitchen at Villa Vandre himself. He draws on his East Indian heritage to offer dishes such as East Indian sausages (which he makes himself), Goan prawn curry which is a tribute to the Goan community of Bandra where he grew up and dhansak and kheema pao which he has picked up from the Parsi side of his wife’s family.
The menu at Bombay Social and Villa Vandre have a mix of global and Indian dishes.
It is fairly tough to get a table at the Masala Library and The Bombay Canteen so far. Bombay Social and Villa Vandre, which are much smaller though, run full during meal hours.
A sign that there is enough hunger in Mumbai for interesting and exciting Indian dishes.
Hopefully more restaurateurs will wake up to this.
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.