A tasting session at Chef Atul Kochhar’s NRI

Some gush over actors and sportsmen, some over singers and writers, yours truly, gives Chefs as celebrated as Atul Kochhar the same platform. Hence, when an opportunity to be at a tasting at his newly opened casual dining space presents itself, you make sure you attend. The restaurant itself, has chosen quite the location given the audience it caters to. The interior itself is minimalistic and yet warm. The light wood furniture and warm golden glow from the bare bulbs sees to it. The tables have small pails of cutlery and are casually set on paper menu mats in keeping with the vibe. The table near the entrance is graced by the presence of books written by the man of the hour and that was as close we got to meeting him. The papads, biscuits and indian candy kept on the table are maybe just a tad bit cliched given the number of restaurants employing the same concept.

 

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The concept is derived, quite simply, from the longings of the heart when you are away from the land you grew up in. Again, quite befitting the return of the prodigal. The menu is derived from the food cooked by the indians living far from home, the immigrants and labourers who tried to replicate food that sated their indian souls while sitting in foreign lands. Funny how much you identify with your nationality once you are out of the nation.

 

The service, as is expected was quite impeccable. We were looked after by Rohan Nair who guided us through the menu and made the entire experience so much more enjoyable by regaling us with stories that come with the curries. Take that, all the other restaurants. Does it get any more Indian? Serving stories with meals! Quite the concept! Chef Jerry, in whose able hands Chef Kochhar has left the restaurant, was a delight to meet and convinced us to have a taste of the Daalim shakarkandi chaat, but more on that later.

 

The meal started for us with the drinks we chose, the place has a vast selection of alcoholic drinks and wines but we stuck with the mocktails. The Konkan Medley with Kokam and passion fruit, and the Eastern Elixir with Galangal and kumquat oranges were both refreshing and just the right amount of sweet and tart for our tastes. Both of us are not fond of artificial colours and flavours and these were right up our alley.

 

The Phaldari chaat with the smoked yoghurt dip won our hearts. We love grilled anything and the grilled fruits with the smattering of masalas and the killer dip was perfect. The dip deserves another line on its own, get a taste and you will know what I’m talking about. If you could just liquefy the very essence of a kebab, this is it. So good that we asked the good man to leave it with us so we could scrape off the last bite with every thing we ate. The Pind da Hummus was good. I love almost all hummus and this one was perfect. Could not have gone wrong with me. Flavored with anaardaana and smooth like a dream. The falafel’s served with it were quite a revelation for us. My marathi mulga has never been a big fan of the things, finds them too dry and bland almost everywhere we go. Here? You should have seen the look on his face to have found falafel’s he loved. Made with dal and not dry at all! The guy isn’t star struck with stars of any kind but sports, so you can be sure that the delight was real! The shakarkandi chaat that we had earlier thought of giving a miss was pressed upon us by the friendly chef and we couldn’t say no. A chaat loving health freak’s dream is what this was. The creaminess of the yogurt foam set off wonderfully by the fried dal and the hot, sweet and sour chutneys create an Indianised salad for when you want your chaat and no calories too.

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I love eating curries with breads and buns and the bunny chow deserved a taste just for that. They tell you a story about how the particular dish came into existence as they serve you your meal and this I shall leave you to experience. The chow was a Rajma based curry and tasted like comfort in the bread bowl. The Malaysian Korma with Roti chennai or as it is now called, Roti Canai, won favor with us as we love coconut curries. The spices and the mild coconut curry are beautiful served with the flaky parotta.

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The much talked about Mithaiwala concept is wonderful and fills you with childlike glee as a cart laden with the most beautiful desserts is rolled out to you. We decided to let the head win over our heart here and settled for two of the beauties. The others we shall be back for. The Brownie with baileys cream was indulgent and yet light. Difficult to fault this one. The Raspberry Verrine was loved by moi for the berries. The Gondhoraj tart and the Maricaubu Orange await our return.

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The only grouse from us would be, for a casual dining space, the impeccably mannered and extremely warm staff seem a little restrained. Introducing an atmosphere of bonhomie and relaxed wear would perhaps add to the charm. For us the restaurant delivered just what it promised, a simple and comforting taste of home. Seeing how close the place is to us and how much we loved it, a repeat visit or two is definitely on the cards for us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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