<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
A weekend of wonderful food tastings continued. After a wonderful vegetarian voyage at the newly opened Spesso Gourmet Restaurant I had the privilege of accompanying a friend, who is also an international food reviewer, to Hakkasan on Waterfield Road in Bandra, Mumbai.
Yes it’s a restaurant that is a tad expensive but their new Taste of Hakkasan menu gives you a wonderful value for money meal at this fine dining restaurant. More about that at the end.
The original Hakkasan is of course in London and is a Michelin Starred eatery that they have replicated here in Mumbai to serve up some fine Cantonese dishes to please discerning palates.
Located inside a relatively unassuming building, Hakkasan sits on an upper level of the building. Before you alight on to a UV blue lit-lift, a kind and sultry hostess in a slinky silk dress escorts you in. The blue light of the elevator makes your face look all lit up and retro.
But as you alight from the elevator and go through a wooden door – where yet another pretty hostess greets you and takes you to a table – the blue light gives way to a more dark and subdued environment. Wooden furniture and trellises of wood encapsulate the dining area and set it apart from the bar.
One of the managers of the restaurant chitchats with us and after finding out they have no Prosecco for a Bellini he recommends Moët Rosé champagne. We gladly accept. A quick tour of the surroundings follows:
The bar is long and apparently the best stocked in the city. The glassware is all Riedel, one of the finest in the world. On one wall near the bar is a tall glass display piece dotted with bottles of very special alcohol, meant for the high rollers and VIP guests.
On the other side of the corridor we entered to get to our dining area is yet another dining area. This one is more bright and open (opening picture of review). Meant for guests who want a less intimate and more party or community style of dining experience. The kitchen adjoins this and above that is the ‘private dining room’, which you can hire for upto 16 people at a minimum spend of Rs 60,000. Oh and this side even has a retractable roof for special occasions (when it’s not raining that is).
Alright, alright I know you want to hear about the food. But first let me say we were there at 8pm on a Saturday and we were the only ones there. But that’s only because Bandra parties and shops late and eats late. So by 10 pm the place was packed.
You can tell a good Chinese restaurant by its Hot & Sour soup, says my talented food-writing companion and I surrender to her experience as we decide to ‘one-by-two’ a soup. Delicious and different. This Hot & Sour isn’t like the regular thick and very dark liquid that you’re used to at the regular Chinese eateries. It was opaque and flavourful. Light and delicious. I wish we hadn’t split it!
I hadn’t had fish in ages but that was about to be remedied. Stir-fry Pomfret with Szechuan peppercorn arrives in a bowl garnished with red chillies, chestnut and onions. The sweet and spicy sauce was superb. I’ve had chilli fish and chicken before but this was just so tasty and sophisticated even in its simple form.
Which is something I noticed about Hakkasan after sampling its many delights. Their food retains the authenticity of what we find in Chinese/Cantonese cuisine on our trips abroad. And it isn’t heavy or soaked in overpowering sauces.
Just as I was gobbling up the little pieces of pomfret on my little plate one of Hakkasan’s signature dishes arrives on our table. The Crispy Duck Salad with pomelo, pine nuts and shallots with a dash of lemongrass. Looks superb. And then a pretty hostess comes along and messes it all up. I jest of course. She deftly and quite sensuously (maybe it was just me) tosses the salad breaking apart the pieces of duck into more stringy pieces to complement the rest of the dish. What a delight it is when a restaurant knows which flavours work together and creates such gastronomically magical dishes.
Some Dim Sum
We had the Chicken Shu Mai that was wonderful. The chicken is so finely pounded and smooth it melts in your mouth.
But wait, we craved for another dim sum. I chose the Edamame truffle dumplings. The Edamame bean is a preparation of soybeans before they’ve matured in the pod. It’s found in cuisines from Japan, China and Hawaii. When the glistening white steamed dumplings came to the table I was mesmerised. They gleamed and shimmered. I took one and sliced to see a light green filling. I ate it without the sauces as I wanted to discover a new flavour, something I had never tried before and the whole reason for getting in to food tasting and reviewing. It’s nice to know there are still things to try and discover in this city.
Admittedly, Edamame can be an acquired taste but it is one that I savoured. A truly wonderful dining experience must be one where you are surprised at a new taste or technique that offers a revelation to your palate.
We followed up the dumplings with some… vegetarian fare. Yes, let’s see if vegetarian food can be just as inventive here. Morning Glory Stir-fry in Chilli, Home-style Braised Aubergine and Veg Mee Goreng noodles followed. Out of these the Aubergine was the star. Julienned and doused in Shanghai toban chilli sauce, they were lip-smacking. Who would think to order eggplant in a restaurant like this? Thank you my lovely writer-companion, who loves aubergine.
The Veg Mee Goreng was nice too but the Morning Glory looked like a gunk of greens piled up on a plate. Just lightly flavoured with some bean curd and ginger sauce it was disappointing.
The main course was a fish dish, which we followed with another fish dish. The first was Steamed Rawas with Homemade chilli sauce. Three juicy chunks on a plate dolloped with the said homemade chilli sauce. Perfectly cooked and just the right amount of spice and chunkiness to that chilli sauce. Satisfying indeed.
We then had a little room left so we asked to try the Steamed Indian Salmon in ‘Patong’ Sauce. Interesting plating lead us to smaller chunks of fish in a very Thai coconut-y sauce. Patong is a beach in Phuket, probably where this sauce was concocted. Both were nice but I still preferred the Rawas with homemade chilli sauce, so pick that if you’re in doubt.
Needless to say, their menu has plenty of other treats in Seafood, Poultry, Hakkasan Classics and their Supreme Special Dishes (which includes Peking Duck with caviar!).
But we had eaten our fair share and had just a smidgen of room of dessert. So we ordered one – the Chocolate Orange Mousse. A thin layer of chocolate mousse with a dollop of orange sorbet lay right at the bottom of the serving glass that was covered with a chocolate circle with two holes in it. Hot chocolate sauce was then poured over the circle, which melted over the concoction. Impressive but the dessert was not so much. Try one of their traditional sweet dishes instead, is my guess.
Taste of Hakkasan
For those of you who may feel Hakkasan could be too much of a strain on your pocket, there’s a special menu on right now to give you a sampling of the various dishes on offer. And at a reasonable price for those of you who are a bit wary of lightening your wallets too much. With the Taste of Hakkasan menu you get a three-course gourmet meal that includes Small Eats like Chicken Shu Mai and other dumplings, mains like the Sanpei Chicken Claypot, rice and noodles and a dessert. All for just Rs 1500/- plus taxes.
206, Krystal, Waterfield Road
Bandra (W), Mumbai 400050
Tel: 22 2644 4444/2644 4445
Check out the Hakkasan website here.