With Masque’s stark-and-stone form, Mumbai embraces a new kind of luxe. Meanwhile the menu is a welcome departure from a la carte, serving as a degustation-only menu.
With its inconspicuous entrance and high ceilings to the part polished marble, part textured slate composition, Masque, located within the Laxmi Mills Compound appeals from the get-go. The brainchild of Aditi Dugar (of Sage and Saffron fame) and Chef Prateek Sadhu, the restaurant is fresh, feels intimate, is ingredients-driven, and boasts some of the coolest light fixtures we have ever seen. Ever.
“This split-level entrant in Mumbai’s dining scene also houses one of the better bars we’ve come across”.
Naturally then, we include a cocktail tasting in our Masque Experience – the 10-course food tasting prepared with mindfully sourced, regional ingredients. Masque also offers a 6-course Tasting Menu and a smaller 3-course option.
Our first drink – 5 Pollen – is from the menu’s ‘air’ section; cocktails at Masque have been categorized into five sections, each a nod to one of the five elements found in the vedas. For a first drink, it’s perfectly bubbly, and sports a vivid pink distinctive to Himalayan rhododendron, while citrus-infused Bombay Sapphire lends a nice punch to the otherwise sweet flower syrup-sparkling wine pairing. And we have only the best munchies to go with – sweet potato chips with an intense smoked tomato-red chili dip and another subtler goat cheese dip.
The Carrot Course
These are followed by the Lotus Root Donut, which appears interestingly enough on a nigiri tray but is inflected with the notably Indian sweet-spicy tastes. And celebrates the less seen and indigenous lotus root encased in a perfectly puffed pastry with a spring onion chutney and radish garnish.
In course 2, carrots-several ways rest on a yoghurt dressing. This course works on so many levels; the treatment of carrots – from cooking sous vide to braising in butter – beautifully brings out their best flavor and texture.
“This is how carrots were meant to be eaten”.
In my companion’s non-vegetarian experience, the duck is adequately gamey and seasoned, held inside crisp parsnip that is sauced and cooked for hours until it can be rolled.
Happily Ever After! Tomatoes
The Heirloom Tomato’s is a fascinating story – cherry tomatoes in varied hues are carefully placed in a nest of slivered potato crisps, which are on a buffalo feta base, which is in turn smeared on compressed tomato that has basically been sous-vide-ed in its own juices. It ends with an intense explosion of fruity flavors, and textures. That such simple ingredients have produced something so exciting speaks volumes of the Chef’s imagination. Our following cocktail – white rum mixed with kale, cucumber, honey, and garnished with ‘mint air’ – at once, bitter, tart, and sweet, is the picture of healthful indulgence.
By now, we’re getting used to the fact that a ridiculous amount of effort has gone into not just preparation but also plating, including choosing tableware for each course. Or fabric, in case of the rye bread that reportedly requires six days to ferment! So, we’re only slightly disturbed by our server’s fondling of the bread.
Note to server: whatever you’re doing, keep doing it because it’s working!
“This lush, malty bread is just what we wish for at home. For breakfast. Every single morning”.
Here, it is equal parts perfect accompaniment to a buttery asparagus soup, and standalone course. And we’re a-happy to be plied with extras of house-made white, and spring onion butter, both. Now if only some of those asparagus-ends weren’t so damn stringy.
The Umami Course
The Cauliflower and Morels course is absolutely stellar. Comprising Kashmiri morels that are used both, whole and in a rich, creamy sauce, this can easily be renamed the ‘Umami’ course. Its non-veggie counterpart, Halibut flown in fresh from the Andaman offers a complete contrast. Topped with flora and prepared with raw mango, it is light, plump on the inside, and pan-seared to a perfect crisp, out. All that’s missing is a sandy strip and view of the ocean!
Paired with our main course is the elegant Terra, Masque’s version of a G&T from the ‘earth’ section’ – the Gin is infused with raw turmeric, accompanied by ginger and honey syrup, lime and topped up with tonic. The ‘main’ being a whole smoked potato that could rival the meatiest of courses! We just aren’t sure if that’s a good thing. This one, even mustard (dehydrated, in this case) cannot salvage. My companion’s Pork Belly-Apple pairing, meanwhile, tastes good if a little dated. We’re having major Fatty Bao PB&J withdrawals all of a sudden. In our next course we’re happy to find the humble celeriac looking decorated like a steak for once. But the overall taste makes us wonder if it was better off staying in the mash. Across the table, the lamb fares no better we’re told, from too much pressure to perform?
Corn Ice Cream w/ Passion Fruit
Sadhu’s corn course, however, makes clever use of the two most promising stars from our Southeast Asia trip – passion fruit and corn milk. While the Viet often drink corn milk over several platefuls of Com Ga (a popular rice and chicken lunch in Vietnam), our ice-cream version looks right at home here, elegant, yet playful – a sprinkling of popping candy makes this one a party, while a granola base and tart passion fruit juice lend it bite and acidity, respectively. The last, levitating drink (it’s hung from a stand) called Gravity tastes suspiciously like an LIIT yet works wonders with the fresh corn ice cream. It could use bendier straws though, especially with all the swinging.
Chocolate Tart w/ 75% Dark Chocolate
Given the predecessor, the dark chocolate tart served with fig ice cream perched clumsily atop a bed of fig jam can, depending on individual preferences, either be a great follow-up, introducing bitter flavors into the ‘dessert’ bit of the experience, or taste slightly one-dimensional. The filling in our pastry, however, is understated and throws back to chocolate bars made by Mason & Company, which might have something to do with the fact that Sadhu sources his chocolate from Pondicherry; the latter, as most bean-to-bar patrons will tell you, is based next-door, in Auroville.
To conclude, Masque slays with its cocktails, surprises with its menu as well as music choices – playing everything from Ornette’s ‘Crazy’ to ‘Les Yeux Ouverts’ by Beautiful South, and Kaytranada – and completely disarms with the plushiest seating, something we were thankful for at the start of the evening, and after hours of foot tapping, tippling and feasting!
Masque Experience Menu is priced at INR 4500 | Cocktail Pairing INR 2200
The cocktail menu is fixed. The food menu is seasonal and always evolving.
Where : Masque Restaurant
Unit G3 Laxmi Woollen Mills,
Off Dr. E.Moses Lane, Mahalaxmi. Mumbai 400011
Phone : +91 22 24991010
Dinner: Tuesday to Sunday 7:00 pm to 00:30 (Last seating at 10:30 pm)
Lunch: Tuesday to Sunday 12:00 pm to 15:30 pm (Last seating at 14:00 pm)