You’ve done the 200-dollar caviar flight at the Michelin-starred L’Appart in NYC or the Beluga platter at more than three times that price at Olma on the Upper West Side. But did you ever think you’d get your Beluga-on-blini and bubbly fix in a Mumbai mall? Well, it seems champagne wishes and caviar dreams are universal and Zorawar Kalra, founder and MD of Massive Restaurants, is determined to ensure that India’s most modern megapolis now has an exquisite restaurant that will appeal to the high rollers who love haute cuisine. Rivers2Oceans, already fondly called R2O by its fan following, occupies an understated space in Palladium, Mumbai city’s glitziest mall. Like a gleaming pearl lying half-hidden inside its shell on the ocean floor, it’s only when you examine it up close that you experience R2O’s brilliance.
The minute we enter the restaurant, we know we’re in the flow of everything fine and elegant. The white marble island bar on the left has an impressive collection of bottles from around the world and its rippling contours give you a sense of the sea. The live kitchen is the restaurant’s pride and joy, and occupies half of the entire space. Its sparkling ice bed showcases some of the freshest seafood specimens we’ve seen in the city. And that’s despite our many dawn trips to Sassoon Dock, where the auctions over the freshest catch take place! White-on-white textured walls, with Koi fish painted on one and muted installation art on others, subtly ensure that the focus here is on the fine food and wine.
In a Mumbai first, the restaurant has Oscietra and Sevruga as well as the prized Beluga caviar. Available a la carte, appropriately served on stunning mother-of-pearl serving plates with matching iridescent spoons, there’s also a pairing menu that gives you a chance to enjoy the beautiful black bubbles of taste with the most exquisite of golden bubblies. If you appreciate true Champagne, superb Sommelier Pratik Angre proudly pours from 30 different labels of the real deal, offering even 12 of these by the glass! Drinkers who like their bubbles but aren’t too picky about terroir or technique, have 17 sparkling wine labels on offer to slake their thirst. Serious oenophiles can pick from 64 types of red or white wine. Angre recommends not only the appropriate pairing with your meal, but also the types of glasses you should sip from (he has quite a range, from flutes to white wine glasses to saucers) that will help you appreciate the wine best.
Our dinner at R2O turns into a double date as the passionate Zorawar and his delightful wife Dildeep, who is Director at Massive Restaurants, join us as we sample the multiple-course menu paired with Champagne that Zorawar takes pride in presenting as ‘India’s best tasting menu’. It spans the globe in its flavours and hits the high notes in its presentation and plating. Talented Chef Varun Kinger takes us through brilliant course after course, the journey divided into five sections – cold bar, hawker’s street, small plates, big plates and dessert – each served with a different Champagne.
The trio of dishes from the cold bar is married to a light-hearted yet layered Moët & Chandon Brut Imperial. Apart from the oysters and caviar, there’s a superb tartare of Andhra Pradesh scampi with puffed amaranth and a tart mandarin dressing. But it’s the modernist salad niçoise that wins our oohs, with its ingenious use of deconstructed ingredients. It looks and tastes straight out of the Masterchef Australia kitchen! Molecular gastronomy may be on the decline, but we wouldn’t have wanted this salad any other way.
A hearty leek soup with either crab or potato warms the heart next. After which a Louis Roederer Brut Premier is poured to complement the high-on-flavour Hawker’s Street section. The New England lobster roll and the warm burrata are just as satisfying as the scrumptious White fish Otak Otak, its citrus pandan dressing ensconced in a cunningly designed cod-fish shaped vessel. Zorawar shares how far and wide he has cast his net to get the perfect crockery to go with each dish.
The small plates section is preceded by Angre presenting us a delicate GH Mumm Cordon Rouge, which goes perfectly with the subtle flavours of the Chardonnay-poached mussels, the truffled lobster served with black caviar, the seared tuna and the vegetarian Moussaka with a herby mornay, all of which are really memorable.
The fruit and spicy Bollinger Brut Special Cuvée arrives in a beautiful Champagne saucer that allows its refined and refreshing bubbles and aromas to burst and dazzle our senses with a sensational abandon that a narrow-mouthed flute would never permit. This is one of the few wines that can truly complement the intense flavours of morels stuffed with field mushrooms and served with a patterned-to-perfection homemade corzetti pasta that’s as good as it gets even in Genoa. Or the spectacularly coconutty Malabar crab curry with the rich and perfect layered parotta it comes with, in a surprise Indian finish! The desserts that follow, be it the deconstructed Eton Mess or the Black Truffle with gold leaf, are good too but after that procession of perfect plates we’ve partaken of, almost unnecessary.
The Kalras have not only been great company, but their conviction in their newest concept comes through throughout our conversation. Even though the vegetarian section of the menu is considerable and excellent, the fact is that R2O is all about spotlighting seafood, which certainly needs courage in a city where so many diners are ‘pure veg’. But suffice to say, if our experience at R2O is anything to go by, this one is going to wow the bay and beyond.
Level 1, Palladium Mall, Senapati Bapat Marg,
Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013
Phone: 091369 21735
Note: The writer was invited by the restaurant but all the opinions expressed herewith are her own.