Earlier this year, we gave you an exciting sneak peek into what Chef Atul Kochhar had up his sleeve with the launch of his Not Really Indian (NRI) restaurant at BKC.
Tracking the way Indians who had moved to other parts of the world adapted their traditional dishes to suit the ingredients and needs of their new universe and then bringing those delightful diaspora dishes back to home turf. Here, they would find favour as the flavours were familiar enough to be comforting, yet different enough to make the meal exciting. What a brilliant idea, we had thought; such an innovative concept that was the first of its kind in the world.
At the time, he had told us, “It’s always going to be a liquid menu that will keep changing, as I believe strongly in using a lot of the local produce that’s in season.” Keeping to his word, he has now added some spectacular new dishes onto the menu, which we think are especially befitting for Mumbai’s ultra-wet monsoon.
Take, for example, the Methi Kele Ke Pakode (fenugreek and chickpea dumplings with mashed, ripened bananas) that we start our tasting with. Toothsome, yet with just the right give, these little zingers will surely spice up a rainy day. As will the moreish jumbo prawns marinated in hickory smoked BBQ sauce served with betel leaf. In this season, we tend to crave tasty bites that we can keep getting more and more of. To paraphrase the popular ad jingle, ‘When it’s raining, no one can eat just one’! That does hold true for these appetisers from the Tem Pakora section of the menu, which blends Japanese tempura techniques and flour with Indian pakoras.
And then there are the fab new salads. Laphet Thoke, almost considered Myanmar’s national dish although we are more familiar with the Kaukswe. This one is all about the fresh and acerbic tinge of fermented tea leaves with a number of condiments to go with. Or the Malaysian Mamak Rojak, with the tang and taste of various diced fruits swathed in a warm and comforting peanutty sauce. Just the right bit of sunshine on your plate when the skies above are gloomy.
Railway Mutton Curry is the new addition to the much loved Indiawaale section. We found this perfectly spiced and very hearty dish much to our liking, although others at the table found it a tad sweet on their tastebuds. However the thumbs up for the new Peranakan Curry was absolutely universal. Of Singaporean and Malay descent, this is now one of NRI’s signature curries. We loved how the creaminess of the sweet coconut milk, melded magically with the sourness of the tomatoes & tamarind to result in a flavourful dish that one could dunk one’s Buss Up Shut Roti – a delish version of the crispy, flaky, South Indian parotta – in over and over again. Super satisfying, this one.
Sitting back after the meal, with the flavours still swirling around on the palate and in our mind, we discussed Chef Kochhar’s vision with the affable man himself. “You won’t find any foams on the NRI menu, just wholesome, tasty food,” he said with a cheeky smile, adding that gimmicks like that which are created just for the sake of it will not sustain a restaurant. “Such places will come and go quickly,” assessed the chef patron, whose Benares, a high-end bar and restaurant in London, has stood the test of time for 13 years and has had a Michelin star since 2007.
Sharing his wealth of experience running multiple kitchens and stories from being one of the food industry’s biggest stars, he emphasised the need to understand the most important person in the ‘food chain’, the customer. According to him, if you don’t pay attention to what makes the diner happy, what evokes nostalgia, what his or her palate is accustomed to, your restaurant will not be a success even if you are employing the most ‘on trend’ tricks and techniques. NRI is testament to his thought pricess –innovative but never over-ambitious, hitting the spot, but never getting complacent. This new menu is, yet again, just a hint of more good things to come.
They’re also doing some wicked wine-pairing dinners and an evening snacks and boutique tea menu we love called Hi Chai. But we’ll let you savour that another time.
NRI – Not Really Indian,
Open all week for Lunch and Dinner
Timings: 11 am to 11 pm
Address: Maker Maxity, North Avenue 2, Bandra Kurla Complex
Bandra East, Mumbai.
Valet Parking: Yes