Lounge review: Masque, Mumbai
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Slap on some statement lipstick, strap on some tall stilettos, and as for the gents, button up your good shirt because you really do need to look sharp when you head out to Masque. With an unassuming entrance inside a former textile mill compound, it is something of a surprise to enter the restaurant’s luxe set-up which really does know how to make the industrial chic. The carefully curated bar program is easily the best you’ll find at a standalone restaurant in the city and the food, which follows the on-trend farm-to-fork movement, is pushing boundaries by scrapping à la carte altogether for tasting menus.
The good stuff
Masque is an ambitious undertaking and it does stand out for being stylish and sophisticated at the outset. Industrial-size lights dimly light the colossal main dining area with polished wood tables and plush leather seats. The bartenders meticulously work at a gorgeous golden bar.
The cocktail menu is designed around Ayurveda and the five elements: Bhumi (earth), Jal (water), Agni (fire), Vayu (air) and Akash (void). Expect house-made syrups and sours and unusual ingredients like red cabbage, rhododendron and roasted barley. It takes a bit of derring-do but we commit to Terra (Rs700), a raw turmeric and ginger gin and tonic, from the Bhumi section and Phoenix (Rs700) from the Fire section, a frothy rum sour flavoured with papaya syrup and some vegetable charcoal we didn’t really taste. Both prove the bartenders here are no rookies, they understand the nuances of taste and texture to create drinks that truly take the edge off and underline the mood for the evening.
The menu changes every few weeks and the food here is self-styled as “botanical bistronomy” with influences from modern European, Mediterranean, Latin American and South-East Asian cooking. It’s brought together by a team made up of high-end caterer Aditi Dugar and Chef Prateek Sadhu, a Culinary Institute of America graduate whose resume lists stints at French Laundry, Le Bernadin and Noma.
Our meal starts with some unbelievably thin, sweet potato chips served on a wooden log with slits to hold each crisp perfectly. As the meal progresses we notice nearly all the crockery is tailor-made: a Thai salad of tofu and kale is served on a plate that resembles a crater on the moon, and a perfectly cooked filet of fish with green accents from a leek sauce and gherkins comes on a handmade charcoal grey ceramic plate.
Other standout dishes of the night include an heirloom tomato salad served with orange-flavoured ricotta and beets; a purple corn tamale served with a raw mango and spring onion salad; a simple passion fruit sorbet topped with begonia petals as a palate cleanser; and a lamb cooked with kohlrabi and eggplant that falls apart with just a nudge of the fork. We expected something a bit more indulgent from the kitchen as dessert but the clean and subtle flavours of a peach ice cream served with sticky-sweet apricots, pickled rose petals and yoghurt “snow” rounded up our meal quite nicely.
The whole experience at Masque is a bit flashy and it’s obvious that in some places it’s all style over substance. This can get exhausting especially when the servers and chefs take turns to visit you at the table for the severe menu name-dropping—the lamb came from a farm in Rajasthan, the baby begonia petals from the restaurant’s farm in Pune…you get the idea. Things also got a bit awkward the few times we asked the waiters to go off-script for any details on our dishes.
At one point during our meal, we were served a single wedge of potato from a fancy wooden box using an even fancier metal tong that had been cooked for six hours in the fire pit. Sure, we can appreciate the miracle of its moistness, but really, it just tastes like soot.
But the kitchen’s shiny techniques failed to impress the most when it came to the star dishes on our vegetarian tasting menu. A dish described as textures of potato on the menu included house-made potato crisps, insipid croquettes of mashed potato served on more mashed potato and a butternut squash purée with little blobs of burrata. Similarly, the spiralized celeriac main course we were so excited about was doused in cream and served with a side of porcini mushroom ragout and the combined flavour was no better than a plate of Penne Alfredo at a pizzeria chain.
The pricing does seem a bit reckless, shameless even, so we’re not plotting our return until another anniversary or birthday celebration.
The ten-course Masque Experience Menu is priced at Rs4,500, the eight-course Masque Tasting Menu is priced at Rs3,200 and a 3-course mix-and-match meal from the tasting menu will set you back by Rs2,200. You can also opt for wine and cocktail pairing at Rs3,500 (Rs3,000 if paired with the 8-course menu) and Rs2,200 respectively; all cocktails are priced at Rs700. Service charge and taxes not included in the prices.
Masque, Laxmi Woolen Mill, Unit No. G3, Laxmi Mills Compound, Shakti Mill Lane, Mahalakshmi (24991010). Open for dinner from Tuesday to Sunday between 7:30pm and 12.30am, reservations are a must.