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What’s on the menu

What’s on the menu
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First Published: Sat, Sep 29 2007. 12 38 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Sep 29 2007. 12 38 AM IST
NEW DELHI
This one’s gone from a Mediterranean menu with predominantly Lebanese dishes to Arabic ones, specifically from Dubai. Shalom’s food consultant Manu Mohindra, who was working in Dubai recently, found that there was a lot of innovation in the food served there. “They use Arabic ingredients and methods, but usually give it a contemporary twist which makes the food very different from the usual tikka wraps or platters.” The Arabic Sushi Platter (Rs595), for example, is an assortment of chicken, fish, and lamb cooked the Arabic way, but served in classic Japanese Temaki sushi style, complete with the soya sauce and seaweed wrap. The Trio Hummus Platter (Rs495) is another example of innovation. “Normally, one type of hummus is served with pita bread but, in our platter, you can get pistachio hummus, beetroot hummus and bell pepper hummus,” says Mohindra.
Why: “It has been four years; we had to change because now there are many ‘me-too’ places which serve the Shish Taouks and Shawrma,” says Dhiraj Arora, MD, Mahima Hospitality, which owns Shalom. “In fact, when we decided to phase out some of our best-selling items like the Grilled Chicken in Cream Onion Sauce, the serving staff was quite unhappy. We had to explain that a new menu moves just as fast if they talk about it to customers,” he says.
Price difference: The prices are up by about 8% but Arora says clients won’t even feel the difference.
Mechanics: “We kept a close watch on our inventory and identified the ‘underdog dishes’, says Mohindra. “Next, we looked for dishes that did well but could be replaced with ease.” Shalom did a trial with regular guests and, based on feedback, finalized the menu.
Highlights: Chickpea & Spinach soup, Trio Hummus platter and Deluxe Cold Mezze platter, Dubai Duck, Arabic Dhows, Chicken Araaya with Cucumber Kishk.
Our verdict: The hummus and cold mezze platters are amazing, specially if that’s all you want with a few drinks. At Rs995, the Dubai Duck is a wee bit on the steep side but the dish, which is a mix of Oriental styling and Arabic flavouring, is not to be missed. The Arabic Dhows (Rs425) and the Chickpea & Spinach soup are great for vegetarians. The Chicken Araaya (Rs465), which is part of Dubai streetfood culture, though a largish portion, tastes like any traditional tikka wrap. Avoid.
MUMBAI
uIndigo, Colaba
Asia is the flavour of the new menu at this award-winning restaurant. “There’s only so much you can do with Western flavours,” says executive chef Nitin Kulkarni. “So we took some Asian ingredients and introduced them subtly into our dishes.” For instance, the old bowl of Potato and Porcini Soup has been displaced by an eclectic Roasted Mushroom Soup with Coconut, Lemongrass and Almonds. But their classic offerings—Kerala oysters, beef carpaccio and lobster bisque—still look the same.
Vegetarians, take heart. The courgettes and squashes have scooted to make place for more risottos, pasta, tofu, and a Japanese-influenced Sprouted Lentil Cake on Soba Noodles.
The old pan-roasted rawas has come back with a distinct Maharashtrian flavour: crusted with poha, accompanied by smoked oysters, in a sweet-sour katachi aamti dal. The restaurant’s classic lobster risotto is still on the menu, as is a peppering of sea bass, tuna, tenderloin and lamb dishes. Note to addicts: The restaurant’s Chocolate Fondant with Jalapenos is still around.
Why: Indigo changes the menu every few months. “We are very dining-focused and almost 80% of our clientele are regulars. If we didn’t change our menu regularly, they would simply get bored,” says Kulkarni.
Price difference: Another, more cynical, school of thought is that all menu changes have one aim: an increase in prices. The prices are definitely up; the average cost of appetizers has increased by about Rs30 to Rs50, desserts by Rs40, while the mains have gone up by about Rs200. For those of you who think the portions at this restaurant don’t justify the prices, Kulkarni says it’s about the right calculation. “We don’t overload our customers. At any given time, the ideal portion of food for a main course is between 200-225gm.”
Mechanics: The chefs played guinea pigs all year round, tasting up to 40 items, before this final selection was announced last month, after owner/chef Rahul Akerkar’s final approval of the list. “We kept recording reactions, and making changes and finally decided on the basis of availability of ingredients and appropriateness for the menu,” says Kulkarni.
Highlights: Beef Tenderloin with Braised Ox-tail and Marrow; and Homemade Duck Terrine with Cranberry Jelly and Cabernet Reduction.
Our verdict: At Rs575, the beef tenderloin with marrow is a hearty meal, and you forget how bad marrow could be for you when you taste the light, scallop-sized pieces. Unfortunately, the potato torte was sliced so thin that it was slightly drier than it ought to have been but, overall, the meal was worth the wait. The Chocolate Fudge with Apricot and Roasted Coffee Beans can only be appreciated by true lovers of bitter chocolate; others, stay away.
uTetsuma, Colaba
Tetsuma’s USP is that it’s the only stand-alone Japanese restaurant in Mumbai. With extensive choices ranging from sushi, teriyaki, tempura and Bento box to donburi and Japanese pizza, their already overloaded menu just got longer. The restaurant now offers several new seafood dishes. “Since we’re a Japanese restaurant, it was very important to have lots of seafood on the menu,” says Samir Chabbria, business head of the restaurant. And with that outlook, there are seven new dishes that include black cod, Chilean sea bass, and new variants of tuna and salmon.
Why: “It’s a very competitive market, and since there are only two places for Japanese, we needed to make some changes for the sake of our customers and for our branding and status,” says Chabbria.
Price difference: The prices of the new dishes are, if anything, slightly lower than those of dishes with the same ingredients on the existing menu. The black cod with black bean sauce is Rs875, while the grilled scallop and Chilean sea bass are both Rs750. “We didn’t want to price the new dishes high because we wanted to make sure that they would sell faster,” says Chabbria.
Mechanics: The new dishes took approximately one month to finalize and, according to Chabbria, they had trials and retrials of everything from mussels and oysters to eel and caviar before deciding on the present list.
Highlights: Black tiger prawns cocktail, and sea bass with vegetarian salad.
Our verdict: Tetsuma tries really hard to live up to its image, but despite having what seems like the A-Z of Japanese cuisine, it falters, and falters badly. The sea bass was meant to be pan-grilled, but was deep-fried; the black cod was meant to be pan-grilled, but it was deep-fried too, and doused with black bean sauce and ginger. The salmon tataki with jalapeno dressing was light, with a becoming tartness; as for the Tuna with Angel Pasta, the tuna was pink fresh but the pasta was thick spaghetti, not slight angel hair.
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First Published: Sat, Sep 29 2007. 12 38 AM IST