Its exportability has exposed Chinese food to the kind of Indian innovations that have created the term Indian-Chinese to differentiate the style of cooking from what’s “authentic”.
This quest to discover what’s real, having suffered MSG (monosodium glutamate) and takeaways over years, led to the Michelin-star restaurant Hakkasan that aims to provide a “modern offering of Cantonese cooking”. It’s tucked away inconspicuously on Bandra’s Waterfield Road, a signature symbol in blue outside the building the only indication of its presence. Started 10 years ago in London, and on 2 June in Mumbai, Hakkasan has a reputation that precedes it; the reason why, despite a quiet opening, it’s already the place to be seen at and is booked up in advance.
The good stuff
For a city such as Mumbai, size matters—and that’s the first noticeable feature of the restaurant. It can seat 120 people, with a private dining area for 12. The more casual Ling Ling on one side has the bar and an informal buzz of conversation, while the more sedate dining area with the oh-I-wish-I-had-polished-my-shoes feeling impresses with its ambience. The minimalist decor, with lanterns, screens and a ceiling that looks like a reflection from a water body, exudes a sense of serenity.
Beefed up: Stir-fry tenderloin.
Hakkasan regulars tell me the Bandra outlet has more vegetarian options than the British one and is comparable in standard. The vegetarian hot and sour soup (Rs350) with bean curd skin, tofu, bamboo and shiitake mushroom, warms the cockles of your heart while the small plate crispy duck roll (Rs450) was simultaneously crunchy and chewy (and I mean it in a positive way).
My favourite was the braised Chilean seabass claypot (Rs2,300) with preserved olive, bamboo shoot and shiitake mushroom (the staff also recommended the roasted silver cod with Champagne and Chinese honey), with a layered texture that lingers on long after.
I could not try their speciality, Peking duck with Ossetra caviar—it requires a 24-hour notice—but it’s going to be a must on my next visit.
The extensive wine and malt inventory should not be allowed to affect your appetite though the blue wanda cocktail is delightful.
Unusually for a Cantonese outlet, Hakkasan has an extensive dessert menu, which is a pleasant surprise. Though I may not order the yogurt parfait, raspberry sorbet and black sesame foam (Rs400) the next time, there still is plenty to choose from.
A sensitivity to shellfish hampered any chances of sampling the Hakka steamed dimsum basket (Rs850) with har gau, scallop shu mai, Chinese chive dumpling and zucchini prawn dumpling. Every piece contained prawns, which the staff failed to warn us of. The well-meaning vegetarian gai lan is probably for those who do not like a strong confluence of flavours.
The service, despite the reported few months of training, is not the most competent. The music, though bouncy, is too loud to be the ideal backdrop for a fine-dining restaurant.
Hakkasan is generously priced, though the portions are adequate for sharing. Soups range from Rs350-1,200, starters from Rs350-1,650, fish and seafood from Rs1,450-2,950. No, there are no doggy bags.
Hakkasan will be open for lunch also from 2 July. For reservations, call 022-26444444/5 or email reservations. firstname.lastname@example.org