In the 10 years that Thalassa has been around, the once tiny, three-seat taverna has become a mandatory pit-stop for anyone who passes through Vagator, Goa. With the clamour to bring it to Mumbai growing louder every year, Mariketty Grana, the owner and chef, tested the waters by bringing a pop-up to Olive at Mahalaxmi Racecourse in 2013. It clearly did well, because Thalassa has come to roost in Khar, in the space formerly occupied by the short-lived Yellow Bar All Day.
The décor here, much like Goa, riffs off Mykonos and Santorini—whitewashed walls and blue accents—but the food remains home-style Greek. There’s room for wraps and coffee in the front courtyard of the restaurant, formal sit-down dining inside and party cabanas at the back, where Grana’s son Spiro leads boisterous evening dances and invites guests to smash plates in celebratory Greek tradition.
Grana joins us at our table, garnishing each dish with stories of her family and hometown in Corfu and her struggles with finding good produce in India. When our Horiatiki (Rs420), the traditional Greek salad with tomatoes, cucumbers and onions, arrives, she’s telling us about the difficulty of sourcing good lettuce in Goa. She describes it as “leaves you wouldn’t even feed to rabbits”, but we find the same sad, brown-edged iceberg in our salad, and strangely inert pieces of feta. Turns out, the kitchen staff has been storing the usually salty, sharp feta in plain cold water instead of brine, which leaches all the salt out of the cheese.
After being chastised by Grana, the staff redeem themselves with a Vegetable Souvlaki (Rs550), featuring a smoky slab of grilled feta and vegetables on a skewer, drizzled with the most sublime Kalamata olive oil. This olive oil, like Grana’s stories, lifts the food out of the ordinary and soothes the discord in the kitchen that manifests itself on the plate—an overcooked piece of King Fish Fillet (Rs850) wrapped in a banana leaf, the inordinately long waiting time between dishes. But as baskets of warm pita keep appearing on the table, we’re happily distracted by trying to mop up as much of the olive oil as we can. A superlative Lamb Gyro (Rs650), featuring succulent lamb from Rajasthan, and a light, flaky Chocolate Baklava (Rs450) round off our lunch, but there’s a lingering lack of cohesiveness about the meal.
Perhaps it’s the 1990s’-style cocktails, heavy on cream and chocolate syrup and the dreaded blue curaçao, that we were happy to leave behind on the beaches of Goa. Or perhaps it’s the feeling that the only thing holding the staff, food and ambience together is Grana’s booming laugh and ready hugs. So what happens when she goes back to Goa? There’s a way to go before Thalassa can shake off its Goan languor and hold its own in Mumbai’s cut-throat restaurant scene.
Thalassa, 21st Street, Khar (West), off Carter Road, (9820004018). Cocktails are priced at Rs450-550, appetizers at Rs80-600, mains at Rs420-2,250 and wraps at Rs350-420.