It’s probably some kind of a Tham family tradition to have customers exiting their premises with a big smile. A few decades ago (at the same spot where restaurant and lounge Henry Tham stands today), it was always happy diners who poured out of The Mandarin, one of Mumbai’s first Chinese restaurants. Whether that was because of the cabaret dancers or Tham Sr’s culinary skills, is not known. Today, Tham’s, as it’s called, is the place to be for a laid-back Friday night in South Mumbai. But after the launch of its new lunch menu, even Wednesday afternoon will do just fine.
Take your pick from six fancifully-named set menus—The Whisper of Raindrops, Silken Shackles and Farmyard Delight for vegetarians and The Summer Serenade, Memories of Beijing and Diving for Treasure, for carnivores. Each menu has a soup, assorted range of dim sums to start with, a choice of one main course with accompaniments and rice or noodles, rounded off by the dessert of the day.
Somehow it wasn’t the right atmosphere for diced aubergines or tofu tempura (is it ever?), so we zeroed in on the seafood-rich Memories of Beijing and the beef and pork-laden Diving for Treasure.
The good stuff
The Mandarin Seafood Soup, a thick egg-laced soup studded with shrimp and bits of seafood and garnished with coriander and green chillies, was spot on—mild, but packing a slight punch at the back of the throat as you swallow. The Spinach Egg Drop Soup was also well-prepared, with bits of spinach and strands of whisked egg, that was cooked in the thin broth. The dim sum selection, including chicken and chive dumplings, sui mai, chicken pao and prawn dumplings, were all good. The packets were at a perfect state of translucence and didn’t go lumpy even after a long wait at the table.
But the surprise of the meal were the accompaniments that came with the main course. The Steamed Egg with Chives was a melt-in-the-mouth side of steamed egg white and chives topped with a dribble of light soy—not runny, not firm, just a custard-like consistency and perfectly seasoned. This was superbly offset by the Four Season Beans, stir fried till they were crisp and tender and coated with a spicy, ground red chilli paste. The Garupa with Ginger and Steamed Onion also gets a big tick. It had hunks of fresh fish in a pale, subtle sauce, with ginger slivers for a bit of zing.
The showpiece of the meal was the dessert. One Tree Hill, as it’s called, definitely makes a dramatic entrance. You get to dig into fresh fruits and shot glasses of chocolate and litchee mousse which are embedded into a mound of crushed ice topped with a fern-like branch, while the container spews dry-ice mist for dramatic effect.
The rice and noodle dishes were overly flavoured to be successful accompaniments to an already robust (but uninspired) Cantonese Beef with Tomato, Coriander and Chilli. And depending on which side of the fence you’re on, the large portions can be a boon, or a terrible waste. For us it was the latter.
The vegetarian set menu costs Rs490, plus 10% service tax, per person while the non-vegetarian meal is Rs550. Definitely good bang for your buck, and it helps to take along a few large eaters.