For Azeem Zainulbhai, director of Desi Restaurant Week Events Pvt. Ltd, it was a party every day during the week he was in New York three years ago. His visit coincided with Restaurant Week New York and in seven days he went out seven times for a meal to some of the most popular restaurants in the city.
“That’s the kind of excitement we want in Mumbai. We are creating an excuse for people to go out and eat at places they wouldn’t regularly go to,” he says. He is referring to the Restaurant Week in Mumbai that starts on Monday.
Cheque please: Ordered a la carte, this spread at India Jones would cost about Rs5,000. Abhijit Bhatlekar / Mint
Last year was an exciting time for foodies in the city, with some new, experimental restaurants. Some internationally acclaimed names have entered the dining scene. Vineet Bhatia of Ziya and Ian Kittichai of Koh now have their outposts here and the buzz is Hakkasan of London and Megu of New York are going to open too. The cherry on top will be the Restaurant Week.
The concept began in New York in 1992 as a celebration of food. For a week, participating restaurants offer a fixed three-course meal at a fraction of the cost of their regular menu. Usually, the restaurants on the list are of the aspirational variety. In other words, places which most people would visit only on special occasions. Other cities around the world took to the concept too. And Zainulbhai, who started his company with three friends, is now bringing it to Mumbai.
The number of participating restaurants in Mumbai has been limited to seven in the first year. But the list has some of the most well-known: Indigo, Tote, Botticino at Trident BKC, India Jones at Trident, Koh at InterContinental Marine Drive, Stella at The Leela and San-Qi at Four Seasons.
The menu options at San-Qi include dishes such as stir-fried prawns, green sprouts, chilli ginger, traditional spicy Thai herb, chicken minced salad, slow braised lamb nukti, cardamom, rose petals, dal makhni, chocolate fondant and hazelnut ice cream. This entire meal ordered a la carte would cost about Rs2,800 plus taxes. But for the coming week, it will be available with accompaniments such as rotiand rice at Rs1,000 (taxes extra), the price being charged for the fixed menus at all restaurants.
But the dining experience, they promise, will not be downsized.
For the pan-Asian restaurant India Jones at Trident, it was a chance to get more visitors during lunch hours that sealed the deal. “This will help us increase awareness for our restaurant,” says Nishant Agarwal, F&B manager, who has planned a menu with extensive choice. For places such as Indigo and Tote, it’s an opportunity to get in diners “who are intimidated by fine-dining restaurants”. Rahul Akerkar, whose company owns the two restaurants, has picked dishes that could be a representative meal there. “Of course, it can’t be the best of what we can offer, because of the price constraints,” he says.
Farzana Contractor, editor, UpperCrust magazine, is excited. “What can be better than this for genuine foodies? Eating out three times a week is de rigueur for the people of Mumbai anyway,” she says. While menus at some restaurants seem restrained and predictable, for Koh it’s an opportunity to showcase what it has to offer since it opened only last month. So Romil Ratra, general manager of InterContinental Marine Drive, is presenting a tasting menu with three appetizers, five mains and a dessert sampler.
If eating out at seven places in one week is not an option for you, choose your restaurants wisely. Pick the ones offering the best menu choices or visit places you haven’t yet. Make your bookings soon.
To make reservations, log on to www.restaurantweekindia.com