Assorted dumplings at Dashanzi
Assorted dumplings at Dashanzi

Lounge review: Dashanzi, Mumbai

The new restaurant which came up in place of JW Marriott's celebrated Catalan restaurant, Arola, has an extensive bar menu and comprises signature Asian-inspired cocktails

After four years of wowing diners, JW Marriott’s celebrated Catalan restaurant, Arola, has closed down. In its place we have a new Asian restaurant (in keeping with the current flavour of the season): Dashanzi, named after the art district in Beijing, features a mix of contemporary Chinese and Japanese cuisines.

The good stuff

The bar menu is extensive and comprises signature Asian-inspired cocktails and a long list of gins, apart from the usual beers, whiskies, wines, etc. Since the restaurant prides itself on its gin bar, we picked the Dashanzi Sour (Rs495), which was refreshing with its lime and lemon-grass flavours. The dash of home-made bitters and coriander leaves gave it a lovely earthiness.

All the dishes are beautifully plated on some really eye-catching and intricately designed serveware. We began with the amuse-bouche Ice Tomato (listed as a “Table Amenity"), a chilled morsel of tomato and watermelon slices with a blob of wasabi, and garnished with teriyaki powder—an absolute flavour bomb to begin the meal with.

The Prawn And Coriander dumplings (Rs475) were stellar—three dumplings with a perfectly thin cover, stuffed with juicy prawns flavoured with an inspired kaffir lime pesto. Undoubtedly the dish of the day.

From the sushi menu, we picked the signature Dynamite Spider (Rs850), maki rolls stuffed with soft-shell crab. The crab was a tad too oily but not inedible. It was served with a smear of tobiko (fish roe) mixed with a wasabi sauce, which gave an interesting textural element to the sushi (but was woefully overshadowed by the crab). We also had a serving of salmon nigiri “Shake" (five pieces, Rs995), expertly moulded, fresh and flavourful.

Another favourite at our table was the main dish of Seared Hokkaido Scallops (Rs1,900): plump scallops cooked just right and laced with a Japanese curry sauce, served with an assortment of tossed vegetables and enokitake mushrooms. The scallops were garnished with unnecessary edible flowers and two black lattices (we were not sure if the latter were edible, perhaps “crisps" with squid ink, but our server informed us that they were “for show", so the mystery remained unsolved).

The not-so-good

Dashanzi has the nondescript “modern restaurant" sort of décor—it’s done up in brown, ivory and gold, with no element really standing out. The part of the restaurant where we were seated had an inexplicable cloud of smoke hanging over it. The music was too loud and repetitive; the same Calvin Harris number played at least four times in the 90 minutes that we were there.

The bartenders seemed to have been stingy with the alcohol in both our cocktails, leaving us feeling short-changed. The rum-based Five Spice Mojito (Rs495) was watery and insipid, with neither the yuzu, kaffir lime or five-spice having any impact on the flavour. The drink was served in a shiny pineapple-shaped copper container, which was so heavy that one had to pick up the drink with both hands—if only restaurants would stick to more practical options.

The Salad Of Seared “Bai Ling" Mushrooms (Rs325) was a heap of under-dressed greens topped with three-four pieces of seared mushrooms, two thick asparagus heads, a couple of orange segments and a spoonful of pomegranate seeds. The orange and truffle oil dressing was too limited to have any effect on the salad.

Our main dish of Udon Noodles (Rs650) arrived in a large bowl with a rather measly portion of noodles, wok-tossed with scallions in a black pepper sauce. It was an unremarkable dish.

We picked the only remotely Asian-sounding dessert from the four options. The Coconut Five Ways (Rs400) was served in a huge hollowed-out coconut ice globe, and comprised a dollop of coconut ice cream, shaved and iced coconut, as well as coconut and white chocolate “cigars" filled with caramel. Despite so many coconut elements, the flavours were strangely muted and the garnish of berries and berry coulis dominated the dessert.

Talk plastic

Our meal—two cocktails, one each of salad and dim sums, two each of sushi and mains, and one dessert —cost Rs7,877, all inclusive.

Dashanzi, JW Marriott Mumbai, Juhu Tara Road, Juhu, Mumbai (66933344). Open from 6pm-1am.