Category Archives: Tasting menu

Masque. One step at a time.

Skipping steps rarely gets you where you want to go. I was once in a short relationship with a friend from college. We shared an easy friendship for nearly two decades before jumping into a different affair. We didn’t date. We didn’t get to know each other as lovers. We didn’t give romance a chance. We skipped about a 100 steps and thought we would get from First Kiss to First Anniversary, scot-free. And so it ended the only way it was going to. Painfully.

Much as I want to feel better right now, there really is no quick way to get there from here. A couple of clever writers have even distilled this process into 5 stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally, acceptance. I have a slightly different list of my own:

  • I’m cool, it happens.
  • Not again! It must be me.
  • Can everyone just leave me alone?
  • What the fuck!
  • And then, slowly, the acceptance that the person who I have made the cause of my pain felt he had no choice but to choose what he did. There was no betrayal.

Dealing with pain comes with its own treasure map. You need the first clue to get to the next. It simply isn’t possible to skip steps and still get to the treasure. But not every step of the way needs to be an angst-ridden exercise. It especially helps if you find people and places along the way that make you question your story. Like I did tonight, when I treated myself to the 12-course Christmas menu at Masque.

There are no shortcuts at Masque. So whether it was launching a tasting menu-only restaurant in India; sourcing persimmons in Uttarakhand and Pecorino in Puttaparthi; or redefining what fine dining is in a city where the experience began and ended with Zodiac Grill’s white gloves, Masque hasn’t skipped any steps on its way to being recognised as one of the best restaurants in the country.

In order for me to accept what is, I needed to take a break from the constant storytelling my mind insists upon. And the meal tonight proved to me, yet again, that there’s nothing quite like some really diligent cooking to snap me out of myself.

For when the Goan sausage doughnut arrives, it is impossible to think about anything other than the genius of the dish that was inspired by the humble paniyaram. Or when you come face to face with micro mini red Kashmiri apples alongside an unctuous eggplant ice cream (romanced by tamarind), only a decidedly stubborn person can remain forlorn. Every course grounded me further, reminding me that all that matters is this moment and how I choose it.

I have never had a better partner than a delicious meal. And as long as not skipping any steps means I have help from meals at Masque, then let this take the time it must.


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Filed under Bar, Bombay, Eat, Fine Dining, India, Indian, Local, Restaurant, Tasting menu

Bombay, a canteen & a pop up

I had several reasons to leave Bombay when I did nine years ago. None of which however were to get away from the city. I come back often, desperate for a breath of Bombay, and over the years have witnessed a vehement disillusionment with the city amongst my friends. I don’t judge them, nor the city. How can I? I come for a few weeks, starry eyed and still completely in love with the Bombay that gave me the confidence to walk away. It just hasn’t been possible for me to hate the weather, traffic, corruption, noise. At this very moment a few bats are practicing for Indian Idol right outside my window… what can you do?!

I’m not all tolerance and Om though. Take me to the new crop of Bombay restaurants and watch my zen disappear into menus still fascinated with Indianising international cuisines. I’m sorry but Mamagoto is more masala than maki, Starbucks is not coffee, and anything that is remotely authentic is wildly out of reach of most pockets. And don’t get me started on the likes of Monkey Bar.

Then I dined at The Bombay Canteen. And again at Le Kitchen’s pop up. I love Indian food best. So to come home to two gloriously Indian menus has been such a win.

Food at The Bombay Canteen tastes like its coming from the heart of an old relative’s kitchen. The menu is generously sprinkled with influences from across India – a melting pot of regional flavours, much like the city the restaurant calls home. It was a relief to see that the dashing executive chef Thomas Zacharias has left behind any bad habits he may have been forced to adopt at Olive. And this is what I ate:

Kejriwal toast – while nobody does it like The Willingdon Club, this clever take on a Bombay classic (and addition of a green chilli chutney) with melted cheese makes it a luscious starter.


Crispy mandeli fry – I’ve never had this outside a home kitchen before and polished off the bowl in no time.


Pulled pork vindaloo on theplas – courtesy of the restaurant. I’d love a taste of the feni in this fab dish! The theplas, though delicious on their own were too dense as a combination. I would love to taste the pork with a steamed poi instead.

Bhavnagri chillies stuffed with good old Amul cheese – disappointed that I didn’t get a single hot one.

Brown butter and green chilli dosa – now my second favourite dosa in the city (still looking for No. 1 if you must know).


Shrimp and kairi biryani – subtle flavours and a generous portion. Totally loved the corny banana leaf thali.


Gulab jamun – an Old Monk drenched, boozy doughnut shaped dessert spread with pistachio cream. Heaven for any sugar lover.


I was very disappointed with the cocktails. The three I tried all tasted of fruit juice and/or artificial concentrate and flavours and it seems that my quest for a great cocktail in Bombay must continue.

A few days later I was invited to Ashish Glasswalla’s Le Kitchen pop up at The House of Tales. I first met Ashish two years ago when he catered a lunch at home. We still count his fantastic chaat, kulchas and jalebis amongst some of the best food we’ve ever had catered at home.

On the menu at the pop up – chilli cheese sev puri, tandoori prawns with crackling spinach, chicken keema lifafa, mutton biryani (one of the best I have ever had), jalebi with kulfi and meetha paan truffles. Ashish also gave us a taste of a masala chai chocolate mousse served with a sparkling Parle G. So clever and such fun!


I cannot recommend them highly enough. And at Rs. 1,200 for six sensational courses you can’t lose. Their dinner pop up is on at The House of Tales until 13th September. Book online here.

What I love best about The Bombay Canteen & Le Kitchen (in addition to their friendly prices and excellent service) is that they don’t mess about with fusion as we have seen so far. While not every dish is completely traditional, the flavours the chefs have brought together work really well.

Indian fused with India – now this is a trend I could get behind!



Filed under Bar, Bar food, Bombay, Cheese, Cocktails, Dessert, Gymkhana, India, Indian, Open kitchen, Parsi, Pop-up, Restaurant, Small Plates, South Indian, Tasting menu

A symphony of (Michelin) stars

Yo-Yo Ma is playing Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major (Prélude). I walk into a room that radiates style and substance. It was only when I sat down did I realise that there was no music in the background. The goose bumps on my arms – the room did that all by itself. I am at Daniel, one of New York’s most revered restaurants and my first ever three star Michelin adventure.

An ordinary danger of a “party for one” (as they say in the US) is that ‘the one’ is more often than not settled into a corner. Not tonight. I spent the most electric evening in the company of great food, excellent service, and had the best seat in the house.

I am in New York; the city that demands single women order a Cosmopolitan. But the latest Sex And The City movie has left me disgusted and I could not bring myself to pay tribute to the TV series. The White Cosmopolitan (Vodka, Elderflower Liquor, Lime Juice, White Cranberries) at $19 is a delicious compromise. Its served in a martini glass with a giant ice cube decorated with frozen orchids. The show has definitely begun.

I opted for the 3-course Prix Fixe menu ($105). The sommelier helped me choose two reds that would be perfect with the scallops and beef I ordered. I started with the Louis Jadot Beaune, 1er Cru, 1999 ($25) and went on to the Californian Ridge Santa Cruz Mountain Estate ($25). Both wines were completely luscious.

I am not sure if it was cleavage or charisma but something worked and what followed (instead of standard 3 courses) was a symphony of “with compliments of the chef”. I am no food critic and I would much rather eat the meal than describe the ingredients but I have to make an exception this time. Here is what I was served:

–          Amuse Bouche 1: A trio of beet including roasted yellow beet and beet cured octopus

–          Amuse Bouche 2: Clams with horseradish and pineapple

–          Amuse Bouche 3: Crab salad with Persian cucumbers and sesame coulis

–          First Course: Hazelnut crusted scallops with morels, Swiss chard & pink peppercorns

–          Amuse Bouche 4:  Sesame crusted cod with asparagus tempura

–          Second Course: Duo of Beef: Black Angus Short Ribs and Wagyu Tenderloin

–          Third Course: A selection of 5 cheeses included my favourite  Époisses de Bourgogne

–          Surprise Dessert 1: a strawberry soup with strawberry sorbet and strawberries

–          Surprise Dessert 2: freshly baked madeleines

–          Surprise Dessert 3: a selection of 6 gorgeous petit fours including a pistachio macaron

And as a bonus, my request to meet the chef was rewarded with a tour of the kitchen. Oh the joy!!! Even though patron Chef Daniel Boulud was in the house, the five minutes I spent with Executive Chef Jean Francois Bruel were far more inspiring than the several minutes Chef Daniel spent at all the important tables.

For several reasons, starting with holiday remorse, I had to force myself to go out this evening. There is much to be said about working from the inside out. Tonight, I had to work from the outside in and discovered that it works just as well. So go on, be your best sexy and watch the world smile for you.


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Filed under French, Michelin meal, New York, Restaurant, Tasting menu