Free Press Journal

Mumbai Food Review: At resto-lounge JLWA, different is the norm


Dahi Ka Kebab

Set a date to meet some ‘mini stars’ at this resto-lounge where ‘hatke’ is the norm, suggests Anupama Chandra

When your F&B destination pays heed to the ‘what is key? Ans: location, location, location…’ advertising order, you know they are on to something good. Set on the famed Linking Road, Bandra, you amble up to a sprawling and swanky resto-lounge, find a seat next to the windows, and browse through an extensive beverage menu.

Delectable drinks

Soon, a pretty JLWA Root Sangria and bright Mandarin Smoke join you at the table. The very popular, and understandably so, and lush beetroot-carrot-vodka-Cointreau-wine sangria defies its dainty appearance with a strong poise, while the latter, also vodka-Cointreau based, will brighten any summer evening with its refreshingly mature balance—or any evening for that matter. An Orange Punch rushes in and is a perfect buddy for the teetotalers, a non-alcoholic doppelganger of the Mandarin Smoke. The teeny-tiny twists that the mixologists had concocted went a long way in the success of these drinks.

The Nukkad Salad and Naga Jolokia Kaju & Mesclun Salad come knocking and you are happy to let them join. The slices of amla and carambola (star fruit) in the former pair brilliantly with the guava compote and imli bombs – what a simply dazzling Indian spin on the summery salad.  Every time a spiked kaju turns up in a morsel of the latter you get a complete taste profile the chef had aimed for, but it still plays a supporting role to Nukkad.

Inside JLWA

Some stunning starters

The Dahi ka Kebab, Whiskey Garlic Prawn and House Chips are the next to join. The kebabs are delicately spiced patties of fresh hung curd that bleed white on your plate at every cut; while it came with a decent mint-coriander chutney, I happily polished them off with some of the guava compote that I had saved—my personal spin. The prawns were juicy and paired, in an unusual alliance, with a cheese sauce that slayed some of its natural flavor, instead of enriching it. The chips platter totally hit the spot and brought us impossibly thinly sliced chips of the hemp purple potato, talegaon potato and plantain with three terrific dips. The menu had also promised jack fruit chips; we were disappointed at having missed them.

With JLWA having established that its twists and spins on the traditional F&B decisions was the lay of their land, the theatre that they called Maple Whisky came to pay us a visit, accompanied by a Wasabi Blonde Mary and a Kala Kawa. The whisky cocktail comes in two parts—a tall curved bottle with the beverage topped off with a rose and an associated glass pillar of clove, cinnamon and kaffir lime belching smoke. Together, they catch your eye and beckon your nose, but every sip reminds you that the drama lay elsewhere. The Wasabi Mary looked like a part liquidified salad dressed with some tart sauces but was a winner in taste, just not as much as the first line-up of drinks. The vodka-kahlua based Kala Kawa suffered from an overkill of Irish cream and the coffee-cinnamon notes went missing; however, how I wished it could be spun around into an interesting dessert.

Lamb Galouti

Deliciously desi  

The Kerala Buff Chilly Fry and Backwater Scallops built up anticipation of some terrific twists, and we asked if they could join our party. But they were not in the house. Instead, they routed Lamb Galouti and Sharabi Jhinga to the table. Being used to mildly spiced melt-in-the-mouth Lucknowi galoutis, we loved these sharp spicy city cousins of theirs as well. The experience of having tiger prawns flambéed in rum in front of your eyes adds an undeniable element of drama to the dish. And the experience is only elevated when you finally eat—it’s the best course of the meal, even if you were to cut out the drama. Beautiful notes of spice and smoke mingle in your mouth and cloak your throat in a sweet burn, the unanimously palate-pleaser of the day.

Sharabi Jhinga

After this highpoint, we wanted to end the meal but the dutifully attentive attendants wouldn’t hear of it. They coaxed us to choose a main course and we settled on the Padharo Maare Des, as much for the lamb chaanp or bajra roti as for the rare ker sangri salad. For the second time in the evening, it was a no show. We were informed that the ingredients were not up to the mark and hence we should try another. Crestfallen, we chose the East India Company, a generous portion of chicken served with dahlia and veggies; the dish lacked what all its predecessors had—punch. After a rocking prawn fare, this course was a wash-out and we had to ask for a doggie bag to not waste the lavish portion.

Nukkad salad

Chocolate madness

For the second time, we decided to call it a day and the friendly attendants would simply not let us go without trying a dessert. They ordered that Textures of Chocolate join us, and she is a beauty. A yummy dark chocolate sphere holding bitter choco mousse infused with lemon supplemented with some redundant white foam sitting on a moist chocolate brownie, and flanked by white choco buttons and biscuit soil. The dish lifted our spirits a bit.

House Fries

The kitchen is clever in applying its Progressive Indian cuisine cooking techniques (especially, its quirky spins), avant-garde in presentations and yet most flavours are not amiss. Their care for quality of ingredients is as rare as the portions with the simple truth being goodness. But that should not lead to dishes being unavailable frequently. The bar deserves a hurrah for their unique ideas as do the friendly attendants. With their plans of regular overhauls of the menu to keep patrons happy, a simple request would be to retain the star performers and not cast them aside for aspiring debutants.