The culinary escapades in a city like Mumbai are class apart. From your small vada pav stall to the Michelin star restaurants, the restaurant list is endless. The year 2023 saw many new restaurants opening in the maximum City. Food writer, actor and TV personality Kunal Vijaykar, admits it is a tough task to pick the top five of these newly launched ones. “It’s very difficult because it is unfair to the other restaurants who’ve also worked very hard to all restaurateurs and all chefs put in a lot of effort and work to own a restaurant. So this is what invariably happens is that once you say top five, the other people feel bad.” So without hurting the feelings of others, Kunal mentions the most talked about restaurants opened in the last few months.
Pic: Instagram/Indian Accent
The biggest opening in Mumbai is of Indian Accent, which is a legendary restaurant in Delhi. It originally opened in 2009. And that is when I first went. I not only ate there but also shot episodes of my show there. And year after year, Indian
Accent has been winning ‘Best Restaurant’ awards in the country and Asia for the longest time. It was path-breaking then and it is path-breaking now for what can be called ‘Contemporary Indian Food’. So it’s Indian food, but presented contemporarily with extremely unusual, different flavours. And they have a couple of dishes which are their top selling dishes. Like their Daulat Ki Chaat, which you must go and try over there. It’s just unbelievable. And the restaurant is over here now in Mumbai. And they’ve got a couple of dishes which are quite great. One is called Gunpowder Prawns and the other one is a Smoked Chilli and Raw Mango Curry with Red Rice. It’s fabulous.
Rahul Akerkar’s Ode is a much awaited treat. After several years, at least post-lockdown, after Qualia shut down. Qualia, I know, was a controversial restaurant because a lot of people did not like it. I was one of the few who liked the food and I also think Akerkar is a fabulous chef. I have been following him since he first opened Under the Over at Kemp’s corner. That was several years. So this is an unusual restaurant because he’s brought in three elements of his own life into the food over here — his Maharashtrian father, his European mother and his American education. So these three things come together. So you can expect a lot. It’s a lot of western cooking, but all the flavours and the ingredients are Indian, which is great.
What is good are a couple of dishes which I think are notable. So, the Apricot and Rum Glazed Pork Ribs with Morning Glory and cooked in Khandeshi Garam Masala is one. So, you’ve got these ribs and there’s khandesh, which is an area in Maharashtra with a distinct cuisine. And the other dish is Smoky Burnt Cucumber with Kiwi Salsa and Peanuts or Shengdanacha Thecha. So there you have western cooking styles with Indian ingredients and flavours.
This restaurant is interesting. It’s in Churchgate in a location which I remember as a child. There used to be a French restaurant over there. It’s on that strip where Gaylord is and once Kamling used to be. And the new restaurant called Nksha, spelled Naksha or a map. It’s beautifully decorated and done up in a sort of very Mumbai art deco style. And it’s owned by Pranav Rungta. And I think the chef is Vikram Arora. Now, it’s prominently the flavours of old Delhi plus classics from Punjab, Rajasthan and Kashmir. It’s modern Indian cooking, in a way with classical flavours. What is good? Apparently, the Chicken Seekh, I’ve heard. I haven’t been there. So I’m now depending on my friends who have eaten there who tell me that the Chicken Seekh, which is batter fried and stuff, is very nice. And there’s a Norwegian Raw Salmon Chat. So there is a chat made
of Norwegian Raw Salmon with Jamun Ka Sirka. So, that is interesting Indian food happening.
Another Indian chef who opened a restaurant in Bandra a few years ago and then went on to open a very successful restaurant in Goa is chef Amninder Sandhu. She believes in open fired cooking and traditional open-fired cooking including the kebabs and all. And the restaurant is called Bawri. It is a hit in Goa and now they have opened it in Mumbai at BKC. The Nihari and Butter Chicken is fabulous. They do a Wild Mango Curry and Idiyappam which apparently is fabulous again. I haven’t been there but have heard a lot about it. And I am planning to go there as soon as possible.
Pic: Instagram/Coconut Boy
Coconut Boy is a pure, asli Goan restaurant in Bandra. It used to be a complaint of mine as to why a place like Bandra had no Goan restaurants. The Goan restaurants used to always be in Marine Lines, Colaba and extreme South Mumbai. And Bandra finally has a Goan restaurant. The food is great. It is run by Chef Rohan D’Souza and Praveena D’Souza and owned by, I think, the two with Hiten Keshwani. The ambiance is very Susegad and chilled Goan ambiance. What is interesting over there is they also have tried to play around with Goan food but not as much.
This is still more like Ros Omelette which is an old world Goan breakfast. You get Prawn Balchao in Crispy Tarts. You get Chicken Puffs like they get in Goan bakeries. And you get the Spiced Baked Stuffed Crab which is again just like any good beach-side Goan shack will serve you. They do the Goan sausages a bit differently. Or rather they stuffed Bhavnagari chillies with spicy pork chilli.
(As told to Sapna Sarfare)