I have always believed that food is truly enjoyed with all the five senses. All the sensory nerves play an important part in creating the first impression when the food is brought to your table. The recent slew of restaurants, however, has taken this a bit too far by creating dishes that try combining traditional with modern elements that end up creating a crude hotch potch of otherwise classic dishes.
The newly opened Desi Culture comes as a breath of fresh air in this over inundated sea of pseudo modern Indian cuisine. Though the restaurant employs modernist approach to create drama to some of its dishes, the overall appeal of the restaurant is shameless comfort food from the streets and dhabas from around the country. Right from the word go, the unpretentious food hits you in the face with its classic flavours and some modern twists.
Take for instance, the classic dahi wadaa which is topped with the sorbet of Hajmola mixed with Jalapeños and beetroot (this is made on the spot in front of you,) and is served with jaljeera granita. The flavours combine beautifully in your mouth and spell out Summer with a capital S.
Similarly, the Deconstructed Chicken tikka papdi is served on a nacho shaped triangular papdi and topped with sev, mixtures and the usual chat paraphernalia and is accompanied with discs of jellified green chutney, tamarind chutney and Maharashtrian lasun chutney. The resultant flavor of the smokey and juicy chicken mixed with the chat elements works quite well for me.
The drinks here are quite cleverly designed as well. While there are some interesting Indianized cocktails like Shikanji Mojito and Diwani Handi (this one has quite a few spirits added in and is served in a copper handi to complete the effect), almost all the cocktails are made with fresh fruits which I find is a very thoughtful gesture ensuring that the drinkers not only get to binge, but are also hydrated in the due course.
The team behind the kitchen of this restaurant is that of the dynamic duo responsible for curating the very interesting menu at Bar Stock Exchange – Chef Gaurav Gidwani and Chef Kshama Prabhu. True to the inimitable aggressive pricing structure of BSE, Desi Culture also boasts of a very competitively priced menu. Despite being in a premium location of Kamala Mills, they have managed to keep the average price of their dishes in the restaurant at around Rs. 200-220 (average). The starters are cheaper and the mains slightly over this range, but the experience averages out at this price including the cocktails.
Though we tried several a la carte dishes at the restaurant, I must mention a thing or two about their thali offerings. I hardly know of any fine dining restaurant in Mumbai that would offer a massive thali for Rs.275, and when I say massive, the portion is truly huge (read TEXAN huge) and can easily be shared between two diners. They have three different thalis to offer, the classic North Indian Punjabi thali, a Raju Chinese thali (which is a true blue ode to the street style Chinese which we have all grown up eating in India) and a local Maharashtrian thali (which I suspect features some of the heirloom recipes from both the chefs growing up years in Mumbai).
The menu does have a lot of winners here and there; do try their mushroom galauti which will take a hard core non vegetarian truly by surprise, as well as their Salted Jeera Chikki which is served with their Rose flavoured kulfi (that is served with a frozen rose on the side as well). The salted jeera chikki is an ode to the jeera goli/churan from our childhood, but the chefs creation is far better than the original itself and we found ourselves asking for more and more.
Having been there twice already (once on invitation and once unannounced as a regular paying diner), I not only found the food quality consistent and the service prompt and well informed, but the prices were also in tune to my end-of-the-month wallet and allowed me to indulge in my thalis and starters and cocktails without having to worry about maxing out my credit card.
After a long time, I am happy to write a review that scores high for its honesty, cleverness and quirkiness and helps me indulge in my favourite hobby of food with all my five senses graciously.
Rating (Out of 5)
Food: 4 | Service: 3.5 | Ambience: 4 | Overall: 4
Meal for Two: Rs.1500 | Wheel Chair Friendly: No | Credit Card: Yes | Alcohol: Yes | Timings: 12 Noon to 4 PM, 7 PM to 1 AM
Address: C-Wing, Trade World, Next to The Bar Stock Exchange, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013
Phone: 022 2495 5766