If you are familiar with the gourmet landscape of Juhu, chances are you would not be a stranger to this very hip and 80´s style restaurant and lounge called Villa 69. The news is, Villa 69 is now closed and in its place you will see an equally flamboyant place called “A Bar Called Life”. The flamboyance is obvious by the large signage proclaiming its name outside. As if this wasn’t enough, the tastefully done super-sized terrace outside, speaks volumes of its opulence and flamboyance.
The massive size of the restaurant resonates on the drinks menu as well – I found it running over several pages with drinks of all kinds featured on its pages and a decent wine list to match. The food menu on the other hand is surprisingly small. You wonder why since the person behind the scene here won the award for the best female chef of India in 2016 and you would think that she would like to highlight her culinary prowess through her first free standing baby. Chef Amninder Sandhu is quick to point that since A Bar Called Life is a celebration of life through dance, drink and food (in no particular order), she has chosen to feature a restricted menu that focuses on dishes that go well with the drinks and at the same time showcase her talent.
With that said, we proceeded on our culinary sojourn for the evening. The evening opened with a very refreshing and classic Watermelon and Feta cheese salad. Chef Sandhu, living up to her name, has added her own twist to it by adding pop rocks to it. The resultant combo is crisp, exploding, delicious and perfect for a sveltery humid summer afternoon. This salad is served alongside a Kadi Patta Mojito and a Kacchi Keri drink, both of which once again spell summer with their refreshing use of Curry leaves and Raw Mangoes simultaneously.
A massive bowl shaped crisp Roomali roti was brought out next. What impressed me most about this starter was the fact that the spiciness of the bread was balanced off with the creamy burrata in the centre of the roti. The size of the starter is huge and is good enough to serve 4 people. My only peeve with this dish was that I found this starter to be a bit too oily and a bit messy to eat by hand, but then that’s the only way to eat it.
The assorted veg and non veg starter platters were good, classic Indian fare. Chef Sandhu has a HUGE potential to tap here by adding her savoir faire to these dishes and take them above their current run-off-the-mill self.
The smokey whiskey based classic old fashioned comes with an interesting element in the form of flavoured Ice cubes which add to the drink as they melt. This was quite an interesting take for me as I relished my drink in long drawn sips savoring its smokiness and the changing flavor palate.
The second revelation of the evening for us was the Bhoot Jholakia chicken wings which thankfully enough, was served alongside a platter of mango maki sushi. The heat from the Bhoot Jholakia chillies hits you at the tail end of your bite, and when it does, it smokes the bezeeezus out of you. For the chilly lovers, this is an absolute delight and despite being substantially heat intolerant, I relished the dish for its uniqueness. Thankfully the mango sushi helped soothe my tripes successfully.
Another interesting dish that this restaurant serves is the Bamboo shoot mutton served with Jasmine rice and Gondhoraj Lebu. The mutton is cooked inside Bamboo shoots and is served out of the container at the table. The intense aroma that follows is good enough to make anyone´s stomach growl. The Jasmine rice and the Gondhoraj lebu are apt accompaniments and the entire dish is an aromatic delicious journey, an ode to India´s rich North Eastern legacy.
The dessert line-up saw us sampling some Kale Gajar kaa halwaa (made from the rarely available black carrots), Nolengurer Ice Cream (which is by now a popular Bengali classic) and – hold your breath – Ghosht ka Halwaa. Yes you heard me right – a dessert made from MUTTON! Now those of you who are wondering, the Gosht ka Halwa tastes quite similar to the milk cake, quite rich at certain places, so finely minced that you don’t feel the mutton content at all. Chef Sandhu´s version, however, keeps the mutton a bit coarse and you feel it as you eat.
A Bar Called Life spells class from the moment you walk in; the massive sized terrace area and the busy dance floor further adds to the vibe of the place. For the crowds in and around Juhu and nearer suburban areas, this is definitely a wonderful hang out area with some classic food options. Chef Sandhu is a talented chef and I look forward to see her innovation come out of this kitchen, beyond the classic fare it currently serves.
Ratings (Out of 5)
Food: 3.5 | Ambience: 4.0 | Service: 3.0 | Overall: 3.5
Meal for two: Rs 3000 | Wheel Chair Friendly: No | Credit Card: Yes | Alcohol: Yes | Timings: 6.00 PM to 1.30 AM
Address: 30, Devle Road, Juhu, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400049, India | Phone: 022 4612 9999