Mumbai: Zorawar Kalra’s +94 Bombay offers traditional Konkan and Sri Lankan food
With a mix of regular chairs, high tables and barstools, and an elephant statuette on every table, +94 Bombay exuberates a very calm and casual vibe.
It was in 2018 that Chef Dipesh Shinde, a native of Maharashtra, took a trip to Srilanka to explore their cuisine. He couldn’t help but also notice the similarities - fish, coconut and rice were an integral part of their daily diet, as is the case with Maharashtra, particularly in the Konkan region. It was then that he decided to do an amalgamation of both cuisines.
A year later, he reached out to Massive Restaurants’ Zorawar Kalra, the man behind Masala Library, Farzi Cafe, Pa Pa Ya and recently launched Bo-Tai Switch among other brands, and the result is +94 Bombay, the number being a reference for calling code for Srilanka.
Located inside Mumbai’s Palladium Mall, replacing Kalra’s earlier seafood venture R20 (Rivers to Oceans), the restaurant is a departure from Kalra’s usual traits especially when it comes to the price point as the menu is reasonably priced. When it comes to the interiors, it features a mix of regular chairs, high tables and barstools, and an elephant statuette on every table, exuberating a very calm and casual vibe.
We took our seats in the 90-seater restaurant and were soon offered their signature cocktails - Thyme on the Side and Golden Smile. Not a fan of the thyme herb in drinks, we were pleasantly surprised with the refreshing herb flavour and rum-infused drink, which had a hint of fig. The latter was their take on the classic gin & tonic with the addition of pineapple, honey and peach syrup. The breezy drink served in a half-cracked egg-shaped bowl in an artificial nest looked beautiful.
We then moved on to their appetisers and the first one - Kothimbir Vadi - left us impressed. The classic Maharashtrian tea-time snack, it features fritters made from gram flour and fresh coriander but in an unusal shape of a cuboid. When it comes to the texture, the outer surface was crispy, the inside was soft. The pakoda-like vadi were topped with fried garlic, spring onion and chilli flakes. Drawing a perfect balance of spices, the dish was flavourful and left us taking another piece.
One can seldom go wrong with an order of Fried Bombay Duck and the steaming hot serving of Bombil Fry might seem just what the doctor ordered. Its crispy brown exterior was fragrant and it was served with a side of lime and a homemade ground chilli chutney that surely hits home. Though, one might argue that the batter to fish ratio is a little skewed, making it a less than desired entree when cold. The Jaffna Black Pepper Prawns, because of their sheer size, don't look like prawns at all! Upon closer inspection, one would find that the prawns have been seasoned and cooked with their shell. Upon asking the chef, we learnt that this helps retain the delicate flavour of the fish along with ensuring that they're not overcooked. Though once you get past the shell, which might seem a little tougher than it looks, the prawns which shoot hints of roasted curry leave seasoning awaits. The coconut and mango chutney, brilliantly paired with the dish, and the caramelised lime only add to the flavour of this dish.
For mains, we settled on hoppers. A staple of Sri Lankan cuisine it, hoppers look like appams and are made from rice flour and fermented toddy. When it comes to its vegetarian version, the fluffy hopper was served with mildly-flavoured veg moilee, a creamy South Indian vegetable stew. Like all hopper dishes, it was served with three chutneys - coconut and chilli, coriander and peanut and tomato, adding much-needed flavours to the subtly-flavoured dish. The mild taste here was in contrast to the Mutton Hoppers which was an explosion of spices. While the meat was tender and lightly seasoned, the gravy was a mix of spices, overpowering the overall dish. While one could douse out the fiery spices with a bite of the light hoppers, a caveat to be issued would be: Not for the faint-hearted.
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As suggested, we tried Nankhatai Cheesecake and Watalappam, which we were told are popular desserts at the restaurant. While Nankhatai Cheesecake, topped with thick condensed milk and cherry compote was a little bland in taste, the latter - an authentic Sri Lankan dessert - was a coconut pudding made with jaggery and served with Nolen Gur ice cream. Topped with fried honeycomb, biscuit crumble and nuts, adding the much-needed crunch, the sweet dessert was a perfect end to the meal.
Meal for two: INR 1200
Our recommendation: Kothimbir Vadi, Jaffna Black Pepper Prawns, Watalappam