Is it a laboratory, is it a bar? It's MasalaBar!
Hakkasan's Golden Week menu is packed with Cantonese goodies that you just shouldn't miss.
A year or more back, Otto Infinto - the Mediterranean eatery was rebranded into a Cafe style eatery with a menu that was more widespread and befitting its new name - Cafe Infinito. With the rebranding exercise came a slight change in seating arrangement that is more communal and open as opposed to the previous diner style enclosure. Since then it's been more approachable to the neighbouring corporate and consulate crowd that at times also consists of a few foreign nationalities down for official work, thus making it a corporate lunch favourite and also a post work hangout.
The menu here was already diverse and drew a good enough caricature of the known European dishes. The new menu adds a huge slice of sub-continent ingredients & flavours while the European fare is more experimental in nature now. Medium&Rare along with a few more influencers were invited to experience a selection of items from their new menu. The simple yet delicate filo wrapped Brie and earthy SriLankan Prawns Curry were surely our pick of the afternoon followed by an array of largely satisfying desserts like Baked Yoghurt & Philadelphia Cheesecake.
Hooters style Chicken Wings and Baked Brie came right away to compliment the quenchers. As mentioned previously, the Brie was absolutely adored by everyone for its uncomplicated overall taste and fresh cheesy goodness inside the pastry. This is one dish to please even the most ardent of meat munchers. The battered Chicken Wings were high on sheen and an equally gloopy mess in the hands, while the crackling appetizer "Firecracker Prawns" (from the permanent menu) provided the crispy cover and soft meat inside which we expected from the hooter style dish. Almost pushed to the sides of the table were Jalapeno & Cheese Poppers; Probably made to feel overwhelmed by the presence of its gourmet cousin 'Baked Brie'.
Bacon & Banana inside a Baguette may sound outright illegal, eerie and experimental at first, but if the word of mouth from the table is any true it's a valiant effort that may entice someone with a progressive palate. The open face - Aglio Olio Mushrooms on Focaccia should be easily appealable to everyone with its well sauteed mushrooms and melted cheddar mix and microgreen garnish.
The selection of salad - Cypriot Mix and the Crispy Asian Salad; both weren't received well by almost everyone. The Asian Salad was a visual disappointment with its pale palette of colors, also the textures though varied - nuts, crispy lettuce strips and those tiny bursts from pomegranate never tied together the entire dish at any point of our few spoonful attempts. Cypriot Salad Mix of Flax seeds, Lentils, Pomegranate & Honey Yoghurt had a better visual play than the previous salad, but only mildly tasteful while on a good note incorporated heaps of healthy calories. The salads vastly remain a breakfast accompaniment or a late afternoon grub.
With the meal graph fluctuating between ground zero and soaring high peaks, it was time for the actual indulgence - Mains. The Lineup was Chicken Roulade, Chicken Cafreal, SriLankan Curry & Rice, Mushroom Timbale & Cottage Cheese Moussaka. Separating itself from the lot was the gratifying SriLankan Curry & Rice (Prawns variation was effortlessly natural as compared to the Chicken variation). From its bright orange color to the soul food like comforting taste and creamy texture of Coconut Milk, it is an absolute winner for a European subjugated eatery. One spoonful mix of Rice, Curry & Prawn and we were ready to erase all the previous shortcomings.
The Roulade, Mushroom Timbale & Moussaka were some of the well plated dishes. Vastly, these dishes fared above-average in taste and generous in portion size. The Mushroom Timbale is certainly notch above the two with its complex layers of taste and the beaming orange curry that accompanies it. The only dish of desi origin was the Goan favourite 'Chicken Cafreal'. It's quite a risky dish to emulate, due to the complex masalas that build its curry base and coats the chicken pieces. Anyone who has experienced the famous Cafreal at Florentine's in North Goa will find Infinito's mimic a little subtle and lacking pungency of the black peppers. The Goan Bread is deeply missed here, which is meant to soak the soulful curry and marry the entire dish.
Baked Yoghurt & Philadelphia Cheesecake were definitely the picks from the dessert section. Both came plated with a complimenting fruit compote which brings a bit of relish to the creamy texture of the yoghurt & cream cheese. Both of the above-mentioned desserts are much recommended at any given hour or meal, even breakfast ! Sadly the same cannot be said about the Tiramisu which was unanimously unsatisfactory across the table.
The experience of the new menu has been more a of rollercoaster ride with alternating high climbs and gentle slopes. Excluding a few dishes, the new menu experience in general was a proof of largely competent cooking with occasionally diffident flavours.
Recommendations : Baked Brie, Aglio Olio Mushroom on Focaccia, SriLankan Prawn Curry, Baked Yogurt & Philadelphia Cheese Cake.
Location : G Block, Raheja Tower, Bandra Kurla Complex
Taking a bite from Julia Child's famous quotes - “How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex?” which sometimes is true to our nation where bread is considered only as an element of the morning chai table or an early evening grub and where the average bakery product is far from being a lovable piece of dough. Roti or Chapati in different forms dominate our cuisines from North to South and East to West, thus bread always plays a second fiddle. Our national crowd is distinctly divided into two sections when it comes to bread; One eats a sliced loaf (white, brown or multigrain) and Second eats the ladi pav, gutli or brun. While loaves of Multigrain bread are popular among the middle class families and youngsters, the more traditional pav or brun is a mandatory element of the grown-ups, particularly muslim and christian families.
The 'Brun' or 'Kadak' Pav is one of the fundamental product to come out of any average bakery. A bread which starts life as a slightly tougher version of the average ladi pav, Brun Pav sees the bright flames of the stone oven twice in its daily life cycle before it is let to cool and develop the hard crust; Hence the slang 'Double Bhatti'. In Mumbai, There are pockets where you can find some good old crusty bruns; Bandra West, Andheri, Byculla, JJ & Colaba tops the list with Bandra's A1 Bakery being the most versatile of them all providing all sorts of variations from the regular pavs to Bruns, Dinner Rolls to Sausage Rolls and Sweet Buns to Burger Buns.
Since a few years, the metropolitan cities have seen a change in bread and baking scenery with the introduction of artisan breads like the Sourdough, Brioche and many others. While many home bakers and startups have lend a hand in this movement, a young learned baker 'Aditi Handa' led company 'Baker's Dozen' has played pivotal role. Baker's Dozen with its strategy and tryst for international quality breads has outlets in the heart of city and mostly manages to get sold out by early evening. Fresh batch of Pain Au Levain, Brioche, Baguette, Focaccia, Ragi Bread and lot more arrive at each outlet every morning. Daily consumers vary from locals to expats while few third party internet vendors collect their batches from the closest store. As a lot more people get educated about the availabilities of such artisan breads, the trend can only be seeing an upwards mark.
While new startups and independent bakers are exploring new avenues of this industry, legends like Britannia, Wibs and few others have also adapted to the health oriented trend with its brown, ragi & multigrain loaves. Many households claim that while the move is appreciated, the fancy breads barely add any nutritional value and seem like a mere colored variation of the original white bread. Similar loaves of bread from smaller startups justify the expensive tag with its shorter shelf-life and more important 'unrefined texture' that indicates an authentic product. While local bakery sells a loaf of brown, whole wheat or multigrain bread in the range of 35-45 rupees, the upper crust bakeries manage to price them higher than 50 rupees.
Long gone are the days when a customer said, "ek Britannia ya Wibs dena'. The instructions are now more bread specific and not brand specific "ek Brown Bread with Whole Grain dena". There is a change in mindset of the people who are not just marrying bread and butter, but elevating it ranks by pairing with rich wine and gourmet cheese.