Despite all the trappings of a typical Indian restaurant, the food at Raaga deserves an encore.
The Music Sounds Better With Food
At first trance, Raaga Bar & Kitchen has all the trappings of a typical Indian restaurant: black dal served in copper pots, characterless elevator music, blue lighting for the night. But five minutes into your seat (and meal), you’ll realise that this Raaga rises above the din of empty vessels in the vicinity, eventually winning the pitch for your fork.
Located on our favourite Mumbai stretch opposite the marina, housed in an old Colaba hotel, this week-old restaurant is fashioned entirely in wood, complimented by understated beige upholstery, new-age copper vessel installations and sunlight-streaming windows (we hope they lose the centrepiece bouquet and Sanskrit wall art). The 3-seater bar, though cramped on the inside opens out into a green, al-fresco Wi-Fi enabled cafe called Raaga by the Bay where you can grab breakfast from 7.30 to 10.30 am, and Mexican-Italian treats cooked up by ex-President Hotel chef, starting next week.
How High Can You Go?
While the cocktail menu offers a range of drinks – whisky and vermouth potions, spicy martinis, and sparkling Cosmos - we think Raaga is a great place to grab a beer (Rs 180 including taxes). Besides, we just don’t see it as a bar equipped to shake up a mean martini.
What we love about the food selection is that generic dishes like Paneer Makhani and Chicken Tikka Masala, though available, are kept off the menu so you’re prone to more adventurous ordering. Even suggestions from the staff – ask for Sajal – evoke fun options like Alphonse Bhindi and Murg Kashmiri (seafood is off the table in lieu of the recent oil spill).
Get Dishier, Please
Reader be warned, that while the dishes here are no lookers, they’re designed to win hearts through the stomach. Our first appetiser Gulmohar Gosht, for instance, arrived looking like fried skinny cheese balls with a tacky side of cut veggies, but were light as air and filled with delish cheese and kheema centres. The bowl of six lemony chicken legs double marinated in yoghurt (Pashtun Murg Chops), come recommended by the staff and us. A serving of condiments on the table was missed, though. Even with its few teething problems – a slow kitchen and promises of crockery replacements – a tasty tempo had been set, that got better with every dish.
Between starters and mains we learnt that the desi food chef last served at Urban Tadka. Sounds about right, we thought, digging into gloriously tangy Nimbu Chicken with the softest, most non-chewy naans we’ve eaten in the city. This was accompanied by a well-balanced black dal and an interesting Sthayee Palak where fresh paneer triangles are topped with delicately spiced spinach. Our only grouse was that the Lucknowi Dum Biryani, refreshingly oil-free, was slightly undercooked. The best surprise however, came at the end. Not dessert, but a light feeling that doesn’t usually follow a hearty Indian feast. Apparently, the kitchen refrains from using excessive oil, cream and butter, so if you’re waiting for a fat lady to sing at the end of your meal, it isn't going to happen.
Work in Progress
It seems that Raaga will be a work in progress over the next few months, with its composition being constantly updated. A rooftop grill with fabulous vistas of the Taj domes, Gateway and marina opens post-monsoon and a village-style garden restaurant prepares to take over the back of the hotel at the end of the year. Reason enough for multiple encores? We hope so.
Getting there: Raaga Bar & Kitchen, Sea Palace Hotel, 26, PJ Ramchandani Marg, Apollo Bunder, next to Radio Club, Colaba, call 61128080, Rs 1,100 for a meal for two without alcohol.
bpb reviews restaurants annonymously and pays for its own meals.
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