Setting a trailblazing benchmark in dedicated five star vegetarian fine dining in Mumbai, Tuskers, the swank and stylish gourmet haven at the new avant garde luxury hospitality landmark, The Sofitel Mumbai BKC invites serious vegetarian gourmands to revel in its colourful spread, paired with an A-list of fine wines. For the increasing number of fastidiously choosy vegetarian clientele in Mumbai, this comes as a refreshing blessing. Interestingly, connoisseurs of fine cuisine keen on savoring regional vegetarian dishes in contrast to meat and poultry creations find it a surprisingly wholesome experience. Our expectations were heightened as we stepped inside the warm and enlivening environs, punctuated with images and motifs of the elephant, the largest herbivore with a gentle demeanour.

A regal touch

A well stocked glass-ensconced bar with the choicest spirits and a ceiling-to-floor Enoteca stocking fine wines create an appetizing start. A split-level walkway separates the bar lounge from the main dining area, the private dining discreetly located in privileged environs. The interiors reflect traditional Indian motifs and floral renditions in floor covering, upholstery and furnishings. Warm tones and sleek veneer make up the richness of the décor, accentuated by matte gold elements. A dash of contemporary chic in every cornice, select table layouts and planning make this vegetarian haven inspiring and evocative; so is the cuisine.

Beginning with a piping hot spread of four specialties, we sampled the ‘Jodhpuri Mirch Ke Pakode’ –batter-fried jalapeno chilli stuffed with cottage cheese that set our taste buds rolling. Following that were myriad tastes with ‘Kele aur Angoor Ki Tikki’ – pan-fried raw banana, raisin cake stuffed with tangy and spicy curd. This is a marvelous number for spice lovers. ‘Kand ke Pattice’ – pan-fried potatoes, purple yam cake stuffed with coconut and green peas was a rich offering, while the ‘Makai Ke Pakode’ –dumpling of corn, garam masala, pickled onion and sumac vegetable salad was interesting. Accompanying the platter infused with undeniable, traditionally regal Marwari flavours, was a finely chilled white wine - Gazela, Vinho Verde from Portugal.

Authentic flavours of the land

Spices intermingle with well-honed expertise within the kitchens of ‘Tuskers’ as handpicked regional herbs, curries and seasonings reach a culinary high. Our selection went onto a combination of vegetables-based dishes and local innovations with traditional flair. So, ‘Khatte Tilwale Aloo’ – potatoes tempered with sesame, asafoetida, lemon juice, turmeric offered a new taste and the ‘Bhindi Sambhariya’ – tender lady’s fingers filled with coconut, tomato and capsicum was a typically delightful Marwari specialty.

The highlight of our vegetarian experience was the absolutely evocative ‘Sangre Ke Kofte’ – deep fried wild beans dumplings, cottage cheese in cashew, tomato gravy, followed by ‘Asparagus and Gawar Patha Ki Sabzi’ – asparagus and aloe vera cooked in a curd and tomato gravy that was innovation to the hilt. Without the earthiness of the flavours being lost, the curry complemented the greens with well marinated depth. In fact, this dish is an eclectic, gourmet representation of the vegetarian repertoire of this fine dining address.

Creating a culinary stir

Eager vegetarian foodies can satiate their appetites with two more dishes we’d highly recommend. ‘Papad Moogodi Ki Sabzi’ – green lentil dumpling cooked in tamarind and jaggery gravy , a tangy and sweet sensation paired aptly with a robust red Peppoli Chianti Classico Toscana - Italian wine. The other reference is ‘Rabodi Hara Pyaaz’ – pappadam soaked in sour butter milk, cooked with poppy seed, curd and red chillies, best enjoyed with traditional ‘Bedmi Puri’ – flavoured with spices. Other Indian breads like the ‘Dal Paratha’ – spicy lentil-filled flat parathas add tang to the taste buds.

For rice lovers, there’s the fabulous ‘Gatte Ka Pulao’ – gram flour dumpling with spicy rice and ‘Bajre ki Khichdi’ – millet and yellow split green lentils with savory porridge (curry). Both are quite filling on their own, so small portions savored with the mains would offer equal contentment. To cap the main dishes sojourn, dals such as the tangy ‘Rajasthani Kadi’ or ‘Dal Panchmeli’ – a combination of five lentils and whole gram masala lend a merry mix of aromas and flavours.

Signing off sweetly

Since typically there can be no Indian meal without the quintessential sweet something, we opted for a traditional Rajasthani ‘Moong Dal Halwa’ and ‘Malpua with Rabadi’ – pancake dipped in sugar syrup, topped with reduced milk. That took us back to our trans-desert hinterland adventure through Rajasthan one winter. The restaurant also presents Continental European flavours for those with more timid palates but the idea of vegetarian dining is easily endorsed by their amazing Indian specialties, beyond compare.

What: Authentic Indian vegetarian cuisine

Where: Tuskers, The Sofitel Mumbai BKC

How much: Rs. 4, 500 (Approximately for a meal for two without wines)

(The authors are international wine awareness consultants and wine writers)

(This article was published on August 28, 2012)
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