Saturday, May 18, 2013

Yauatcha - Mumbai

A few days ago, quite by chance, we met Mr. AA at Toto’s. As is typical, we made promises that we should meet the following Friday, have a drink at the MCA bar and have dinner at Yauatcha. Both the MCA and Yauatcha are close to each other in Bandra Kurla Complex.

This time the promises were kept and Mr & Mrs AA, HRH the Queen of Kutch and I landed at the MCA bar only to find that there was no space. I tried my best at some spot fixing but was unsuccessful. Then we got some stools at the bar where we perched. Drinks were ordered, glasses raised, toasts made and we proceeded to drink. The MCA bar, by which I mean the actual bar, is not a particularly nice place to sit so we were keen to be shifted. Soon, my efforts at spot fixing worked and we were given a table. I asked for a plate of wafers [crisps] to have with my beer and was told that the MCA was out of wafers. Reason? The LBT strike was the answer. I do not really believe this. I could protest as much as I wanted, I would still not get wafers.

After a few drinks we trooped into Mr. AA’s car and drove the short distance to Yauatcha.

The restaurant is on the first floor. You climb a flight of stairs and enter a large cold sterile bar which leads into an equally cold and sterile dining room. All the surfaces reflect sound; glass windows, marble floors and marble topped tables. The room is a large rectangle with tables placed in a most unimaginative way. The prime tables are along the windows and are placed so close to each other that the man on the next table was closer to me than my dining companion seated across me on my table. The restaurant was quite full and the noise levels high, and with no soft surfaces nothing absorbed the sound.

Once again drinks were ordered. Mr. AA and HRH the Queen of Kutch both wanted a single malt with water. There was much hesitation and reluctance on part of the wait staff in leaving the carafe of water on our table. It kept getting removed. Finally, one of the wait staff said, `we are not allowed to leave water on the table.” Folks, this is India. Such things have no rational explanation. The only thing I can think of is the fear of the management or owners that if other people see tap water in a carafe on a table they will not order the rip off `mineral’ water or Bisleri as we call it. Nut cases.

Menus were handed out. The menu contained a line which could be regarded as part arrogant, part politically correct, part sanctimonious part officious but wholly insane. This is what it says –

Although all due care is taken, dishes may still contain ingredients that are not set out on the menu and these ingredients may cause an allergic reaction.

Guests with allergies need to be aware of this risk and should ask a member of the team for information on the allergen content of our food.

What do the first few words mean – although all due care is taken dishes may contain ingredients that cause an allergic reaction? Does any restaurant list every ingredient on a menu? Would not just the second sentence be enough? Anyway...

We ordered a selection of Dim Sum. First up was Mrs. AA choice, a steamed Prawn and Chinese Chive Dumpling. Nice. Mr. AA asked for Shanghai Siew Long Bun with Chicken, and, Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf with Chicken Prawn and Shiitake. Both very good. The Sticky rice was good. HRH the Queen of Kutch chose the Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun. Mr. AA really liked the Cheung Fun. The Dim Sum I chose was Fried Chilli Squid with Oatmeal and Pandan Leaf. This was the most disappointing dish of the lot. It was totally different from what I had imagined. I should have followed the directions on the menu and asked a `member of the team’ what the dish was. I expected a sort of stir fried squid but what we got was a Squid Pakoda with lots of deep fried Oats. Not particularly good.

The obligatory spicy sauces

Prawn and Chinese Chive Dumpling

Shanghai Siew Long Bun with Chicken

Sticky Rice in Lotus Leaf with Chicken Prawn and Shiitake

Crispy Prawn Cheung Fun

Fried Chilli Squid with Oatmeal and Pandan Leaf

As part of the main course, so to speak, HRH asked for the Singapore Stir-Fry Vermicelli with Prawn and Squid. This was really quite nice. Of course we just had to order the most famous of dishes, Braised Pork Belly with Chinese Pickle Vegetable. This dish was outstanding. The only complaint I had was that the portion was very small for the money charged i.e. Rs. 1,750 ++. Granted that this dish is very rich but I maintain the portion was small. This dish is really outstanding and a must have.

Singapore Stir-Fry Vermicelli with Prawn and Squid

Braised Pork Belly with Chinese Pickle Vegetable

In fairness I must say that the food was good. We had just one dud dish. This is unusual in Mumbai restaurants, so Yauatcha take a bow. It was good food.

Equally, I must say that besides the food, the rest of the dining experience fell way short of not only my expectations, but, in my view, way short of the hype created by this restaurant abetted by the media in incorrectly alluding to the fact that Yauatcha has a Michelin star and is therefore a great restaurant. This is not correct. Only the original Yauatcha in London has a Michelin star. The service here in Mumbai was unexceptional to poor. The wait-staff had the annoying habit of talking to the back of your head and with the tables so close to each other they leaned over you to serve your fellow diners. The restaurant had no decor to speak about and it is located in an office block and honestly looks like an office cafeteria. The food was good and one waitress, I believe her name was Surekha, was the only bright light in the otherwise distracted and somewhat supercilious or arrogant staff.

The question remains, would you pay all this money for above average to good food and not have the attendant service and atmosphere? I am not so sure myself. But I must say, drinks at the MCA bar followed by dinner at Yauatcha turned out to be an inspired choice by Mr AA.

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