I have found Mumbai to be quite the foodie heaven. There is just so much choice on offer in the Maximum City. Numerous cuisines, varying levels of opulence or simplicity in the setting, and quite a diverse pricing structure can leave you a little spoilt for choice. But if you are looking for something special, perhaps the perfect venue to celebrate Valentines Day, then let me share with you my experience at Ziya, the flagship restaurant at The Oberoi Hotel.
Chef Vineet Bhatia is the Executive Chef at the Oberoi. The first Indian chef to be awarded a coveted Michelin Star, Chef Bhatia now has 2 stars to his name. Although Chef Bhatia was born and raised in Mumbai, he received his stars in London, at his acclaimed Rasoi restaurant. Somewhat controversially, Chef Bhatia does not serve his food ‘family style’ favoring instead the pre-plated single portion style of fine dining. Traditionally, Indian restaurants serve large platters of food to the entire table for all the diners to share in a communal style.
The restaurant overlooks Marine Drive and as such a table by the window in Ziya affords the best view to watch the sunset and the throngs of people who gather along the Queens Necklace most evenings. Sadly you cannot book a window table, it is first come first served. Happily I am an early diner (although 7.30pm is not really an early start time by US standards) and so I had my choice of tables.
“Ziya means Light and Radiance’
Walking into Ziya is like entering a golden shrine. Everywhere you look there is gold: gold wall panels, ceiling, upholstery, carpet, chargers, and even cutlery. The setting is perfect for the culinary journey that you are about to experience.
Via Website: “Chef Vineet Bhatia and Keshav Prakash, Founder-The Vault, invite you to this signature experience designed to lead you on a journey of degustation”.
The food is described as Indian cuisine, deconstructed and elevated with French techniques. Though the restaurant has an a-la-carte section, I would strongly recommend you experience the Ziya Gourmand Vault Menu: the 7-course veg or non-veg selection that is quite the event.
Via Website: ” Taste being such an intimate sense, this experience has been further stretched to engage multiple senses in a seductive and gastronomical challenge, as pleasure meets guilt”
How do I even begin to describe the above? Firstly, I should point out that portions are quite modest (thankfully) so you really can do the meal justice without feeling full halfway through. Many of the flavors I tried were new to me so it was very helpful to get so much information from our servers, and my dining companions, as to what I was trying.
One of the highlights for me was the lobster as it was just so succulent it really did melt in my mouth (sorry for the cliché, but it’s true). Sad to say that the photos I took really do not do this dish justice. The drops of beetroot Goan sauce spaced with such precision on the plate together with the carefully set sprig of watercress on top of the lobster represented perfectly the artistry that went into every plated offering throughout this menu.
My only slight disappointment was the dessert plate. Now I do love chocolate, so you can never go wrong there, but where was the rice pudding? Perhaps I’m being too traditional.
As you might expect from staff at The Oberoi, the service was top notch. Our meal was actually akin to ‘dinner and a show’ as each course was served by a number of waiters. Simultaneously placing the covered food in front of all the diners, then revealing the dish in unison while the senior waiter gave a full and through description of the food, the style of cooking used to prepare the dish, and the various ingredients that had made up the dish including where they came from and their significant in Indian cuisine – fascinating.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience at Ziya and would gladly go back and do it all again. The setting is quite dramatic, the food very well executed, and the presentation thoughtfully performed. Although the price is a little on the expensive side by Indian standards (especially once you add wine) I am sure a similar experience would be far more expensive in London or New York so for a special occasion, I think this restaurant is a big winner.
Address: Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Road, Nariman Point, Mumbai, 400021
Reservations: +91 22 6632 5757]
Price: Cost for the Gourmand Menu Rps 4950 per person excluding 12.5% VAT and 5.6% Service Tax
This article first appeared in the Chalo! magazine distributed to expats living in Mumbai