Every time we come down to picking places to dine at, out of sheer lethargy, we end up eating at the same old restaurants that offer comfort of familiar items that don’t spring surprises on us and where we know what to expect. However, there is certainly no thrill in that. So we get out on the street and decide to try a brand new place. East, formerly known asNish, was revamped and reopened four years ago. Surprisingly, we hadn’t even heard about the place. So in we go!
Executive chef Nachiket Shetye, having trained with renowned chefs like Anthony Bourdain and Mario Batali and worked at famous New York restaurants like Penang and Nobu, explains that though Nish was popular for its Chinese food, it was the overdose of Chinese eateries and lack of varied Asian cuisine in Mumbai that inspired him to revamp the place.
Of course, when we walked into the restaurant we were blissfully unaware of the antecedents of the chef. Google told us to expect a decent value-for-money meal and that is what we expected as we were seated in a quiet corner. A few families were dining at the neighbouring tables and judging by their silence, we deduced that either the food was fantastic or just about average.
We were left alone as we debated what to eat. We were told that the Roti Canai, a Malaysian speciality, was the USP of East, but we decide to go for Ika Moyashi (Rs220) & a Grilled Lobster with Pineapple Salsa (Rs500) and two Kingfisher Ultras (Rs160 plus taxes). So much for our new year resolutions!
What we noticed about the menu is that it is simple and yet unique. Sure, there are your usual suspects like the Pad Thai, red and green Thai curries, and Manchow soup, but then they have Laksa soup, Roti Canai and Lamb Rendang. We decided to leave the ordering for later and sat back to enjoy our beer and appetizers. The lobster was grilled to perfection and the pineapple salsa was exactly as sweet and spicy as it promised to be. My partner in gluttony for the evening had already made a cynical remark: “The lobster might be good but I am very cynical about the squid.”
Of course most city restaurants serve deep fried squid which, in my opinion, ruins it. Cooking squid, like most seafood, is a fine art. You cook it too less and it’s left raw, you cook it even a minute too long and it’s overdone and you might as well toss it!
“Eating calamari always feels like I’m eating an eraser!” he protested when I insisted on serving him the Ika Moyashi. My optimism paid off. The squid was cooked just right and its soft yet slightly chewy texture with the crunch of bean sprouts in soy made for a spectacular combination.
We were a little disappointed that the only fish the restaurant serves are pomfret and ravas, but we ordered the pomfret in Malaysian Penang curry (Rs330) anyway. We paired it with vegetarian Thai Basil Fried Rice (Rs160) and Chicken Pad Thai (Rs180). The Pad Thai was red and it didn’t do too much for me. But the Thai Basil Fried Rice with its delicious aroma was the perfect treat. It would have done well as a standalone dish. ThePenangcurry was delicious and would have made a better match with steamed rice, but we won’t complain. The green and yellow on our plate looked pretty and tasted just fine! The portion size was decent and even after stuffing ourselves, we had enough on the table to feed another person.
The one thing that truly made our experience at East unique was the fantastic service. We didn’t have to wave frantically to grab the waiter’s attention nor did we have to hide under the table to escape the incessant ‘hospitality’.
“Our staff is trained to be around if the patrons need them without intruding on their dining experience,” said Shetye. “We’re not looking to rush you through your meal to make place for more covers. We would like our patrons to stay and enjoy their meal.”
All in all, East promises great food, decent ambience and warm hospitality and, at an average cost of Rs1,600 for a meal for two with a drink each, it does offer great value for money.
Valet Parking: Yes
Address: 76 August Kranti Marg, Off Kemp’s Corner, Mumbai 400 036
Originally appeared on http://www.dnaindia.com on January 3, 2011