Sunday, March 5, 2017

TAG-away

I've been eating out and reviewing restaurants in Mumbai for close to nine years now. New restaurants open here all the time but over the years, the dining out options have come to form a rather off-putting level of predictability. Maybe it's because diners look for something familiar but for a while, every new place to open was a 'deli' or a cafe with the same old set of sandwiches, pastas and the lone chocolate fondant on the menu. New trends also come in waves. For a while, you couldn't go anywhere without spotting a new frozen yogurt place. And last couple of years, modern/molecular Indian has become a fad, no matter how terribly executed.

In this mediocrity that has come to define dining out in Mumbai, Ranveer Brar's newly opened TAG is a revelation. This pure vegetarian restaurant puts its faith on tapas, the one trend that never caught on in Mumbai. I am a huge fan of eating lots of small flavorful dishes rather than go the starter-main course-dessert route but not many chefs think that's the way to go in Mumbai. Ranveer clearly thinks my way if the small plates menu at his newly opened restaurant in Kamala Mills is to go by.

We ordered five small plates between the two of us and four of these were brilliant.



We opened our meal with watermelon sashimi sitting atop a yam guacamole. I kept thinking throughout the eating of this dish how delicious this yam was, and how much money I would save from buying avocados if I could replicate this. The lime ice that sits on top is brilliant and you will only wish there was a whole lot more of it.



Next came a creamy burrata, dusted with miso and served with a green tomato chunda and salad greens. This was the dish of the day for me; the burrata simply the best I've eaten in the city.



A kale papdi chaat followed and you will notice at this point how each dish is unique, with flavours and spices perfectly balance. The fried kale on this one sits atop a potato mash and the sweet yogurt foam is a beautiful complement to the crispy bits.



We felt it was the time to order something heartier so our next dish was mushroom galouti. The kebabs were nice enough but the bread that comes alongside is simply spectacular.



We ended the meal with a beet and rhubarb risotto. It's actually an arancini - the risotto shaped into round patties and fried. This was also my least favourite dish. It was kinda sweet and the flavours didn't all add up. But it could also be because we were pretty full by then.

TAG for me is a place worth a revisit. I didn't order any dessert and there are enough interesting savoury dishes left for me to try the next time. But as brilliant as the food is, I wish TAG had an ambience to match. The open kitchen and the kitschy chairs belong to a food that's far less refined than what TAG serves. The service is well-intentioned but servers lack in-depth knowledge on the dishes beyond the catchphrases that seem rehearsed. But the place seemed full even for late lunch and I hope it's a trend that catches on; dining out in Lower Parel is competitive and I would hate to lose out on the option of eating that burrata anytime soon.

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