Metrowatch

Tote on the turf, restaurateur Rahul Akerkar’s newest venture offers a multitude of delights.

Anamika Butalia        Print Edition: December 13, 2009

Mumbai
Betting on Akerkar

Tote on the turf, restaurateur Rahul Akerkar’s newest venture offers a multitude of delights.
Anamika Butalia

Tote on the turf has definitely been one of the most anticipated restaurants of 2009. It’s not just because it is restaurateur Rahul Akerkar’s latest offering but also because of the hype surrounding the project. It has had its share of hiccups and unforeseen delays, but it eventually got a grand opening this October.

Nestling within the premises of Mahalaxmi racecourse, one of the city’s premium properties, Tote (as it is colloquially referred to) was top secret. This project was, for the Akerkars, a long cherished dream. And they have done justice to that dream.

Tote’s interiors are fanciful and yet non-farcical, functional and yet done up with panache. It takes pride in the fact that it is a large property— 25,000 square feet with alfresco seating, a veranda and a bar that can accommodate 500 guests. The alfresco and indoors dining areas are done up in pristine white and are open for dinner and lunch respectively. The indoor dining area has a good view of the open kitchen. The veranda lined with tree-line arches made of stainless steel is open through the day and offers a special all-day dining menu. The bar upstairs is nothing like you’ve ever seen in Mumbai. It has two mezzanine levels with booths and a long bar counter—the bar alone can accommodate up to 200 people.

A few weeks old and Tote is already a favourite with the city’s gourmet crowd. Tote’s menu is impressive and encompassing. From Legs of Rabbit to Braised Duck Legs and Foie Gras to Reef Cod, Akerkar has come up with all sorts of concoctions for a delectable experience. Apart from a plethora of meat-based dishes, there are lots of seafood to be savoured like red snappers, scallops and king prawns. Tote’s menu promises to take care of the paucity of good vegetarian meals in Mumbai. The roasted mushroom sandwich served with goat cheese and arugula in a multigrain bread from their all-day dining menu shouldn’t be missed. The Vegetable and Macaroni Lasagna with Tomato and Basil Broth is best enjoyed when it’s still steaming. The portions are large and extremely filling unlike what one would expect at such a fancy restaurant. The desserts are unusual— no tiramisu to keep you on edge— but are nonetheless worth a try.

At Tote, it’s not just the meal or the place that you’d go for—it’s an experience of being pampered and looked after. So, go on, and splurge on an unforgettable meal. Bon Appetit!

TOTE ON THE TURF

ADDRESS: Mahalaxmi Race Course, Opposite Gate #5 & 6, Keshva Rao Khadye Marg, Mahalaxmi, Mumbai-400034; 022-61577777

Timings: 11 a.m. -1.30 a.m.

Meal for two: Rs 4,200 (with drinks)

MUST-TRY: Roasted mushroom sandwich served with goat cheese and arugula in a multigrain bread; Vegetable and Macaroni Lasagna with tomato and basil broth, Cured tuna with cucumber, radish raita, wasabi dressing and Onion Dill Baguette.

Bangalore
Missing some ingredients

Masala Klub needs to add some polish to its menu.
Rahul Sachitanand

When you take 25 minutes to find parking because of a gargantuan wedding at the swish and expansive Taj West End and the normally efficient staff look overburdened, there’s little good that can come of the evening. Being host to the popular Blue Bar and the pan-Asian Blue Ginger restaurant, the hotel has set some high expectations on the food and beverage front. Its latest venture, Masala Klub, an Indian food restaurant, offers many interesting twists to conventional and heavy Indian fare— but it’s the execution that’s yet to peak. Perhaps, as a result of the overly luminous lawns and overcrowded hotel, the service is surprisingly slow.

This shortcoming is however made up by the cocktails and appetisers and the Indian twists that Masala Klub has added to its beverage menu. So, rather than a tomato or watermelon Martini, we opt for a Spiced Martini (capsicum, brown sugar, pepper, chili, lime juice and vodka), while my companion opted for an even more edgy Melon Dal (watermelon, asafetida water, vanilla, vodka, mango juice) and we paired them with a selection of starters, ranging from the bland but intriguing Tandoori Pink Salmon to the intense Bhatti ka Jheenga (char grilled prawns in a marinade of aromatic spices). The salmon was fresh, tender and lightly flavoured, with the chef retaining the fish’s natural taste, while the prawn was heavy and not terribly well spiced.

While most Indian food, especially the grub served north of Vindhyas, is known for being heavy on the stomach, Masala Klub tries to work its way around this gastronomic problem by using a lighter cooking medium (olive oil) or by roasting, rather than frying or deep frying its dishes. For instance, the Paperwali Machi (pomfret fillets grilled on smoking coal in edible parchment paper) provides an interesting contrast to the usual spicy fare at most fine dining restaurants. The other bits of our main course were sedate rather than sparkling, with the Murgh Khatta Pyaaz (chicken with pickled onions and an assortment of fresh spices) and Koli Kolagu Veruval (chicken cooked with fresh ground pepper corns) the only dishes worth a second look. To end our meal on a sweet note, we had a selection of desserts: Rasmalai, Kulfi and Anjeer (fig) Halwa. The kulfi was standout, with the other two barely passing muster.

To stay afloat in a competitive scene packed with choosy customers, Masala Klub will need to refine its act.

MASALA KLUB

ADDRESS: The Taj West End, Race Course Road, Bangalore-560001; 080-66605610 Timings: 11 a.m. -1.30 a.m. Meal for two: Rs 4,000 (with drinks)

MUST-TRY: Tandoori Pink Salmon; Murgh Khatta Pyaaz and Lasooni Palak.

Delhi
Good vibes

Go for a drink at The Blue Bar, and thank us.
Kushan Mitra

It is difficult to make a sweeping statement about anything, especially when it comes to food and drink, because they might come back to haunt you. So we will just say this much: if you are in the capital right now and need a drink, you could do a lot worse than head to the newly opened Blue Bar at the Taj Palace.

The Blue Bar, and its sister restaurant, Blue Ginger, replace the hallowed institution that was “Tea House of the August Moon”, a place that will unfortunately not be missed by many people. We will cover Blue Ginger in an upcoming issue, but this was all about the drinks. The Taj Palace has included a nice outdoor patio for the bar, which, given Delhi’s glorious winters, is a nice touch.

However, your reviewer sat inside and whiled away his time talking to Nick Hawkins, the Indophile, who is the Chief Bartender at The Blue Bar.

The conversation moved quickly to Gin—the white alcohol, which has pretty much been overshadowed over the past decade or so by the marketing noise around Vodka. Not by Nick though, and he made the most exquisite Belgravia—crushed cucumbers, elderflower Licquer and Tanqueray Gin. For a man who stays off too much hard spirits, restricting himself to the occasional bottle of Tuborg, Hawkins has quite a touch with cocktails. But it was his signature drink, one that a former editor cannot stop raving about, that really caught the tongue. It is a rather simple, albeit expensive recipe. Take one Monte Cristo cigar and infuse it in Bourbon, in this case Maker’s Mark. The resultant tobacco bourbon is so good, one would bet that it would have madea nicotine junkie like Anthony Bourdain happy.

Our simple advice: go to The Blue Bar, sit at the bar, it might be expensive, very expensive really, but you might just thank us!

The Blue Bar

ADDRESS: The Taj Palace Hotel, Chanakya Puri, New Delhi; 91-6650-3665

Timings: 12.30 p.m. to 12.45 a.m.

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