Zorawar Kalra’s latest outpost in Mumbai promises a flood of coastal flavours, but delivers both highs and lows.
At F&B veteran Zorawar Kalra’s latest outpost under the Massive Restaurants banner, +94 Bombay, flavours of Sri Lanka and Maharashtra merge like two streams of water. Its luxe interiors could trick you into believing that you weren’t actually sitting inside a mall; but you are. And for those of us, who remember dining at his earlier establishments at the same location – first, an uber experimental seafood-focussed diner called Rivers to Ocean and then, his Thai offering TYGR – the space remains strangely recognizable, thanks to the unmissable bar and layout. Maybe, third time’s really the charm.
The classy interiors at +94 Bombay
As for the food, it’s a heady mix of coastal flavours combined in familiar staples, such as prawns Jaffna, kothimbir vadi and hoppers. Of which, some deliver on taste, and others, teeter on the edge with hasty execution to qualify as a miss at best, and unappealing at worst. That is not to write off +94 Bombay, which with its truncated and focused menu championing local flavours and produce, does strike a few chords in the belly, if not the heart. To put it simple, if there were misses, there were also hits.
Bright, welcoming and without the unnecessary trappings of a typical Lower Parel restaurant – by which we mean there was no unnecessary pretension with hipster plating, or loud music that didn't fit – the place holds a quiet vibe of assurance. And if you wish to sit and converse with a friend or family while enjoying a meal, at +94 Bombay you’re more than welcome to do that.
The mutton hoppers
One of the most striking features of the menu at +94 Bombay includes its ability to switch between local and international (if we can call Sri Lanka that!) flavours with a certain nimbleness. We’re inclined to give it points for the sheer ingenuity of recognizing this overlap. The menu is a mix of usual suspects, such as mini gunpowder idlis, vada pao and Indianised tacos, and slightly more experimental stuff, like a salad with avos and black masoor dal and a seafood bhel.
The jaffna black pepper prawns
We are pleasantly surprised by the kaju kothimbir vadi, which truth be told, we don’t expect much from. But it manages to shine through with its play on textures, fried to perfection and oozing with beautiful seasoning. When coupled with green chutney, it is even better. The Jaffna prawns are a true delight, and possibly our favourite from the evening. Cooked to perfection, with piquant flavours that seep deep into the seafood, this dish leaves us wolfing it down with great abandon, and without the cutlery. We must give special mention to the ghee-soaked mini idlis, that were as delicate in texture, as they were power-packed in podi masala. At this point, we realise, that the inconsistency that seems to plague other segments of the menu, doesn’t apply to its mains, with curries oozing with the goodness of coconut and spices and hoppers as fluffy as a down pillow with the finest of European goose down. We used this to mop up a portion of prawn kari and Colombo chicken each, before we prepped for dessert.
Kaju Kothimbir Vadi
What didn't work
While we have whetted our appetite for dessert, we’re disappointed to find a lacklustre salted caramel and lotus biscoff gadbad (a take on Mangalore’s desi sundaes) that comes tasting too sweet and lacking the kick of salt that a balanced salted caramel should deliver. We enjoy the wattalapam – a creamy coconut-and-jaggery custard, but are jolted out of our food coma from the piercing iciness of the over-frozen ice cream.
From our appetizer, we find the lamb seekh to be of garden variety, and also, a slight mismatch, given the menu’s aesthete. Whereas, the bombil fry disappoints most, with a stale stench that does little to save the otherwise flavourful crumb coating. The gin cocktails, too, though good on paper, pale in comparison to what it promises. A medley of black tea, jaggery and spices, for instances, comes to the table tasting like a basic G&T with a watery consistency.
We’re willing to write the issues at +94 Bombay as human errors likely to have been made at the end of a long, hard day, and at the end of the week, no less. This could also explain why our meal had extreme highs (like with the Jaffna prawns) and unexpected lows (with the dessert and drinks). Keeping that in mind, and a menu that seems to be promising overall, we’re saying that +94 Bombay deserves perhaps a visit of your own to make up the mind. As for us, while we do nurture a special love for restaurants that offer consistency and unquestionably delightful experiences, we share an equal affection for something as simple as a good curry. And for that, we think, we’ll be back at +94 Bombay.
Sroojana is an award-winning creator of fandoms. Her first love is her mother's rum cake, and her second love is baking cakes just like it. Controversial opinions range from liking citrus flavours more than chocolate, and pineapple on pizza - she WILL fight you on this, as long as you're not asking during a binge-session of Korean shows or food.