With Asian cuisine being the second most sought after in the country (after North Indian), it's no surprise that a new Asian restaurant opening is always on the cards, especially in a city like Mumbai. And while that does little to pique our interest, one that's all vegetarian certainly does. To that end, the newly opened Plural in South Mumbai has quite a lot to offer, with assorted staples from Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, all being served under one banner.
The contemporary diner is serving experimental Southeast Asian dishes and has one eye on sustainability and the other on flavour. As the dine-in services open today, we share with you what we thought when we sampled a few of their offerings as part of an early sneak-peak at home and with the aim of helping you separate the wheat from the chaff.
What we tried:
First up was the vigorous larb and a meat-free version of the Laotian and Thai dish comprising tofu, romaine and squash, dressed up in a galangal, red chilli, kaffir lime and palm sugar dressing. There was also the strikingly fresh kohlrabi salad that came with baby spinach and ripe figs, bound together by a nuoc cham vinaigrette. The sprightly summer rolls from their small-plate section is a medley of seasonal vegetables wrapped in rice paper and served with a nuoc cham dip. The seared brussel sprouts on the other hand, come delicately charred with nam phrik and nam jim vinaigrettes and topped with crispy sprout skins and a dose of herbs. We also tucked into the tofu bahn mi, which had grilled lemongrass tofu, cherry tomato, pickled veggies, Thai basil chimichurri and a tamarind jus ensconced within a baguette; the mi kieu mach, which is buckwheat noodles with stir-fried gai lan and bok choy topped with a secret sauce and peanuts; a humongous whole roasted cauliflower that was doused in a creamy cashew and sambal glaze; and a curry with roasted beetroot, crunchy chickpeas, pomegranate and a silky coconut base. And then, there was dessert, which came in the form of a miso caramel tart that had chocolate custard and cocoa tuile.
The spice levels at Plural are muted, with the fresh, clean notes of the ingredients being given the centre stage. This comes through in their larb salad that manages to balance the textures of the soft tofu with the crispy romaine leaves. The summer rolls are a worthy addition to your table, given their remarkable flavour profile, that's as refreshing as it is piquant. We appreciate Plural's boldness in taking on brussel sprouts, that has for far too long been labelled as the problem child of the vegetable aisle. But only by those who don't know how to cook it because here, it shines in a sweet-seared avatar that's set to make a believer out of naysayers. The cauliflower too finds redefinition here at Plural, where it's been reimagined in a luscious, coconut-y drape and then roasted as a whole. We enjoyed the curry as well, which came in a coconut milk broth dotted with beets, giving it a lovely purple colour. But if we had to pick a favourite, it is undoubtedly the tart, which subs the plain-jane caramel with a decadent, salty miso paste that helps cut through the chocolate custard, making it bang for your buck.
What didn't work:
While we enjoyed most of the meal, a few things didn't check out. But before we get into that, let's get one thing straight: the key to a really good bánh mì is always the bread. Unfortunately, Plural's version of the Vietnamese treat doesn't come through owing to a rather thick and chewy baguette. The mi kieu mach too, fails to impress with a lacklustre body and slightly briny undertone.
Having said that, if you're looking for authentic South East Asian flavours and are keeping your diet free of meat, Plural is surely a good bet for it takes authentic staples and gives them a slight twist to accommodate the Indian palate. Add to that clean, simple flavours, culinary finesse, fresh and seasonal ingredients and handcrafted sauces and what you have is a clear winner.
Tarvene is a chocolate and chai fiend who is constantly on the hunt for cute cafes. You can catch her baking some Biscoff cheesecakes or binge-watching Netflix shows. She likes filling up her free time painting, listening to music or going on long drives.