Kunal Vijayakar serves up his favorite haunts of 2021 with delicious hope for 2022
As of this writing, there is enormous uncertainty about what lies ahead in the weeks to come. Will this new virus pedigree undermine our sovereignty to be able to live our lives, as we would like? Will we be able to walk, talk, meet and eat without restraint or constraint? And by eating, I mean going out and visiting a restaurant. The latest load of the virus has indeed wreaked havoc in restaurants. I was told that after the first unexpected lockdown, about 20% of all hotels just don’t open fully. That almost 30% of all restaurants and hotels have closed permanently, and those that have opened are operating with losses of up to 50%.
Struggling against these bitter and almost tragic circumstances, restaurateurs have always stood their ground, stood up, and always applied their creativity and style to renovate, reopen, maintain and launch great places to eat, and I still have managed to spend 2021 eating truly amazing meals. As the end of 2021 approaches, here is my list of favorite places I’ve eaten in 2021. Some new, some old, but all worth it.
Let me start with Tori in Bandra. This Latin Asian restaurant is covered in Persian rugs, boasts a large outdoor space, guest list, and serves a mind-boggling fusion of South American and Southeast Asian cuisine. The flavors of Thailand and Peru are found in the form of sushi, sliders, dim sum, carpaccio and ceviche.
I always love outdoor places and have always complained that Mumbai doesn’t have too many open air restaurants where the food is good and the night is long. Perhaps it is Mumbai’s oppressive summer that is discouraging this. But, Kyma is a casual all-day bar and restaurant, with alfresco dining under cabanas and a gazebo, and with a menu of Mediterranean and Asian fare.
Salmon cream cheese and jalapeño sushi, Philly cheese dim sum, local-style chili chicken with Manteo steamed buns, fiery wonton nachos and lemongrass creme brulee for dessert , go great with a drink in one hand and a loved one in the other arm.
Mag Street Cafe
One of my favorite restaurateurs, Gauri Devidayal, whose Colaba The Table restaurant is one of the best restaurants in Mumbai, pioneered Magazine Street Kitchen, the city’s first experimental cooking space in the old quarter. from the docks of Mumbai. As a tribute to the great work done there, she opened Mag St. Café, in a quaint and familiar location on an alleyway in Colaba.
A locking project, Mag St. Café is easygoing, laid-back, and stylish with a menu that resonates with exactly the same attitude. Crispy breads, custom-made pizzas, Asian curries, salads, gourmet sandwiches, smoothies and excellent coffees and desserts.
From Levantine cuisines from Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Persia and Georgia, to the St. Regis, Mumbai boasting of Mediterranean and Arabic specialties is Sette Mara. There’s ‘The Cold Kitchen’ and ‘The Hot Kitchen’, from which emerge crunchy salads, traditional mezzes like Beiruti hummus with paprika, parsley and grilled cumin, and Phenicia hummus with pine nuts, avocado and Z’atar. and succulent muhammarah, labné, talatouri.
Kachapuri, a classic Georgian cheese bread in the shape of a boat with a variety of fillings. Large plates like whole sea bass with salt, Israeli couscous and mousaka. And then the centuries-old oriental charcoal grill foods like charred baby eggplants, roasted Z’atar spatchcock, joojeh kababs and other wonderful charred meats.
Speaking of which, I discovered Zima at Bandra online and never stopped ordering from them. It is also a Mediterranean place. It’s a good price and the food is great. My favorite is their lemon lentil soup and crunchy lettuce Fattouch with tomato, purslane radish and fresh vinaigrette, hummus bil lahm, a creamy hummus with sautéed small pieces of loin and pine nuts, and my absolute favorite, the kafta. lahm, a ground lamb, kabab with onion and parsley and shrimp with dynamite.
Blast If He Braids You
It is almost impossible to find good French food in Mumbai, then I discovered Souffle Please. It’s been there for a while, but I just haven’t decided to go.
At good old Churchgate, the so familiar street we all grew up on eating, a sparkling and cheerful interior space as well as sidewalk seating, a well-lit and well-stocked bar, with glittering art deco chandeliers. Young chef Vidit Aren creates intense and meaty French onion soups, chicken liver parfaits, oven-baked cheese soufflés, rolls with organic raw honey roasts, duck confit, sea bass à la Marseille and steak fries. The piece de resistance is of course the final, the dessert. Fine rum baba, wet and watered.
These are just a few of the highlights of my favorite meals in 2021. You might notice that I haven’t mentioned any Indian or Chinese places. It is simply because no Indian or Chinese place has hit for me this year.
But I have hopes; hope we take it and the food too. So, all the best, a Happy New Year and may you still be hungry for some great food. Happy New Year and Happy Apeptite.
Kunal Vijayakar is a Mumbai-based food writer. He tweets @kunalvijayakar and can be followed on Instagram @kunalvijayakar. His YouTube channel is called Khaane Mein Kya Hai. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.
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