Thai Pavilion, at Hotel President, is where you should go if your spouse and you entered a new phase of nuptial obligations and both of you are now breaking china on each other’s head. Pavilion has a calming air about it. And the Tom Yum Prawn Soup helps. It comes in a clay bowl which waiter Joe opens with a flourish to let out the flavours of the kafir lime, lemon grass and hint of the kha (the famous Thai rhizome). A word of caution: Joe, always on the lookout for a chink in your culinary armour, had asked with a glint in his eye whether we preferred bland, medium or spicy and we said, fortunately, medium. What he brought was very good and very spicy. Always ask for medium if you want spicy at Pavilion, or ask for spicy and call the fire brigade.
The piece de resistance is Pla Rad Prik, a crispy fish fried topped with a tangy sauce and flavoured with Thai herbs. It melts silly in your mouth. There’s some nice action to be had in Khao Prao (steamed rice) as well. Teamed with tenderloin cooked in the famous Thai red curry paste, the dish makes a terrific combination with rice.
The meat is remarkable for it doesn’t lodge in between your teeth. But Khap Prao should do the trick, really. Seal the relationship further with Tub Tim Grob, a lovely dessert. Tub Tim Grob is water chestnuts with slightly sweetened coconut milk. This cool, delicious dish feels like a caress and tastes like the tongue has finally found a resting place. The really nice thing about Tub Tim though is that its flavours stay with you long after the meal, like good memory. Ask your wife. On second thoughts, don’t. Just go home and lead a happy life.
Meal for two: Rs 2,500
Olive Bar and Kitchen
Olive Bar and Kitchen, Bandra, is done up in minimalist Mediterranean fashion. This is brunch time on Sunday and the not-so-young and the restless are atoning for the breakfast they slept through, with predatory vengeance.
The buffet is a bewildering spread of soups, appetisers, salads, grilled vegetables, bull’s-eyes, pastas and pates. These include chicken liver pate, lobster and dill mousse, pickled beetroot and orange salad and lemon char vegetables.
You hide your greed nicely and make two or three trips to the table and then order for the main course. The food at Olive is very good and very filling but it’s hard to remember the individual taste of the vast selection on offer. The main course is served on your table. But if you have an early evening flight to catch, place the order well in time. The cooking is painstaking and takes time and the service a little ambling. I asked for Grilled Kingfish Fillet and it turned out to be a happy choice. The fillet is marinated in romesco flavours, with leeks fondue, supplemented by seared spring onion caramel and saffron aioli. Its strong flavours help you nicely to make it vanish.
Brunch for two: Rs 2,000
A good time to drop in at Indigo, off Colaba Causeway, is just before one in the afternoon. It tends to attract well-to-do people, especially lone foreign women, after around half-past-one. Indigo is a rather minimalist restaurant. It has two long oblong dining rooms and a banquet hall done up in a settling rough-mud finish.
You wouldn’t have to wait long either. The service is quick. You think long and hard and finally ask for a ‘Hearty Summer Vegetables Green Minestrone’ soup with chicken and bacon to weigh it down. Before you said "Ha", the soup is on your table. The real surprise though is the soup itself: it is not hearty. In fact, it’s gravelly taste discourages you from anticipating the rest.
The rest of the meal is a risotto of lobster and black olive tapenade. The risotto of lobster is a preparation of rice and lobster in black olive oil. It looks like an interesting mess, and it’s steaming hot. Out of old habits, you asked for the dessert, a dark-and-white chocolate terrine. And was happy, gulletwise, to note that at a pinch, there’s a meal to be found in sweet things.
A two-course lunch, which includes soup, fish, chicken or steak, rounded off with a dessert, for two will cost you around Rs 1,500.
Zodiac Grill, Taj
This place makes you realise your are an imperfect being. It’s a pleasantly-lit place with the roof done in a startling blue.
We settled for Prawns Mille Feuille, for an appetiser, and Cajun Pomfret for the main course.
Prawns Mille Feuille is a dish of prawns set in layered crab meat and seasoned with horse radish, parsley oil and balsamic. The genie takes a little while to be conjured. But that time is easily suffered because of the Chardonnay, a good white wine to anticipate and go with sea food.
The wait for Prawns Mille Feuille is worth it. I had my first forkful and felt like standing up and saluting. The Cajun Pomfret is another monument to the aesthetics of hunger.
The pomfret is napped with cane pepper, paprika, rosemary, basil and thyme. The sauce is Beurreblanc. The fish makes you think genuinely wrong thoughts, like the world is after all a good place and that life can’t be such a bitch. How fine food lies.
A two-course meal for two at Zodiac costs around Rs 6,500
Golden Dragon, Taj
Long after you had a meal at the sombre Golden Dragon, Taj, you will remember with pleasure how the Yellow River Chicken Soup tugged at your tastebuds. This soup, with its dear and well-brought-up chicken flown in from Hong Kong, is an extremely reliable anti-depressant.
The sticky rice, with a topping of chicken and assorted mushrooms, comes as a bland dish and contrasts well with the tangy soup.
If your hunger is a little under control by now, provoke the juices again by asking for stir-fried prawns in multi-flavoured sauce. It’s the kind of food that makes you mean, and your companion will get to know the extent of your meanness from the number of prawns she gets to eat. The prawns are a medium-spicy dish, crisply flavoured. They also encourage you to prepare for the conclusive pleasures of the dessert. I asked for Darsan, which is noodles fried in honey and lying next to a scoop of ice-cream. You spoon the ice-cream over the noodles and let it melt over and sweeten your mouth into a tingling frenzy of hot and cold content.
Meal for two: Rs 2,500
C.P. Surendran is a poet. His new collection of poems, Canaries on the Moon, will be published soon.