What’s it About: Passionate Mumbai diners take it upon themselves to help you find the best places to eat. The fun part is that we are frequently invited by restaurants for reviews. We, Mumbai food bloggers experience the best and the worst of the food world thanks to PR agencies. Here is an account of one such experience and a brief low-down of some disastrous ones.
Mumbaikars love eating Pav Bhaji from a stall in Juhu that serves us diligently in the car, and don’t mind driving miles for Baghdadi’s massive and intimidating, giant Frisbee-like rotis dunked in chicken curry, and will pay the price for good food in those proud Hotels studded along the Mumbai coastline, sparkling in the city. I ate at two such sparkles of the city this week, and one of them was in Vetro at The Oberoi. (You can read about the other one here).
I love that feeling, when you enter a good luxury hotel, it makes you feel like a Queen (or a King) entering her palace. When tall darbaans with big moustaches push open the shiny glass doors, as you walk into the long corridors adorned with fresh flowers and through a spacious and elegantly furnished lobby where so many important people have walked, the feeling just perks you up. You don’t get this feeling in every luxury hotel, while some hotels take this experience for granted, others know how important and difficult it is to make a person feel special. The art of creating an experience began even before I entered the restaurant that we were to dine in. Every security guard wished me ‘Namaste!’, every staff member was gracious and directed me with a smile. Little things like this tell you, these people care.
As I entered the well lit, spacious restaurant I was greeted by the hostess and comfortably seated at my table, where I met the lady who had organized this #SMWBloggersLunch . When I say it was a bloggers’ lunch oftentimes it is taken for granted that the food, service and overall experience would have been great. I wish that was the case, but it’s so not true. Although many restaurants have managed to create a good experience and even made many of us loyal patrons, there are others that have (pardon my language) ‘screwed up big time’. If the food is bad, you cannot repair the experience, even at an organized event. If the service staff isn’t well trained, then the PR agency is rarely able to cover their faults. We, Mumbai Food Bloggers have eaten saltless, tasteless, chewy food, burnt food and there has also been an event where there was nearly no food for vegetarians at all!! This often happens in restaurants that are trying to repair a bad reputation by organising a bloggers’ event. So, don’t be deceived by this term ‘Bloggers’ Lunch’ because for every 5 bad meals, there comes a much deserved food experience like the one that follows.
I have stopped taking for granted that high priced meals in luxury hotels equals to great service and good food. Mumbai bloggers’ as a group have criticized and (pardon my language) bitched about a buffet organized by a reputed 5 Star Hotel chain during a Bloggers’ event. Watery curries and dried out and overcooked meat, is a thing well known to us even when eating at an event that is tailor made for appreciation. Just two days ago, I dined at another town-based luxury hotel and the food there was short of ordinary. So, my expectations from Vetro at The Oberoi Mumbai were more grounded than you would expect.
About the Wines
One thing that caught my sight at once in the Vetro menu was that they offer 1200 Italian wines. I saw the wine cellar and asked the gentleman giving us the tour, ‘It doesn’t seem like 1200 wines would fit in here’. He informed me that they store about 120 or so wines in the cellar, and the variety includes Indian, Italian, French, Spanish and even some American wines. The cheapest wines available in Vetro is Sula Brut which is close to 3000 rupees as on date, even so, the acidic aperitif Italian wine we tasted, Danzante was available in the same price range. On the other hand the 2004 Vintage wine Chevil Blanc was priced at a whooping one lakh thirty thousand, as on date. One thing that I did not know about Vintage Wines was that it is not necessary that the older the wine, the better, but particular batches from good wine years may be better than an older wine. For instance, a 2002 wine may be older but the 2004 Vintage wine batch is better, because it was a good wine year. After an hour and a half discussion about wines, and sampling some of their wines we moved on to the food.
Expat Chef Alexandro Stephoni, who has revised the Vetro menu could not meet us since he is currently in Italy. Instead Sous Chef Prashant took us through the menu that includes some classics such as tomato and mozzarella salad and minestrone and some unconventional options like vegetable terrine, chicken pie (not a regular pastry pie) and a baked onion stuffed with smoked aubergine. Just for reference, an average 3-course meal here would cost around Rs.3000 or above as on date. (Price-range mentioned in this article is specific to the date and subject to change).
The peco rino and cauliflower dip was a breath of fresh air, along with the garlicky tomato and basil dip we all love, which was served with ciabata that was slightly dry. What I really enjoyed was the salty parma ham with a fruity Spanish white wine called Milmanda. While the vegetarian terrine concept was interesting, if I were a vegetarian or egg-itarian I would most likely opt for a Minestrone or the 2 cheese fonduta soup with black truffle cream and soft poached eggs. The pork belly appetizer was moist, succulent, tender and honey brushed, everything you wish for in a pork belly. It was made with love and glazed with perfection. The seafood salad was sent from heaven, so fresh, it seemed as though the squids had jumped right into my plate from the sea. Served with garlic cream, the calamari, the prawn, the scallops were so perfectly tender, it was a second before they just disappeared in my mouth. Beautiful, beautiful texture!
Then came the pasta course, we sampled three of the pastas. The freshly made parmesan ravioli with celery cream and black truffle sauce, the Risotto with ‘nduja’ of Tuna, which was a raw tuna tartare steak with seafood risotto and the Lobster Tagliatelle. I would definitely go back to Vetro for the Tuna Risotto and the Parmesan Ravioli. The risotto in mascaporne cheese sauce was freshly simmered in a seafood stock and every grain was beautifully creamy, while the fennel and spices of the tuna steak were cutting the creaminess and bringing the dish together. The ravioli was freshly made and stuffed with cheese, served with black truffle cream, need I say more? Surprisingly, the tagliatelle, which has a spicy kick, is designed for the Indian palate but didn’t quite blow away my senses.
After the great appetisers and pasta course, the main course was a bit of a let down. We were pretty impressed and were waiting to be amazed by the pork and interestingly constructed chicken pie in Peroni beer sauce that is cooked in sous vide (modern vacuum cooking). While the pastry-less, leg and breast chicken pie was a little tough and dry, the flash cooked pork wasn’t flashy after all; although I did enjoy the lemon mash that came with it. In my like-it-or-not honest fashion, I promptly told Chef Prashant about the problem areas, the Ciabatta and the chicken pie. He seemed to take it pretty well.
If the French thought that gateaus and cakes are all about butter, the Itaians have proved them wrong with their Extra Virgin Olive Oil Chocolate cake with macerated orange flesh. This is a great find in the world of light desserts and cake lovers. It crumbled so well, and the freshness and flavor of the orange was unique, light and refreshing. Marvelous Olive Oil Chocolate Cake! The other desserts being mango panacotta, blueberry ice-cream (made in house) and tiramisu (mentioned in order of yumminess) were gorgeously delicious and hit the right spots but the Olive Oil Chocolate cake won it for me.
We felt pampered with great food, attentive service topped by a detailed conversation about the food and wines in Vetro is every foodie’s dream experience. It was mesmerizing to listen to Mr. Mohan talk about wines, his hair has greyed serving and learning about wines, he had so much valuable information to share with us, about drinking, making and even grading wines. I have worked in 5 Star properties and luxury hotels myself, but it is not often that you see such passion for work. Blogger or no blogger, food here is worth sampling, just for the love of food. I for one would definitely go back for the pork belly appetizer, the risotto and the Olive Oil Chocolate cake.
What Mumbai Food Bloggers Want
As Mumbai bloggers scout the city and continue the search for good food in every nook and corner of Mumbai, I believe every voice counts. While I enjoy the Reema’s humour in food criticism, Adarsh’s definite and brutally honest style cannot be missed, surprisingly he also happens to be one who finds bugs in food and tells us about it! Ashrita of caramel wings has a more casual and friendly style of writing while desh’s detailed food experiences can deeply involve you. As for me, I tend to empathize more having worked in Hotel kitchens and dealt with the challenges in an industrial kitchen. Having said that, while Mumbai bloggers do have a strong point of view and are not easy to impress, most of them have very good knowledge of their food, ingredients and even wines. What restaurants are yet to realize is that unlike a decade ago, diners are familiar with their wines, truffles and can even tell the difference between Parmesan and a Grana Padano. It is not only interesting to read the different, yet similar points of view of Mumbai diners, it is also a great way to track trends and preferences in the city’s dining patterns.