Wednesday, June 27, 2007

a new experience in dining out







our son-in-law h took us and his parents out last week to one of his favourite restaurants in south mumbai.we were celebrating the arrival of 'ruhi' into our lives.the birth of our first grandchild. i had heard about this fancy place from our daughter l and how exotic it is. therefore, i looked forward to this visit with great excitement.

when i reached the restaurant a few minutes late,i found that they had all already occupied the best table on the first floor of 'busaba',the south asian restaurant. it specialises in vietnamese, thai,burmese and other east asian delicacies. 'busaba' means to enjoy or to have pleasure. it is also the name of a thai wildflower. and in thai it means woman. i was impressed with the entrance,chic and cozy lounge bar and a night club.cool interiors.and when you go up the staircase to the restaurant and take that everyone's favourite table, you can't believe you are in mumbai.this lovely private dining room towards the rear of the building with a wooden floor gives you a feeling of being in goa or bangalore. verdant surroundings.and a huge window giving you that picturesque view of the terrace and the greenery around.

we are not great restaurant goers.we are 'ghar ka khana' people.but l and h are.they go to the most exotic places with their friends and have a very good time.no wonder that we got vip treatment. from no one else but nikhil chib. the chef cum restaurateur in his mid thirty's who had a small tilak on his forehead.he has a formidable reputation and is known as the "momo moghul". we were introduced to him by h and after finding out that there were two vegetarians on the table he suggested some tibetan momos as starters.they were delicious. while we were debating on what we should be having for the main course,h ordered martinis and some french white wine. we had made a spirited beginning. i had a brief tete-a-tete with nikhil chib and even took his picture. a former wall street banker, after completing undergrad studies in the us,he decided that banking was not his cup of tea and came down to mumbai to pursue his passion. his father was aghast at his son's audacious decision and asked him whether he wanted to become a servant. servility,yes. to his culinary passion.

that was about ten to twelve years ago.located next to 'indigo', another famous restaurant on mandlik road in colaba,the present site was a ramshackle house when he bought it over.he has created a restaurant which is very pleasing to the eyes. and he can be justifiably proud of a long list of clientele who swear by the authenticity of his vietnamese food.that actually is his forte.the japanese and korean cuisine are also his specialities.we ordered fresh bean sprouts,vietnamese spring rolls, spinach with white rice cooked in vietnamese style. the taste was so fresh and unique that it struck me that this must be his "usp". his favourite though is the fish sauce. thais cannot live without it neither can he.he eats this dish as often as three times a day. like a friend of mine who is addicted to the korean kimchi. the finale was a huge chocolate cake thoughtfully placed before h to cut. the proud papa was thrilled.great ambience. and service with a smile is the motto of the staff.

we came out of 'busaba' around 11pm. it looked as if the gliterrati of mumbai had descended on mandlik road.the road was chockobloc with cars and the atmosphere was polluted with the deafening car horns. in an otherwise quite neighbourhood. a light shower added to the commotion.the best of cars,the most stylish men and ladies.it seemed it was an oscar awards night. and in sharp contrast there were the street beggars tugging at you for some alms.that was sad, very sad.and that hits you on the face. we spend thousands of rupees for a meal and right in front of you when you are coming out after a pleasurable evening, you come face to face with someone who has perhaps not eaten throughout the day. with a child in arms who might have only had mother's milk. mumbai is a city of sharp contrasts. and so is india. the disparity between the haves and havenots is shockingly huge. it is reality and we need to do something about it.

7 comments:

Lulu said...

hi appa,
loved reading your review of busaba. very colourful write-up indeed.
the food there is great. but i was also saddened by your last para as it made me think hard about the inequalities in our city. when my colleagues from abroad visit bombay for the first time they always ask me how i deal with the contrasts of the rich and poor on a daily basis in so many situations. and i tell them you become immune to it. but that it so sad. and we indeed need to start doing something other than just feeling bad.

gs said...

hi lulu
honestly,i am very flattered to get such comments from a foodie.it is a lovely place and we should be going there more often for the momos,spring rolls and the vietnamese stuff.
the last part of my blog on 'busaba'is disturbing.though i have been to quite a few such restaurants,the contrast was so glaring.indeed it causes a culture shock to foreigners.the solution is not simple.and i don't think that this problem has been addressed at all in a comprehensive manner.eradication of begging must be on top of the agenda for humanitarian reasons because they are both genuine as well as those who are exploited by goons.

Lotus Reads said...

I am a big fan of your restaurant reviews, gs, because you always given us that little "extra helping"...in this case it was the picture of Nikhil Chib and the tidbit on him leaving Wall Street to pursue his dream of becoming a restaurateur.

The place does sound terrific I will admit and I am particularly fascinated by the fact that they had Burmese food on the menu(Burma usually tends to be neglected).

And yes, Bombay is a city of contrasts...somehow the sight of the urban poor is so much more depressing and dispiriting than the poverty you see in the villages.

gs said...

hi lr
thanks for your comments.'busaba' is a place one would like to go.again and again.and nikhil chib tibetan momos are to die for.a veggie has limited choice but nikhil doesn't think so.i believe vietnamese crab is also a speciality here.
i go often to orissa,perhaps the poorest state in india.in terms of state gdp.but the richest perhaps if you consider its natural resources of iron ore and bauxite.i see a lot of poverty when i drive down.but it is not so obvious and glaring as it is in mumbai.

nikhil said...

thank you for your precious comments on busaba. i have been travelling all through asia for the last 15 years learning from chefs and books. food is very important in my life. i think it is important to perfect one dish rather than have a 100 dishes on your menu. please try our burmese kaukswe on the menu which is our signature dish. both veggies and non veggies can have fun with this interactive dish. you get a very wholesome coconut gravy with either veg, chicken,prawn or lamb and that is drizzled over some steaming noodles. then one adds condiments like fried garlic, spring onion, celery, fried onion, lime, chili, prawn pickle, coriander, etc. it is an age old recipe from my grand mother and really tasty. also to end the meal dont go without trying the chocolate fondant. it is a half done cake which oozes out once you break in ot it. we use a callebaut chocolate and it is a recipe i picked up in my training in france. bon appetit and see you soon at busaba. nikhil chib.

gs said...

hi nikhil:
many thanks for your suggestions.surely ,i will visit busaba soon and try your burmese kaukswe which sounds so very interesting and interactive? and how can one having a sweet tooth miss out the chocolate fondant? hope to see you in your restaurant and best wishes for the new year.
gopal

IDIL Bom said...

Valuable for information.. Is there any further reading you would recommend on this?

Sandra
<a href="http://www.cateringandallied.com/restaurants-in-mumbai/>Restaurants in South Mumbai</a>