It’s hard to pick just seven names from among the many who have contributed to Mumbai’s burgeoning food scene, but our panelists- food writers and critics, Antoine Lewis, Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi and Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal- give it a shot.
Sanjeev Kapoor: The household name
Kapoor tops the listfor both Rushina and Antoine. “He’s responsible for bringing food into our homes through TV,” says the former, while Antoine insists “he’s the one-man middle-class housewives would love to have in their kitchen. The popularity of Khana Khazana (his first food show) influences home-cooked meals more than any personality in the country.” Kapoor worked in several kitchens until he became executive chef at Mumbai’s Hotel Centaur in 1992. “Then, I got the offer to host Khana Khazana and the rest is history,” he says with a smile. The chef is currently working on increasing the reach of his TV channel, Food Food, and is toying with the idea of going digital.
Rahul Akerkar: The game changer
The MD of Degustibus Hospitality — best known for his chain of Indigo restaurants and delis – is the only name on the list approved by all three critics.
Terming Indigo as Mumbai’s first standalone restaurant, Roshni opines that Akerkar continues to keep diners excited. Antoine adds, “His high standards have made him the benchmark for quality in the city.” Akerkar admits his current focus is on expanding Indigo to the rest of the country.
Tarla Dalal: The veggie crusader
A Padma Shri award, 170 cookbooks and over four million reasonably priced copies sold worldwide. No wonder Rushina picks Dalal, the only woman on the list. Antoine adds, “Her cookbooks are the first resource that young housewives will turn to when they want to expand their repertoire.”
And what does Dalal feel about her selection? “I’m proud that my work is being honoured, particularly because there aren’t many who cater solely to vegetarians.”
She’s also known to donate most of her earnings- a rarity in today’s times.
Riyaaz Amlani: The casual honcho
Ask Amlani what prompted him to open the first scene-changing outlet of Mocha at Churchgate and he replies, “I just wanted a place where I would love to go.” Sure enough, Mumbai took to Mocha quickly, and outlets were springing up everywhere. “No one has had more success in the casual dining space. He has a penchant for restaurants with a quirky design, yet accessible food,” claims Antoine. Roshni adds, “Ten years on, Smoke House Deli is Mocha’s 21st century, grown-up avatar.” Amlani is currently working on a new format for Mocha.
Kishor Bajaj: The new superpower
His is the newest name in the business. Bajaj’s KA Hospitality launched only in 2011, but it’s already responsible for two of the city’s most acclaimed restaurants, with one more on its way. “I’ve picked him for bringing Hakkasan and Yauatcha to India and making a success of them. His third property, a Mediterranean restaurant named Otto Infinito should be worth looking out for,” says Roshni.
Bajaj responds to the mention, saying, “I am new to this business. In my dining experiences, Hakkasan and Yauatcha remained my favourites. It’s exciting for me to bring these brands into our country.”
Ananda Solomon: The veteran
Rushina is bang-on when she credits Solomon “for introducing Mumbai to Thai cuisine and championing Konkan food.” His Thai Pavilion and Konkan Café, both at Vivanta by Taj, have set and maintained high standards since the day he launched them — in 1993 and 1999 respectively.
But when informed of his selection, Solomon says, “It’s impossible to believe there can be only seven. Food is consumed even in the form of a simple meal at home or paani puri at a street stall, prepared by a vendor who may be braving the rain,” he claims., adding, “I hope for other restaurants to be competitive. That pushes you to raise your level too.”
Farrokh Khambata: The trendsetter
Khambata was barely 24 when he set up his catering company, which Roshni describes as “counting people from India’s power list as clients.” Then in 2003, he opened Joss and introduced the city to khow suey. Joss popularised water chestnuts as an ingredient too. And after he opened his Spanish-Levantine restaurant, Amadeus, last year, several more are cropping up, including one helmed by a Michelin-starred chef. What’s next? “I’m on the verge of opening a pan-Asian restaurant in South Mumbai.”
burrp! – The online powerhouse
When it comes to deciding where they want to eat, most people turn to burrp! to find out which are the newest restaurants and which are closest to them. Often, people take a decision based on the user reviews on the site. Though competitors are pulling eyeballs away, the site, because of its extensive (though, not always accurate) database and compendium of reviews, still has a massive lead.