Australian chef Matt Preston routinely terrorises amateur cooks and established gourmets into submission on his popular television show, MasterChef Australia. Recently in the city to promote the new season of his hit show, which airs on Star World, Preston agreed to put Mumbai’s Sweet Corn Chicken soups to the test.We sourced soups from across the city, looking to cover a variety of price points, finally settling on four that would do justice to the gastronomic gamut available here. We also made sure the soups were served in identical bowls with matching cutlery and no extra condiments, so that none would have an unfair advantage over the others. Presenting our competitors — Mahim's Taaza, Janata Bar and Restaurant and Royal China in Bandra and Shanghai Club at the ITC Grand Central, Lower Parel.
Taaza, Mahim Rs 50
Preston started with the soup from this popular family restaurant in Mahim, appreciating the look of the chicken. “The corn is very white, and you can see the egg in there. But the chicken is nicely shredded, and tastes very fresh,” he pointed out, adding, “The flavour of the chicken stock is very sweet.”
Janata Bar and Restaurant, Bandra (w) Rs 70
He then moved on to the soup that arrived from Janata, a well-known dive in Bandra’s Pali Naka, known more for its cheap liquor and fun ambience than its Chicken Sweet Corn soup. But having no idea of the soup’s origins, Preston said, “This has more seasoning and a far richer taste. You can taste the corn flavour, so the corn’s a bit more toasted.” Going in for a second bite, he added, “It’s nice to see some red meat as well as white meat in there. I just love the way it looks with those natural bits of chicken. I’d rate this high in terms of presentation.”
Royal China, Bandra (w) Rs 284
When stirring his soup from the posh Chinese food eatery, Preston admitted he wasn't impressed with its look. “It's a bit more broken up, you can't see the chicken bits in there,” he said. But a bite was enough to change his mind. He said, “It has more of a corn flavour, and it's not sweet at all."
Shanghai Club, ITC Grand Central, Lower Parel Rs 375 plus taxes
Finally, testing his tastebuds on the five-star quality offered to him by hospitality stalwarts at Lower Parel, Preston said, “It’s got a great nutty flavour, and is more intensely seasoned than the others.” But again, he was admittedly under whelmed by the presentation, given that he’d like to see healthier bits of chicken in his bowl.
Despite a difference of a few hundred rupees in their prices, the five-star ITC Grand Central only managed to score a half point extra over the decidedly downmarket dive, Janata. As a parting shot, Preston added, “If you have a sweet palate, then these two (Janata and Taaza) would be more appreciated. I have a few Indian friends in Australia who’d love these soups.”