We didn’t realise what we had gotten ourselves into until we saw chef Kelvin Cheung bringing over the platter. It was stacked with a kilo of cooked crab tossed in a fiery red, sour and spicy Malaysian sambal sauce. Pulling out each piece from that towering pile was a bit like playing crab jenga. Diners at other tables stared; we didn’t care. We surrendered to our primal instincts and cracked, sucked and chewed; relishing each bite of sweet flesh hidden underneath layers of sambal.
At Bastian, named after Sebastian, the crab in Disney’s The Little Mermaid, not only is the food fantastic, but almost no stand-alone restaurant in Mumbai offers a comparable quality of fish.
The expansive place is filled with aquatic icons. An almost life-sized crocodile replica seems to float on the shimmering glass-tiled wall on which it’s mounted. The exposed brick walls; the soft bright lights and the wooden furniture give the place a warm and comfortable feel.
And that complements Cheung’s menu of sexed-up comfort food. We were recognised when we entered and Cheung supplemented our order with a few dishes he wanted us to taste.
Every dish was enchanting; the de-seeded rings of chilli brought just a hint of pungency to the salmon jalapeno; a light glaze of Korean gochujang sauce added sweetness and spice to the large, scored slices of calamari.
It’s not all about the fish. The butter wild mushrooms, a mix of shimeji, enoki, portobello and button, cooked only in butter and white wine, was full of flavour. We finished every mushroom and then wiped the platter clean mopping every drop of the sauce with pieces of a soft, giant sea salt pretzel.
Ordering from both the regular menu and the optional seafood market menu turned out to be a mistake. The market menu offers two choices: pick from prawns, snapper, mud crab and lobster, and one of six sauces for the kitchen to cook it in. We didn’t anticipate that the crab would be an extremely generous portion; enough to be a meal in itself. A couple at the next table ordered the snapper – it was the full fish.
The steamed mantou (Chinese buns) we ordered with the crab were plump and feather light, and the portion of fried mantou sent over by Cheung had a delightfully crisp skin with a soft centre.
For dessert there’s one option: seven types of cheesecake. We tried two; the earthy, Japanese-inspired sesame, and a sharp, tart but sweet, lemon cheesecake.
There were two minor disappointments, first, the Island of Martinique, a rum-based, orange-flavoured cocktail tasted like something an old Bandra uncle might make. And I was surprised that such a detail-focused restaurant didn’t have crab bibs; tucking napkins into our shirt collars didn’t cut it.
Bastian is well on its way to becoming an award-winning restaurant. Though slightly expensive, the portions and the quality more than justify the price.
WHERE: B1, Opposite National College, New Kamal Building, Linking Road, Bandra (W)
WHEN: 7 pm – 1 am. Mondays closed
COST: Rs 3,000 including a cocktail each
The author tweets at @chezantoine