The brothers Tham, Ryan and Keenan, have known how to draw in Mumbai’s diners and party people for a while. We first heard of the third-generation restaurateurs (grandpa Tham Mon Yiu founded Mandarin restaurant in Colaba, and was partner at Kamling) in 2008, when, with their dad Henry, they opened Henry Tham’s, replacing Mandarin. Tham’s served Mumbai nouvelle Chinese food in an elegant setting that shape shifted into a spirited bar and live music venue. In a report in Mint from that year, the brothers shared their future plans “to soon start restaurants in Mumbai’s suburbs, too.”
They did, recently with The Good Wife in BKC, after very successfully running Trilogy in Juhu for the years in between. With each property, they have identified the flavour of the season. So it is with KOKO, in burgeoning Kamala Mills Compound, where you might run into everyone, as we did: older relatives, much younger cousins, ex-colleagues, and friends from the far suburbs.
KOKO offers us a chance to eat modern Asian food, in a room with plenty of mood, from its astute interplay of light, texture and colour. A pool of warm light makes the island bar appear to float, one wall is a glowing jigsaw of Mahjong-style tiles, the upholstery and tabletops are delicious swathes of colour. The menu is a tour of East Asia, but few dishes have certain provenance. What we get instead are modern interpretations, both subtle and supreme, but always deeply flavourful.
A simple plate of batter-coated salt and pepper king mushrooms and water chestnuts is easy to put away in minutes. The batter is light, and the garlicky seasoning doesn’t divert from the fungi. The meat in king crab cheung fun is barely sweet with a silky, delightfully slithery wrapping. Tempted as we were to dip it into KOKO’s bowls of house sauces, we withheld the urge until we got to the chai poached dumplings, little pouches of perfectly cooked veggies in a warm spiced broth. Almost everything is a little saltier than it should be.
If, like us, you find it hard to pick between two unusual cocktails, choose an excellent spicy, sour, sweet, wildly aromatic rendition of tom yum made into a vodka cocktail, over the green maozi with white chocolate, citrus and some funk from broccoli juice. Another misstep is the crispy tatsu roll with avocado, crisps and togarashi sauce — it’s competently rolled, and the rice well-seasoned, but the flavours are muddled. On the other hand, everyone should get the edamame black rice with burnt garlic — it’s a torrent of textures, suffused with sweet aromatic allium. There is a curry or a main for every taste in the extensive menu — we picked Malaysian red curry with chicken, and it was the standard crowd-pleaser we expected it to be.
Desserts aren’t Asian. Texture of caramel sounds like an array of sweets, but is in fact, one compact cylinder of stacked hazelnut praline crumble, caramel, sea salt, cream, and milk chocolate mousse — split it with but one other person. The brothers Tham have got the mix right for our times, so KOKO is unsurprisingly already successful.
What: KOKO Asian Gastropub
Rating: 3.5 / 5
Where: C2, Trade World (around the corner from The Bombay Canteen), Senapati Bapat Road, Lower Parel
When: 7pm to 1am
Cost: About Rs 4,000 for a meal for two, with one drink each.
Call: 6105-3939, 6105-3999
(HT pays for all meals and events, and reviews anonymously)