At Lemon Leaf, you get the feeling you stepped off a Colaba street into a Bandra bistro. The decor is the kind that we have seen in the suburb’s earnestly hip little places for young people who want an evening out without spending much. Packed bookshelves become a canvas for graffiti and murals, framed by bright blue walls. The upholstery is a palette of muted brights. Alongside our table, carelessly arranged and artfully lit, were cute but not-quite-functional tchotchkes, and books that no diner will ever pick up. Apart from the staircase leading upstairs, there is little else to evoke Busaba, the previous bar and pan-Asian restaurant.
Lemon is brighter, more comfortable, warmer, and prettier. Its third location (after Bandra and Andheri) has a unique menu – Asian tapas, grills, sushi, dim sum, soups, baos, curries, and meals in bowls.
There is room for buttery, silky, deeply smoky shiitake and scallion tortellini in a pool of lush miso-wakame broth, which would have been perfect if it had less salt. This loose interpretation of pan-Asian also allows for a burrata bomb salad, in which a thin layer of cucumber slices is topped with a couple of spoons of weak kimchi and a frozen pouch of cheese.
Featured alongside is confused service. Servers who told us that the cheese is crumb-fried and therefore melting inside, changed their minds after the dish was served. Then they serendipitously brought us a competent, brightly seasoned tuna tataki, instead of the tuna poke we called for (which turned out to be somehow mushy and dry at once). There are two good things about the salmon sushi roll with chives, cucumber, dill and cream cheese: it’s Rs 300 only for a small plate and four pieces is quite enough.
Until Lemon gets its licence, the Twinkling Reef with pineapple, mint, rosemary, and pepper gomme is a refreshing, nuanced, not-too-sugary bet. Later, it might even work with a touch of rum. When the food is uncomplicated, it’s tasty. The house special chicken wings are delicious. We couldn’t tell what was Korean about our fried rice, but it did its job of accompanying a soy- and chilli-laced aubergine, lotus root and water chestnut stew. For dessert, we picked an ice cream sampler with jackfruit, beetroot, sesame and honey, three of five available flavours. The jackfruit was most assertive, with the beet providing mainly colour, and the sesame more milky than nutty. Here is what makes it all sweet: when the bill arrives, you get the feeling you’re still in Bandra, spending an evening out without spending much.
(HT pays for all meals and reviews anonymously)
What: Lemon Leaf
Rating: 3 / 5
Where: 4, Mandlik Road, near Indigo, behind Taj Mahal Hotel, Colaba
When: Noon to 1 am
Cost: About Rs 1,800 for a meal for two