How about a veg feast with strangers? | india | Hindustan Times
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How about a veg feast with strangers?

Two city expats introduce weekly underground supper club that brings together strangers over four-course meals, free-flowing banter.

india Updated: Mar 23, 2011 15:24 IST
Bhairavi Jhaveri
Bhairavi Jhaveri
Hindustan Times

Even though the city’s teeming with restaurants; casual, indoor dining with new people seems to be the popular choice for social gatherings. After Turning Tables, the city’s first underground kitchen that meant to bring together strangers over a fine-dining experience at someone’s home, Mumbai now gets its second underground kitchen with the Umami – an invite-only vegetarian supper club that takes place on a building terrace in Bandra’s Chuim village every Friday.

An initiative by two travellers, Toronto-based Rishaal L, 24, and Parisian Tatiana J, 27, the Umami supper club is named after the fifth basic taste, a synergy of the other four basic tastes. It brings like-minded individuals together over a vegetarian meal of Mediterranean, Thai, Italian or Mexican cuisines, or sometimes a crossover of these cuisines. The capacity of the club is restricted to 16 people, and invites are sent only to those the couple has met personally at the Farmer’s Market, where they set up a stall every week by the same name, and serve organic sandwiches and ‘pan-crepes’.

“We prefer people coming to our stall, interacting with us and then leaving their names and numbers behind, before we actually invite them to the club. This way we are familiar with who we are inviting for this very intimate experience,” explains self-taught chef Rishaal, who is an applied behavioural analyst by profession in Toronto.

The idea of a supper club started after Rishaal and Tatiana met each other while travelling in north India, where they cooked “homemade gnocchi in the middle of the mountains” for small travelling groups. Tatiana had always worked in the restaurant business in Paris and was looking to create a space where people could come and exchange ideas, and Rishaal was excited about having more people taste his food. So they converted a friend’s terrace into an inviting dining space by putting together three wooden tables, throwing in some low seating and hooking up some cosy lamps.

“We have arranged the tables in such a way that everybody can see and talk to each other at the party. Nobody should leave the party without knowing everyone present there. We want to encourage family dining — that’s the idea,” says Tatiana.

So a typical Umami evening sees people from different walks of life, some expats, some Indians, come together over Rishaal’s vegetarian specials like red pepper hummus, fresh homemade cream cheese and garlic bread, linguine with fresh basil arabiatta sauce, some cocktails, homemade dessert and lots of free-flowing banter.

Rishaal has always been experimenting in the kitchen at his home in Toronto, where he grew up a vegetarian. But that’s not the only reason he promotes this. He believes the future of food is vegetarian, and “it’s not as ‘cool’ to be non-vegetarian any more”.