In 1994, a man of Punjabi origin was one of the first few to start an Italian eatery in suburban Mumbai. So, 25 years ago, if you walked into Alfredo’s, Juhu, you’d probably be served the same food that is served even today — rich, Italian delicacies. Their take on lasagnes and fettuccine are simply delectable. But today, as the restaurant went under the renovation knife, the owners of Alfredo’s are changing their success formula to include a little bit of Mediterranean dishes like baba ghanoush and even soft-shell tacos. Rishan Keer, son of owner Sarabjit Keer, who has recently joined his father in the business, says, “Alfredo’s has always been synonymous with your loaded pasta and cheesy pizzas, but we saw the trend of healthy eating picking up. So, we thought this would be the right time to incorporate salads. We have retained the Alfredo’s classics but added on dishes such as lamb kibbehs and meze platters.” Ask him why, and he says, “We asked what’s the next we could do with our menu. My mom (Anupreet) was instrumental in our decision. She loves to cook and had some recipes she wanted to incorporate into the restaurant’s menu.”
Numerous restaurants now scurry to cram global cuisines in the same menu as opposed to specialising in one. A three-course meal today, could range from appetizers such as momos to an entrée of pav bhaji and ending the meal with desserts like truffle or a side of hot gulab jamun. A mouthful of world cuisines is expected when you walk into most restaurants. Their menus lack monogamy and, instead, consist of a mixed bag of flavours, which is increasingly becoming quite a popular trend.
Even the local eateries down in the long winding roads of town have risen to fame on the back of varying dishes. For instance, Gondola in Pali Hill, Bandra, are known for their rendition of Chinese as well as their steak dinners. Similarly, British Brewing Company are known for their continental food, but you might also end up ordering a few of their spicy Indian curries. Taking cue from them, new menus have been conjured up like that of Toast and Tonic’s new menu — El Mundo, which now serves Pulled Lamb Tacos, and also, Spaghetti Cacio e Pepe.
Massaman Curry served with black rice at Shalom Bar & Kitchen, Chembur
Mimicry not mockery
Back in the kitchens of these multi-cuisine restaurants, there’s a storm brewing with many chefs sharing the plight of replicating global cuisines in a single menu. Derby at Bandra Kurla Complex and Lower Parel, serves Coastal Indian, Japanese, Chinese, South East Asian, European and Italian cuisines. But replicating half-a-dozen cuisines surely might be a Herculean task? “What becomes difficult sometimes is the training of staff with products like dim sums, sushi and specialised kebabs, but that is what we are hired to do,” says chef Mitesh Rangras.
When asked about the toughest cuisine to replicate for Indian palates, Shradha Bhansali, owner, Candy & Green, exclaims, ‘Thai!’, and most restaurateurs agree. She says, “It’s difficult to get good quality Thai Basil and most restaurants end up using Italian Basil instead.” Aniket Patil, culinary director at Shalom Bar and Kitchen, Chembur, says, “We make our own Thai curries and things like galangal, kaffir lime, pea aubergine are hard to source in the local market. So, dishes such as Masaman Curry are the most difficult to replicate.”
Honey Baked York Ham served at The Dining Room, Grand Hyatt, Goa
The familial way
Chefs agree that the curation of the menus is also done keeping in mind family preferences. The Dining Room at the Grand Hyatt, Goa, started off being a global cuisine restaurant from its very conception as it caters to its international as well as local customers. “Our menu includes a myriad of Goan food, along with Italian, Middle Eastern, American, Oriental, Mediterranean and Japanese cuisines,” says executive chef David. He adds, “When a family is dining together, the choices of the parents and the children are always different. While the children might want to enjoy their pizzas or an extra scoop of vanilla ice cream, the parents might like to explore local cuisines. A specialised cuisine restaurant will be able to serve just one of them. With so many variations in taste, a global cuisine restaurant becomes a need for family outings.”
Reiterating this, chef Mitesh says, “It’s more convenient. Not to say specialised restaurants don’t work anymore. People want experiences these days which a specialised place may not give. It’s more casual — more fun.”
We may have come a long way from those atypical menus. Now, one needn’t cross the Sahara desert just for a plate of couscous. A casual stroll down the streets of Mumbai would provide you with delicacies from desert lands and let you go for seconds like Beef Stroganoff, a specialty in frigid terrains.
(Inputs by Momin Faqi, brand chef at YOUnion)
Different world cuisines served at Candy & Green