”I have a great love for cuisine, so I’m always interested in local food, and there are so many interesting dishes, spices and ingredients in India.” – Romain Grosjean
Such is the effect of globalization and modernization on our lifestyle that the traditional Indian cuisine with its diverse regional food preparations are gradually lost and forgotten with time. In order to tackle this problem, many restaurants adopted progressive/modern Indian cuisine as a savior – promising to revive the rich and vivid flavours of the long forgotten rustic Indian spices and flavours and to recreate traditional and regional Indian dishes while simultaneously adapting to the changing trends in the modern food culture. However, the modern methods of cooking (LPG, microwaves, etc) could definitely never match up to the arduous traditional methods of cooking (using charcoal, wood, mortar pestle, silvatta, sandpits, etc.) – failing to bring out the flavours that effectively evoke nostalgia amongst the diners. Arth, a merely 4-month old restaurant located in a quiet by-lane in Khar, is all set to revolutionize the Mumbai food scene by going back to those basics!
Having spent a lot of time travelling around the country, the head chef Amninder Sandhu takes inspiration from the home-style cooking she learnt in the local households in remote villages in Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, etc. apart from also sourcing certain key and unique ingredients from such regions for the cuisine that Arth is all set to offer. Arth (Hindi for meaning) by Aalia hospitality, signifies a sense of fulfillment or creative satisfaction – one of the four basic principles in life. This is the only restaurant that uses no gas at all – uses charcoal, wood fire, etc. for cooking and mortar pestle or silvatta for grinding ingredients – with a vision to bring out distinctive richer and deeper flavours as well as enhance the aroma and appearance of food.
Chef Amninder originally hails from Assam, where she also happened to run her own restaurant for 6 long years before shifting to Mumbai. In Mumbai, she formerly worked in Taj’s Masala Bar and has an experience of running 6 restaurants in Mumbai for Manas hospitality as well as designing the menus for well known restaurants like – A bar called life, Bastian, One street over, etc. She has won a National award by the ministry of tourism for the best lady chef in the country 2015 – that was awarded to her by Sumitra Mahajan, the speaker of Lok Sabha in 2016.
Elite is the word for the décor and ambience of Arth designed by none other than Gauri Khan! The ground floor houses the lounge with a huge, round community seating area in the centre for private parties and plenty of smaller tables and seating arrangements in the form of chairs and couches around; a long, well stocked bar counter on the other end of the hall; beautiful chandeliers, photo frames, mirrors, etc. and good music. The dining hall on the first floor emanates charm and elegance owing to the strategically placed wooden tables, well cushioned wooden chairs and comfortable couches and alluring lights. The open kitchen counter on the other side on the hall displays a large silvatta and plenty of stylish crockery and cutleries.
The Amuse bouche was a very interesting one – white chocolate balls covered in gleaming silver varq that revealed a tangy-sour, chatpata and peppery-spicy paani (reminiscent of that of gol-gappas) as we popped them into the mouth and gradually let the chocolate melt away. What a start to our meal!
Mutton Kakori Kebab
These flavourful, succulent, moist and absolutely tender kebabs revealing vivid smoky notes could effortlessly be cut through and melted in the mouth with such ease! The freshly stone-ground mint chutney drizzled over the onions served alongside was a delight to taste too, owing to its bright and slightly spicy flavour with just a touch of sweetness.
This was a homely and simple yet flavourful preparation of the buttery and otherwise delicate and sweet Bhetki. Tengamora further imparted an earthy and unique sourness to the mildly spiced and smoky marinade. The lemony and pungent aroma of the mejenga leaf used as garnish further accentuated the deliciousness of the dish by rendering it a deep savoury punch.
These were very well marinated, tender and robust mutton pieces with occasional charred specs further letting out mesmerizing smoky notes. The piquant red chilli and garlic chutney served alongside was again a treat owing to the mellow pungent tones and delicate nutty flavour of garlic in every bite.
These were absolutely succulent, meaty, perfectly spiced and rich; served with a lip smacking and full-flavoured toasted sesame and yogurt chutney.
Chicken Potli Kebab
While the butter paper parcel revealed a delicate nutty and sweet-ish flavour (owing to the pistachios and plum in the preparation) with faint smoky notes, this preparation lacked moisture – was a bit too dry instead, hence didn’t appeal much to me.
This was a simple yet delicious, rich and thoroughly appetizing preparation of delicate and tender white fleshy chunks of Pomfret in pleasantly sharp and mildly spicy green chutney gravy. The Ghavne (Konkani rice flour dosas for the uninitiated) served as an accompaniment, were absolutely soft, thin, lacy and melting-in-the-mouth.
The Badami Dum Aloo comprised of tiny pearl-like baby potatoes in thick, fragrant and creamy bright red coloured gravy with a slight tang. The Dahi Ki Khamiri Rotis served as accompaniments, were adequately fluffy and soft with crispier edges and pleasant smoky notes. They could also be manipulated into bite sized morsels with ease.
Bird In A Nest
The thick black sesame paste rendered the succulent chicken chunks a sweet-ish, roasted nutty flavour and deep earthy undertones with an edge of bitterness. The soft and juicy Idiyappam (South Indian style string hoppers) made of purple yam (instead of rice flour) revealed a mildly sweet and wine-like flavour and very well complemented the flavours of the chicken.
Grand Trunk Road
Murg Choley was a spicy, aromatic and flavoursome curry containing a combination of chickpeas and tender chicken chunks, garnished with onions. The Amritsari Kulchas were perfectly crisp on the outside revealing a soft, moist and spicy aloo stuffing within – a multi-textured and flavour-packed accompaniment that could again be torn into bite sized morsels quite effortlessly.
This was a mild, aromatic and flavourful preparation of long grained rice with a faintly sweet and warm herbal fragrance, all courtesy the aromatic spices. It was delicately and adequately spiced so as to render it a savoury taste and not make it excessively and unnecessarily spicy and the dum cooked mutton leg let out vivid smoky notes. The rice grains didn’t stick to each other – which was another good sign. While I could appreciate the flavours of coriander, cumin powder and chilli powder in the Burhani Raita served as an accompaniment, it missed out on the characteristic pungency of garlic.
These tiny, sweet cottage cheese dumplings in thick and creamy rabdi garnished with plenty of crunchy and nutty pistachio shavings rested on thick yet flaky and light-crunchy phyllo pastry beds. However, the thick phyllo pastry layers effectively took away from the delicate flavours of the angoori rabdi and overpowered the overall dish, in my opinion.
These crisp baked waffle cones were filled with fresh and ripe alphonso mango chunks and creamy-sweet yogurt. The combination of crunchy, creamy and chunky textures was definitely a hit in all its simplicity!
Tres Leches Cake
The Tres Leches here was more on the lines of a sponge cake with a dense whipped cream layer atop, resting in a pool of thick and sweet Rabdi – definitely having scope for improvement.
The crisp, crunchy and syrupy Jalebis (albeit their sugary overload) and the perfectly thick, creamy consistency and the right amount of sweetness of the Rabdi loaded with pistachios and rose petals, both ensured us a delectable treat!
The whisky based Long Islay Ice Tea let our wonderful smoky notes that definitely pleased the whisky aficionado in me. The Rozelle Fizz comprising of hibiscus tea, spiced rum and sparkling citrus was yet another refreshing and potent concoction. The thick and fruity-sweet Berry Without (mocktail) containing red berries and vanilla also packed a mesmerizingly strong licorice flavour of star anise in it.
While head chef Amninder’s proficiency and calibre ensured us an inimitable culinary joyride, her team – the usher, the attendants, bartenders and the kitchen-staff – all deserve an appreciation for being ever courteous, hospitable, kind and making it a memorable dining experience for us. My only advice to some of the team members would be that they could work a bit more on their confidence. Our attendant for the evening, Ms. Promila, deserves a special mention for regularly checking in at our table for feedback and patiently answering all our queries regarding the food.
If you are an ardent lover of Indian cuisine, a visit to Arth is a MUST, for they have so much to offer in terms of flavours from all across the country – flavours that are sure to warm the cockles of your heart and give you a sense of satisfaction.
Food Quality – 4.5/5
Food Quantity – 4/5
Ambience – 5/5
Service – 4.5/5