Bombay Brasserie: does Dubai need another Indian restaurant?
Another new Indian restaurant opens in Dubai – does this town need one more? With the vibrant variety of Indian restaurants here – from low cost joints specialising in regional Indian fare, to good, smart Indian food and even some avant garde attempts – I do not see a gap that a new restaurant can fill. So can Bombay Brasserie offer anything new? I ponder over this question as I walk into the new Taj hotel in Business Bay.
On a Friday evening, my wife and I are ushered into Bombay Brasserie by a (non-Indian) hostess who joins her hands together and gushes out “namaste”. The first feeling I have as we walk past the open-plan kitchen is one of a large living room with cosy lounges and a dispersed sitting area strewn with colourful cushions. In the spirit of Taj’s signature hospitality, we are surrounded by smiling and welcoming faces.
The restaurant is (at the time of dining) less than a month into opening, and only the front section is open. I take a tour of the back, which is self contained with its own bar and seating that looks comfortably ethnic. We choose to sit on the side with unobstructed Burj Khalifa views – fairly imposing I would say – I wish the lights on the Burj were brighter tonight. Executive chef Jiten Joshi (the ex sous chef at Atmosphere) is on the floor inspecting every activity in the open-plan kitchen and is effortlessly switching roles between a leader and a contributor as he moves from one station to another.
We are told that the drinks menu is not yet ready but standard cocktails and drinks are available including good old Cobra beer. I have been screening the menu for a while and what strikes me is the Hindi nomenclature of the dishes – they do sound really exotic and one has to cross check with the English name to figure out that many of these are regular Indian fare dressed in very creative Hindi names.
The waitress, who is from Nepal and has trained with Taj in India, is very helpful and quickly registers that one of us is vegetarian, one is pescatarian and one does not handle spices well. Despite that, we have come with a demanding appetite and we do manage to order a wide cross section of the menu, particularly from the starters.
The tawa scallops marry a well balanced marination with a perfect sear, and a hint of signature Indian spices, without compromising the tender character of the scallops. A tomato lentil relish distracts my taste buds from an otherwise masterly dish. A chicken tikka is very different from classic fare with a smear of the famous Tellicherry peppers from south India and basil leaves. The gosht pasliyan arrives as minted lamb chops with a ground pepper coating – the presentation, yet again, is amazing and our French friends who we are dining with absolutely love this dish, polishing off every morsel despite some pepper burn on the palate. Bhatti subzi, which literally means vegetables from the oven, in this case has grilled asparagus with avocado. Visually brilliant and I must say that the asparagus’ taste is on point and is al dente but grilled avocado – I have never had it before, and I daresay some things are best eaten raw. Kurmani ki tikki is the most exotic vegetarian starter I have eaten in a long time – an apricot-filled potato cake with a yoghurt and tamarind relish – it gives my taste buds sensations that I have not felt in a while. The starters are an absolute pleasure to the visual and culinary senses and I just wish I had seen them longer before devouring them.
The main courses on the contrary are somewhat of a disappointment after navigating through the high standards set by the starters. They are really the most classic Indian dishes with the odd twist, but it’s these dishes that always get challenged most in terms of authenticity. The classic biryani, paneer and curries, for anyone who has eaten in a Taj restaurant in India, are absolutely stunning. To my taste buds, while the main courses here are not bad, they do need some work if the chef wants to make them memorable, like the starters.
Paneer sirka pyaz is regular Indian cottage cheese fare with some tanginess coming from the addition of pickled onions. The gosht biryani is visually appealing and fragrant, and our friends say that the mutton melts in their mouth. The prawn curry is typical coastal fare with a coconut-based gravy – the type that you will like mopping up with the roomali roti. In the hari mirch ka murg korma, the cashew paste is a bit heavy and numbs the taste of the spices, green chilli included, and chicken morsels. Among the Indian breads and parathas, I am impressed by a multi-grained roti, bringing healthy eating to Indian breads.
The desserts go some way in making up for any shortcomings with the mains. Delectable to look at, the khas malpua (cardamom syrup-soaked pancakes with carrot) should be slightly crunchy but it’s too soft, yet has a level of sweetness that I enjoy. The base of the rabri (reduced milk) finishes it so well. The anjeer ka shahi tukra (bread and fig pudding) combines a traditional shahi tukra taste with a twist through a caramelised fig and a chocolate swirl.
Compared to any other Taj in the world this is perhaps the most understated one, given it is being dressed up as a business hotel, tucked away behind the neighbourhood Choitrams. There is something nice and welcoming about Bombay Brasserie, and it does serve as a venue for a pleasant evening – but some work on the mains, particularly the vegetarian dishes will help improve the offering and make it a good contender in Dubai’s prolific Indian restaurant scene. Food is very well priced with a bill of just over AED 250 per person without alcohol. We are given a 25% discount on top of that as there is a long delay in serving coffee. Well handled. That delay aside, service is otherwise swift and the staff are gracious. So I am giving Bombay Brasserie an average 3 out of 5 FooDiva knives.
Do you think Dubai really needs another Indian restaurant?
Until next time,
Who is FooDiva’s guest reviewer? AK works as an investment banker in Dubai and is an avid gastronaut who thinks that a day without a good meal is a day wasted. He has travelled the world exploring culinary delights including a treasured dinner at El Bulli.