Alan Yau, the original man behind Hakkasan, Yautcha, Princi et al, demonstrates it is possible to combine branding, a food concept and high-end luxury in a “chain” format and still retain impeccable quality and re-define a particular cuisine, viz: Cantonese cooking in the case of Hakkasan.
I digress slightly here to make a wider point, for I feel it is this dearth of high-end “proto-chain” restaurants (like Hakkasan) that makes Mumbai’s food scene so second-rate. Many 5-star hotel restaurants that import one or two talented chefs from overseas seem to be unable to replicate the fare on Indian terrain. From my own discussions with restaurateurs, it appears there is a constant desire to appease the local palette, a lack of well trained chefs versed in international cuisine and a genuine difficulty in sourcing high quality foreign ingredients, all of which make it difficult to serve up a fine food experience.
Hakkasan, in Bandra since 2011, suffers not one of these limitations. Many guests have noted the “sexy” interior, for which I could not find a more apt synonym. The marble tables and wooden lattice work are welcome features and stand in contrast to some rather shabby looking design in high end restaurants in the city. The exterior is somewhat less tantalising, being lodged on Waterfield Road next to a rather officious-looking branch of ICICI Bank, but I’m inclined to overlook this.The model (universal name for any of my dining partners) and I ordered 3 dishes: the steamed dim-sum basket, sweetcorn soup & braised aubergine stir-fry. The dim-sum basket was exquisite, a notable mention going to the rather wobby but delectable crystal dim sum. The sweetcorn soup, a rather humble dish, was again perfectly executed. Bearing no hallmarks of the gloopy, MSG, ridden affairs found at many low-grade Chinese restaurants, the soup was a perfect balance of the five elements of Chinese cookery.
The braised aubergine with Shanghai toban chilli sauce is worthy of acclaim. The aubergine was cooked in batons and slightly firm to the bite. Combined with the Toban sauce (a preparation of chilli, broadbeans, fermented soybeans and garlic) made for a satisfying and health dish. The quality of the crockery (rice bowls, cutlery) was also noteworthy.
On the drinks front, I have no particular recall or memory of the cocktail I ordered. I am informed there are 4 keys to a good cocktail: liquid, glassware, garnish, and ice and one thing I do remember is the use of whole ice cubes (rather strange in a cocktail). Is there some aversion to using crushed ice in Mumbai (refer to my other review at Mangi Fuori in Juhi).
A few extra touches – the complimentary gold CNY coin & the “CNY make-a-wish -reminded me of the extra mile Hakkasan has gone to make the dining experience memorable, and to adapt to the slightly more casual and less formal dining preferences in Mumbai.