By Iki Tada
Be prepared to be amazed and amused in the new frontiers of gustation. Evolving from the Parisian bistros which made waves in the mid-Nineties and served up the term Bistronomy, we can now savor the home grown improved versions where the ingredient is King, pure, original, authentic, organic, seasonal, local.
Am in Mumbai for the weekend, and the last evening is dedicated to checking out the new bride that is the talk of the town, Masque. Lakshmi mills, once the buzzing cotton mill district stands as a soundless compound with narrow unlit lanes. Lost inside its maze, gazing twists and turns and non-lit sign boards, we arrive at the unobtrusive Masque.The high ceiling gives a sense of largeness to the space; industrial lighting dimly reflects on the hall with rosewood furniture and leather seating. The modern opulent interiors by Mumbai based architect Ashish Shah have brilliantly created depth with a form of space and design. Adjacent to the bright and buzzing copper bar stands a finely carved monolith that works as a waiting table for those with no reservations. The installation by Rathin Barman stands out subtly signifying the long lost golden era of the mills.
The experience was no less than an Opera, a synchronous harmony of aural, visual and emotional sensations that make for an evolved form of connection. Deciding what to order got simpler as Masque offers only two set menu’s to pick from, the 12 -course or the 6 – course.There is no à la carte. The dishes are a mix bag of modern French, Latin American, South East Asian and European inspired innovations. The menu changes every 10-12 days, so I will abstain from making any recommendations, as one may not get it on their next visit.
The first course was inside the white walled interiors of the kitchen, where we were welcomed in by the effervescent sous Chef Rahul. The 14 member team of chefs had created a carefully crafted degustation menu, which was akin to an art of visual and emotional story telling. Plating, crockery and tiling were tailor-made for each dish and were part of the narrative, same as the menu, which didn’t name a course but listed it as a collection of ingredients. The kitchen meticulously deployed different chefs to present each of the courses with varied elements.
Early in the lineup of the dozen courses was the Quadra-coloured carrot cornetto served on a bed of wheat. Next, thin crisp sweet potato chips served on a wooden log in splits with 2 different sauces followed by Root Vegetable broth flavoured with macadamia milk and kyle leaf oil to be had straight out of bowl for a seamless blend of all flavors.
Somewhere I lost track of the courses. We savoured the Pumpkin seed and flax seed sourdough bread, with 4 kinds of butters (black garlic butter, carrot butter, coco/chocolate butter with dry fudge grated on top and goats milk butter with Himalayan salt). The ‘tomato on ice’ was a scooped out whole tomato filled with mascarpone cheese, hint of pesto and vinegar called Kachampuli from Coorg. This is a potent souring juice concentrate from the fruit that is used in corgi pork, with caviar’s of tomato inside.
Duck Gnudi, the tender, gnocchi-like pasta dumplings made from ricotta instead of potatoes topped with butter base sauce, green peas and confit duck and provolone cheese. The creamy textured ricotta creations were light and flavorful. The Lamb shank, lamb breast cooked in milk for 7 hours with spices, fennel, cinnamon, bay leaf, ginger, had a nice robust smokey flavour, topped with fried lotus roots for the crunch. And Pork belly smoked in the urban pit Asian sake style with apple fermented in beer was juicy and moist inside and crunched on the edges.
The cocktail menu is inspired by ancient Ayurveda and draws upon five elements: Bhumi (earth), Jal (water), Agni (fire), Vayu (air) and Akash (void). The drinks are concocted with the help of a matrix of flavors from the masque’s botanical selection. While the drink philosophy holding a timeless narrative is very enchanting, the cocktails didn’t seem to impress much. We tried the Terra, a raw turmeric and Bombay sapphire gin and ginger tonic from the Bhumi section and Aqua Collins, a grey goose vodka based passion fruit, coconut spritzer, which didn’t bare the slightest hint of coconut.
Of the 12 course menu, the highlights of the dessert offering were the Rhubarb, used as garnish and made a granite out of with black pepper mouse at the bottom.The almond bake had pickled apples topped with almond crisp, almond milk ice cream and the scrupulous tiling of the petit fours: onion mouse, top macadamia nut milk cookie, sweet potato fudge with buckwheat flex sea salt on top and caramelised chocolate balls.
Good news for the new health-conscious gourmands as the Chefs are popularising the farm to fork concept in keeping with Masque’s spirit of Botanical Bistronomy. The practice of producing and sourcing of seasonal ingredients at farms and bringing diners fresh produce with locally infused flavors gives the overall dining experience a new upgrade. The experimental duo of Aditi Dugar and Kashmir born head chef Prateek,span the country’s length and breadth to source the ingredients they wished to serve. For instance, from Himachal Pradesh comes the Fiddlehead fern (from the asparagus family), cheese from Andhra, olive oil from Rajasthan, goat milk from Bangalore and herbs and other exotic greens grown in a polyhouse.
Go prepared to spend at least 2 to 3 hours for the 12-course dining. The price could burn a hole in the pocket, but the experience is well worth it.
Mon – Closed
Tue – 7:30 PM to 12 Midnight
Other days – 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM, 7:30 PM to 12 Midnight
Costs – (subject to change soon)
12 Course – INR 4500 + taxes
6 Course – INR 3200 + taxes
Unit 3, Laxmi Woollen Mills,
Shakti Mills Lane, Dr. E Moses Road,