Phone: 022 68490000, +91 7304586862
Address: 402, Ground Floor, World Crest, Tulsi Pipe Road, Lodha, Lower Parel, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Time: 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM, 6:30 PM – 1:00 AM
Meals for two: Rs. 2,700
Cuisines: European, Fast Food
Facilities: Full Bar Available, Serves Cocktails, Table booking recommended, Indoor Seating
Tantarra! Bring out the trumpets (or should we?). Trailblazer Rahul Akerkar returns! This brilliant biochemist-turned-chef-restaurateur made culinary history in 1999 by setting up Indigo, India’s first stand alone restaurant that gave five star hotel restaurants a run for their money. After decades of ruling the roost, it shut down. And in April this year, Rahul made a comeback with Qualia. Mixed reactions followed. Nonetheless, Qualia remained packed and overbooked. Will Rahul be able to live up to his own reputation? Will ‘Qualia’, which means ‘the quality of a sensory experience’ live up to its name, or will it be just ‘Kaalia’ (as in Sholay’s “tera kya hoga kaalia”)? In order to determine this, I dined and lunched here unannounced four times and, of course, paid my bills.
Qualia, Lower Parel, Mumbai: Decor
High-ceiling, handsome Qualia’s 100-foot-long glass facade to the street, floods the restaurant with natural light. Attention gets focused first on the unusual gold, chain-mail curtains, revealing and concealing the theater of the kitchen and rows of pickling jars. The long open kitchen runs parallel to the main seating area with it’s red leather banquettes. Chris Lee and Kapil Gupta ensure that the stage is set for the culinary drama to begin.
Qualia, Lower Parel, Mumbai: Food
Qualia has three identities or so I discovered through my systematic eating research. The sophisticated, high-end gourmet, cuisine agnostic one at dinner, the highly accessible eggs, tartines and pancakes at lunch, and the all day barbecue on Sunday. Common to them all is the sweetmeets-sour profile, something pickled in every dish, drink and dessert, which sparkles with bright acidity. We ate our way through a long list of dishes, impossible to share in this short space. Here’s a quick whiff! At dinner, for example, it’s the masterpiece of yellow Gazpacho in erotic union with sweet pickled melon and whipped feta. In contrast, at lunch, the Ode to Aibara Eggs bursts with flavors and textures — Rahul’s version of the Parsi ‘Bheedu pur eedu’. At dinner, Charred Pumpkin harmonizes with Bhavnagri chili, goats cheese and preserved lemon.
Crisp sage leaves top the Coimbatore pork chops in a cider cumin glaze with white beans and succulent candied tomatoes. Dinner menu bristles with Yellow fin Tuna Loin curry Leaf Avocado Pachadi, Grilled Octopus, with Goan Chorizo, Steak Tartare and a superb steak and more. At lunch, the avocado tartine, healthy, vegan cashew cheese, piled with micro greens and potato strings delights, as does the salmon version. Plenty for vegetarians in all menus.
Wine, Drinks, Bakery:
From 120 wine labels to a selection of healthy thirst quenchers made with fresh fruit and vegetables (ask for the yummy Power Track Juice), creative cocktails and mocktails delight. Superb bakery (can buy and take home bread, too) helmed by Pastry Chef Rachelle Andrade, who conjures light as air desserts and dense with flavor breads. Ask for the charred chocolate cake with its crunchy sesame ganache and brittle — if only the portion was bigger.
Some of the dishes (especially from the dinner menu) end up being a mere arrangement of ingredients with discordant notes. The garganelli pasta infused with cacao, the thick Napolitan pizza topped with steak and eggs sound better than they taste. Big prices for the small portions (dinner menu), especially desserts.
Pickling. Brining. Fermenting is as old as mankind. It’s been making recent global waves, too. I’m just back from a marathon dining trip in Copenhagen’s Noma, Geranium, 108, Amass, where many a pickled and fermented food pirouetted in many a dish. Rahul’s brilliant use of locally sourced Indian ingredients add currents and tides of flavour in each dish, in a few there is a tsunami with the danger of drowning.
Debates ensued about the authenticity of it all, but let’s not miss the point. At all times, there are highimpact flavours, exhilarating, vibrant and layered with a pickled starburst. Qualia’s food is accessible and comforting (at lunch), gourmet compositions (at dinner), all day barbecue (Sunday). That’s Rahul’s brilliant three-in-one masterstroke in the handsome high-ceiling restaurant. Kudos to his professional team (Chef Joshi, Bar Manager Shirke, Head Baker Andrade) and his family team of wife Malini, daughter Shaan and sister Avantika), who bustle around taking care of every detail. Qualia lives up to its name. Trumpets please!
Note: Live music on Wednesday, Saturday and all Sunday.