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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

We’re constantly encountering mind-boggling delicacies from around the world, but TAG GourmART Kitchen in Lower Parel has a different story to tell. Khevna Pandit drops in to discover art on her plate

Every visit to Kamala City will introduce you to something new, even if it’s just new ways to lose your way. We made our way through the illuminated by-lanes of the old mill to find ourselves facing TAG in (surprisingly) almost no time. Situated amidst a few fierce competitors, the restaurant sits coolly, flaunting a quaint, two-storied space that may only draw your attention if you’re the kind who’s looking for respite from the loud, chaotic dining experience that surrounds it. We walked in on a lazy Friday evening, only to find ourselves standing in a roomy art gallery with a striking island bar in the centre.

An aesthetic appeal
Much to our surprise, the ground floor was more like a neat, blank canvas showcasing vibrant and monochromatic artwork. Upon closer observation, we learned that these paintings were created by students, and that TAG promotes student art. The gallery was a space made especially for busy days, so you can sip on some heady cocktails and browse through the art while awaiting a seat upstairs. Impressed already, we fervently trod upstairs (and passed by a beautiful vivacious flutter of ‘tags’ on the side wall) to a compact dining area. The thing you should know about TAG is that it has limited seating of barely eight to ten tables to ensure a quiet dining experience. And, we can easily see why that is the need of the hour. Apart from an extensive rack shelving casual aesthetics and light bulbs that hung gingerly from the ceiling, we were taken in by the colourful, transparent chairs lined up with the white tables.

Appearance matters
More so if it is linked with good food... And that’s exactly what chef Ranveer Brar had in mind with TAG. As his first foray, he wanted to bring forth an exquisite gourmet experience by curating dishes inspired by his tales of travel and days as a judge on the popular television cooking competition, MasterChef India. However, once you flip through the pages of the menu, you notice another conspicuous thing — TAG is an all-vegetarian restaurant. However, avid-meat eaters don’t have to wrinkle their noses, as TAG also promises to deliver vegetarian delicacies in a non-vegetarian guise, without compromising on the texture — and yes, you guessed it, the taste. We were keen to find out if it lived up to its promises, so we dug right in.

First up was a portion of Wild Mushroom French Onion Soup (Rs 250) and a Curry Laksa Soup (Rs 250). The wild mushroom soup was served with a three-cheese caramelised onion bao and buttermilk truffle foam. What made this soup a favourite was the subtle, almost non-existent onion flavour that wasn’t too overpowering and the soft and chewy bao. The Curry Laksa Soup had a delicious coconut zest and it came garnished with minimalistic vermicelli salad. We’d have called for a second helping of the mushroom soup had a serving of fresh mocktails not been delivered to our table at that second. The aforementioned mocktails included a glass of Coffee Sangria (Rs 225) and Bethy’s Cucumber and Basil Lemonade (Rs 225). The coffee sangria was a blend of ground coffee, water, orange and lemon slices and sugar, while the cucumber and basil mix was a refreshing cooler topped with crushed ice. The coffee sangria was strong with a pungent coffee essence and a hint of orange. And since I’m not particularly a coffee lover, the taste didn’t grow on me. However, if you happen to be someone in love with the caffeinated delight, this blend may just work for you.

Disguised delicacies 
A notable aspect about TAG is that it encourages tapas dishes — small portions that can be enjoyed by a single person. Keeping that in mind, we ordered the Watermelon Sashimi Salad (Rs 275). If you’re familiar with sashimi (a Japanese delicacy), you’ll know that it is prepared using fresh raw meat or fish cut into extremely thin slices. In a similar fashion, the watermelon salad comprises of thin slices of the fruit, with toasted sesame seeds and ginger-lemon ice added in and umami glaze drizzled on top. The slippery pieces may fool you into believing that it is, in fact, fish on your plate, but the fresh and fruity flavours say otherwise. On a humid summer evening, starting off with this salad would be ideal.

We then moved on to Mock Butter Chicken Ravioli (Rs 325), which was prepared using soy chicken tikkas in whole wheat pasta dough, with kale saag, methi tempura and makhni sauce. The soy tikkas were perfect — neither too chewy nor too moist — and the healthy makhni sauce and whole-wheat pasta dough ensured that your guilty indulgence won’t go overboard. We also tried the soft and tender Mushroom Galawat (Rs 350), which was Lucknowi-style galawat kebab with a hint of truffle, sour dough crostini and buttermilk lacchha, and the Kale Papdi Chaat (Rs 350). The succulent mushroom galawat was definitely a treat in every bite, but we especially loved the Kale Papdi Chaat, which had healthy and crispy kale fritters tossed in chaat. We gobbled down as many as possible before settling on a dessert option.

Sweet goodbyes
A neat and decadent White Sesame and Chocolate Pave (Rs 300) arrived on our plate. Prepared using orange chocolate mousselini, strawberry gel and nutella soil, the dessert was a melt-in-the-mouth treat for chocolate lovers (like me) who occasionally enjoy a good dollop of chocolate for dessert. While it didn’t seem like we ate too much, we were surprisingly satiated after licking every last drop of strawberry gel that was drizzled on our plate.

TAG’s idea of serving tapas-sized dishes is a revolution indeed, but it does come accompanied with slightly high prices that may give you a fright once they’re totalled up on the bill. Maybe it’s because of the MasterChef experience that TAG promises to deliver; maybe it’s because of the meticulous presentation that requires constant and painstaking effort. Whatever it is, we might have to save up a little to stop by for another casual visit. However, if you’re in the mood for regal five-star treatments on your plate, you should give TAG a shot. After all, we’d give almost anything to revive the beautiful fine dining tradition.

Where: Kamala City, Trade View Building, Near Gate 5, Lower Parel

Meal for two: Rs 1,800

Alcohol served: Yes (a pint of beer from Rs 440)

Contact: 24972424/ 8007620875

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