Some restaurants open to big hype and conjure up big expectations. Rarely do they actually match the hype with quality. Monza is yet another example of a restuarant with great hype and true potential, but that in the end fails to deliver.

Monza is located in the hub of central Bombay – Phoenix Mills. It has a nicely done contemporary chic decor with diffused lighting, dark wood paneling and nice tableware. The entrance to the restaurant passes by a huge plate glass window which shows the decent sized wine cellar & tasting room within. A great way to set the mood and create a niche, Monza gets full marks for ambience.

The food looks very interesting as well. Largely Italian, as the name would suggest, the chef has been creative and there are a few fusion dishes which introduce asian influences and spice to popular Italian dishes. Sadly, many other dishes simply fall in “no man’s land” – not authentic, and just not good fusion either. The bruschetta we started with is one such sample. What should be a nice balance of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil on a slice of a baguette, turns  out to be a bit too garlicky, and our plate seemed to have been spiced up. Normally a big fan of spice, the Hound did not like this creation at all. There was a daily special of mushrooms in herbs and olive oil and that was actually quite nice, allowing the delicate flavour of the herbs to come through.

The main course had a few good options. The Pesto Penne was cheesy and much more thick than the traditional genovese option. Very much similar to the Italian American interpretation of Pesto, which tends to favour cheese, it still makes for a tasty, albeit heavy, meal. The Penne Arrabiata is again an instance of the normally spicy tomato base being fired up even more. In this case, the Indianised interpretation seems to work quite well and the Hound gives this a thumbs up!

The real star of the show was the mushroom rissotto. Not too creamy, not too dry, and just perfectly mushroomy, this dish is a not-miss.

We had the Tiramisu for dessert, but the consistency was more that of cheesecake. The light marscapone cream seemed to be either missing or insufficiently whipped. The other desserts did not seem too appetizing either.

The wine cellar created much of the hype around Monza, and it was quite a disappointment. While many old world wines (wines from France, Italy, Germany) were present, they seemed to lack good representation from the New World (Australia, Chile). The lack of a good Riesling or Chianti was also immediately apparent. The Hound is a fan of Sula, and the lack of the full Sula bouquet also did not speak well of the sommelier.

The service was a big disappointment for a restaurant of this class. Slow and lacking creativity, the server had few recommendations and that will cost them one 1/2 bone.

Pricing was high and given the holes mentioned above, we do not believe they managed to justify the cost.

In the end, a nice place to soak in ambience, but Monza is not the best place for good Italian food in the city – not by a long shot!

My recco – Go to Monza for a light lunch or dinner. Try the rissotto, and expect the overall experience to be good but not exceptional.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Its always tough to review a chain restaurant and so we will talk about the one franchise we have visited most often. The one at Kala Ghoda, Rampart Row or Fort (depending on whom you speak to).

Bombay Blue has been around for years now and has its passionate fans. Its the place you take your friends to get a taste of pretty much every style of cuisine urban India enjoys. Chaat, Punjabi, Mediterranean, Sizzlers & Mexican – they all have their place in this joint. Multi-cuisine restaurants are typically “masters of none”. Blue does a decent job of maintaining authenticity, except in Mexican which is rubbish.

If I were you, I would stick to one of the Indian dishes or a sizzler for the main course. The appetizers have a wide range too, and here we would root for the onion rings. The correct amount of extra flavouring makes it a great start to the meal and easy enough to share. The Nachos were much hyped but the cheese seems canned and a bit too “readymade” for my taste.

The main course has several good dishes and the punjabi range is actually very good. No surprise, considering they share a kitchen with the legendary Copper Chimney. Try the black dal or the paneer butter masala and you will be very happy. The naan is also excellent.

But, this is Bombay Blue, not your regular Punju joint. You must do it their way – hence we recommend the Veg Mini Meal. Basically a thaali, with limited portions, but more than enough to fill most of us. Drinks to accompany can be anything ranging from a thums up(not coke) float to lassi to fresh lime soda. All are consistently good.

The service was very good for us. This is one thing on which I have heard (& read) mixed reviews. However, our server was excellent, knowledgeable & helpful. The speed was good and they were courteous, so we will not ding them for this.

The only downside is that this place has now become too successful for its own good. What used to be 2-3 restaurants across Bombay has grown to become a nationwide chain. With it has set in, what we call the “Mickey D effect”. Like McDonald’s, the food is consistent, and middle of the road. It neither excels nor does it suck. So, what was a great breath of fresh air and deserving of the early praise it earned, has now become India’s answer to the fast food chains of the US. Much like those places, families gather here in a place of familiarity and seek out their favourites.

So, for the lack of romance and the “element of surprise”, we dock one half bone for what used to be a fine 4 bone eatery.

My recco – Go with your family and enjoy the good variety and flavours, but don’t expect anything extraordinary.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Portuguese vegetarian food is a rarity – especially in Portugal. Its even more rare in the case of a restaurant with a colourful story behind it and famous for african bird’s eye chilly (peri-peri) chicken.

Nando’s has done a great job opening up in a quiet corner of normally super busy InOrbit Mall’s restaurant level.

The experience here is truly one of a kind and that goes some way to alleviate the lack of depth in vegetarian cuisine.

The options are there though. My pick would be the paneer espetada which is a kabab like dish served on a vertical skewer, using capsicums, onions and paneer. Take your pick of peri-peri sauce (which vary from mild to super hot) and the veggies are basted in the same. Yummy! You also get some nice rice to eat with it.

The other options include a vegetarian burger peri-peri style which isn’t too bad. At this point I should give mention of the fact that the 4 levels of spice in the peri-peri range are available on your table and you can spice up in case you wimped out while ordering.

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A nice range of side dishes including a portuguese salad add to the options. We recommend the corn on the cob with peri-peri sauce. The waiter did somewhat kill the romance of the exotic sounding “portuguese lemonade” by drily announcing that it was just lemonade with sprite poured in!

The ambience is nice and airy. There is a general feel of festivity and we definitely recommend a visit.

The location in a mall, near the food court kills a bit of ambience and so does the lack of vegetarian range. Overall, visit once for sure. After that, you take the call.

My recco – Visit with a small group of friends and order the espetada. Take in the exotic flavours of the sauces – a truly unique flavour.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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What I like best about this understated place is the unique cuisine. Ambience is minimal and service is polite and decent.

But what you really come here for is in the pursuit of decent mexican grub and palatable gourmet pizza. This place has a decent number of vegetarian option and a good start would be the Potato Macaroni Salad. Another good salad is the Fajita Salad (though not very authentic to its namesake – the Fajita). Be warned – sizes are modest for all dishes.

The pastas are ok, but skip to the thin crust pizzas. My fav is the spicy veg – a nice mix of authentic crust and indian flava on the top. They are very proud of their thin crust, so dont do a faux pas and ask for the cheesy stuffed crust. This ain’t Pizza Hut, buddy!

The must try section is the mexican food. They serve a good bean’n’ cheese taco. The hard shell is good, but go for the soft taco – yum! Another nice dish is the mushroom & corn burrito. If you want something lighter, the olive & jalapeno quesadilla rocks.

The rest of the menu is decent and the focaccia sandwiches are worth a shot.

The best part – its so damn affordable. I told my wife there is no way they stay in business. Two years later, I am so happy they proved me wrong. Where else would I get my taco fix?

My recco – Order some mexican food, pick a juice and have them deliver it at home. The place is small and their delivery times are good.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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A perfect cafe to sum up modern Bombay’s search for an oasis in the heart of the metropolis. A solid 8-ft high wall separates the outdoor seating from crowded, noisy Pali Naka in the heart of Bandra. On a good day (and I went on one such day), this wall has the effect of separating all cafe occupants from Bombay and the hustle-bustle. 

Basilico is a cafe with a contemporary feel & flavour. This is my second time here, and my wife had to give me a thousand assurances to get me through the swinging wooden gate. Our last experience had been very average – the food was average flavour, the ambience just a wee-bit pretentious and the price outrageous. We are spoilt for choice in Bandra, and a return visit seemed unlikely. 

What a difference a year makes. Full credit for the folks behind Basilico – they took the time to revamp their menu. The food is now much more flavourful. The prices more reasonable, though it remains a pricey meal. The service continues to be decent, and portions are healthy. 

The vegetarian options are many and varied. So kudos! We chose the Mustard potato skins and New Mezze 5 to start with. The potato skins were decent enough, and the varied ingredients seemed to go well together. A good start. The mezze 5 was a bit disappointing. The search for authentic mezze in Bombay continues. This fusion rendition of the mediterranean platter fails to deliver. The hummus is tasteless and the falafel are nothing to write home about. Adding in a very Indian chutney to this platter did little to rescue the dish. Very missable! 

The star was most definitely the main course. We had the Mushroom & Goat Cheese Cannelloni and it is yummy! The meld of flavours seems perfect and the hidden surprise of caramelized onions adds just the right amount of sweetness to this tangy dish. A thick tomato-based sauce acts as a good bed for the cannelloni themselves which were done to the correct consistency. This dish, in itself, will ensure that we come back here again.

The iced teas were so-so, but the ambience is now lively and yet laid back. The final damage was around Rs.500 per head, so it remains a pricey meal.

The hour and a half we spent there was relaxing and rejuvenating – exactly what ze doctor ordered.  A perfect place for dates, meetings, solo meals or a coffee break, Basilico seems to be finally living up to its billing.  

My recco – give it a try! 

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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