Pearl of the Orient is a restaurant of tremendous potential. Unfortunately, the folks at the Ambassador, have tried to match this eatery’s potential and have executed textbook “overkill”.

Open the menu of this eatery and you will find 20+ pages of food. Separate menus for Hunan, Sichuan, Beijing, HongKong, Thai, Japanese, etc. etc. etc. We all know that the broad descriptor of “chinese” food is about as accurate as “indian” food. It’s great that someone has attempted to break into the various cuisine styles. But, this is a bit too much! Everyone seems lost and confused by the mountain of options facing them. The saddest part is that the waiters seem intent on just selling standard fare – manchurian, sichuan veggies etc.

Having said this, the saving grace is the food. Not hugely authentic, but definitely not lacking in flavour, we recommend starting with the wonderful clear veg wonton soup. The wontons have the right amount of veggies in them and melt in your mouth. Order for 3-4 people and they will serve it in a large center-heated soup bowl – a relative rarity for vegetarians. If you prefer starters to soups, we would recommend either the sesame corn on toast or veg steamed dumplings.

For the main course, definitely have the hunan veggies and tofu in black bean sauce. Another good option is the Buddha’s delight, which is not the flat, cornflour mess served in most other restaurants. Delicate flavour for sure, but nicely done. Accompany this with either the sichuan style noodles or the mushroom pot rice.

For those in search of a more exotic meal, we would recommend the vegetarian sushi, including kappa maki. (cucumber rolls). Not very authentic, but not too bad either. The wasabi is very good and along with the pink ginger makes the sushi a nice side order. The lack of a miso soup means you cannot make this a true japanese meal, but don’t fret. The veg tempura (fried veggies in batter) are also very tasty.

There are limitless other options, but we will let you explore them and advise on any other picks from the jumbo menu card.

The ambience is really why most folks come to this place. It is South Bombay’s only rooftop revolving restaurant and what a view! It overlooks marine drive, and so gives you a bird’s eye view of the queen’s necklace and the Arabian sea. The place rotates at a pace which allows you to get atleast one sighting of the arabian sea, the queen’s necklace, brabourne stadium, the Taj hotel, Bombay High and Nariman point. But, dont worry – no need to hold on to your dishes – this isn’t that fast. The two times you are reminded that it revolves are when you step out of the stationary lift lobby and onto the seating area floor, and when you step back into the lift lobby. Watch out for the kids who love this “transition point” and make it their spot to jump back and forth!

My recco – Go here for dinner and with your special someone. Enjoy the best views in Bombay. As for the food, open any page and pick whatever you see. Do not try to surf through it – your head will spin!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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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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This is easily the best Thai restaurant in Bombay. We have been to Thai Pavilion at the President and Thai Banh in Bandra. Both are very very good. But, given the pricing and quality mixture, no other place fits the bill quite like Joss.

To be fair to Joss, they bring great food from all over South & South East Asia. They even have a decent spread from the Far East. Sri Lankan curries, Sushi and Burmese Khowsuey all figure on this menu and I am very confident that they are all top notch.

However, for the uninitiated, we would recommend you focus on the food from Thailand and Indonesia. Veg Thai Spring rolls and Tom Yum Soup are both great ways to get the meal underway. They also have a good green papaya salad – a must try for those who live spice.

For the main course, we would recommend Thai Green Curry or Penang Curry. The penang curry has a great peanut flavour and is something we would recommend. The Pahd Thai is also good though not the best. There is also a nice option to try the Thai fried rice with pineapples in it. For those who pooh-pooh cooked pineapples, try it!

But, for something truly unique try the Indonesian veg nasi goreng (fried rice). The flavour is quite different and gently fried oconut adds a nice touch to this dish.

Desserts are good and the staple fried banana with ice-cream is there. They also have some good pastries on offer.

Pricing is a little expensive, but the food is well worth the bill. Service is courteous and knowledgeable and can guide you through the many new dishes you should explore when you visit the latest 5-bone eatery profiled by the Hound.

My recco – Go for dinner and explore South East asian cuisine to the fullest. Don’t have anything you have heard of before! 

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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When we heard that the Hard Rock franchise was coming to Bombay, we knew we had to take a look. We have seen the cafes in Vegas, Bali, LA and so many other places. How would Bombay stack up?

This is quite simply the best Hard Rock in the world – for an Indian, anyway.

The setting is an old mill that has been repurposed. This means that we have 30/40-ft high ceilings with multiple levels of seating. The performance stage (meant for live gigs) is above the bar.

The attention to detail at this place is amazing. If you have to wait for a table, they give you an old LP cover of a famous old (60s/70s/80s) rock album, to act as a marker.  Now that’s cool!

The food here is surprisingly good. We would recommend you come here for the ambience, drinks and starters. They have a pretty decent Veg. burger, and its ideal for one person with a decent appetite. We would recommend the Santa Fe spring rolls – a great mexican/asian fusion dish. Also good is the Hard Rock Nachos.

There is a full bar and you get pretty much what you want. We recommend – cold beer! This is the HARD ROCK CAFE. You come here to listen to good – nay, great – rock music, have some snacks and snark down several tall beers. Period!

The reason why it’s the world’s best? In spite of being a few years old, its in impeccable condition, unlike the HRCs in Vegas etc which have become glorified dive bars. The version of rock plays to the Indian taste – Def Leppard, Deep Purple, Metallica, G’N’R, Bryan Adams and Aerosmith all get plenty of air time. You also get the best Indian rock bands playing live many days of the week.

My recco – Get your closest friends and head there now for a great evening of rock!

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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The ITC Sheraton group is known for the Bukhara and Dum Pukht. With such a pedigree of Indian food, would we dare to enter their Chinese joint?

You bet we would.

The Shanghai Club is easily the least marketed, least known 5-star chinese restaurant in Bombay. No one knows it exists and you get zero bragging rights by saying you dined there.

Its literally your last stop at the ITC Grand Central in Lower Parel. You walk all the way through the indian restaurant, meander past their glass-walled kitchens with buttery kababs and fluffy naans until the decor suddenly turns oriental. You cross the India-China border and there you are!

The ambience is very nice. Great lighting, good room between tables, lovely limitless tea. The cutlery gleams and the crockery has some quaint chinese design elements.

Your journey here has to start with the appetizers and for me, they stole the show. The dim sum is dead-on. Only one veggie option, but the steamed veggie dumplings are as good as anything you get in Singapore. Another nice starter are the crispy, chilly pepper vegetables. Just the right mix of spice and flavour.

We tried the Gong-bao veggies and the Ma Po Tofu. The tofu is silken and the sauce delicate though not as spicy as the original. The Gong-bao is a poor cousin of the real deal – Kung Pao is meant to be a fiery mixture of dried red chillies and peanuts. This fell short! The rices have decent options, though they lacked a pot rice option. We had the ginger peppers rice and it was nice.

The pricing is high, but not as high as you would expect.

TIP: By investing in an annual ITC Sheraton Plus Card you get great discounts on your meals (upto 50% off for a couple meal). If you like their food, worth coughing up the 6 grand.

Overall, a decent experience, but you could get better chinese elsewhere.

My recco – Worth a visit, if you are a regular to ITC for one of the expos. But, if you visit rarely try the indian place first.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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So we come to it finally. A 5-bone eatery. This place has it all – the food, the ambience, the beautiful people, live music, art – what else could one ask for?

The food at OOB is spectacular. You could possibly get better sizzlers or Fondue or pasta, but it would not taste as good. 🙂

With tons of options to choose from, its tough to pick. But thats why they pay me the piddly bucks. To start with, sample the wine and drinks menu. The Sangria is a standout as is the caipirinha. The beer and hard booze list is decent and the range of mocktails is robust. While they offer a decent collection of international wines, the domestic selection is probably their weakest point. No Sula wines on the list mean you dont get the Dindori Shiraz or Chenin Blanc.

The starters are delectable. I would recommend either the pesto crostini platter or the stuffed mushrooms. If you cant decide, order both! The list of salads is very good as well.

The main course is all about the bakes and sizzlers for me. There are some excellent pastas, but try one of the bakes instead – maybe the Veg Exotica. Nice cheese, without overwhelming the palate. In the sizzlers, the veg sizzler with barbeque sauce is my pick.

But the great thing about OOB is the ambience. A huge canvas canopy covers the large outdoor seating area. Kept cool by giant fans in the summer, there is a variety of seating from comfy chairs to floor seating. Take your pick. Live music is there most nights and there is even a small art gallery for you to browse through. This is one place which rocks at night and is the ultimate “chill pill” over lunch. So much so that it manages to attract everyone – bankers, housewifes, students, artists, media folk and even actors. Need i say more?

Well, I will. OOB is perfect for almost any occasion – working lunch, special parties etc. But the best idea would be to head here with your partner or some close friends. Get some food, drink and enjoy a meal the way you wish every meal could be.

My recco – A 5-boner means GO NOW!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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One of our first Indian restaurants named after the chef, Moshe’s is a great place to get some authentic mediterranean food.

Hidden behind an entrance of bamboos, which totally obscure the sign, and give it this quirky ambience which is so unique, this restaurant has fans all over Bombay. The wooden floors creak when you walk over them, even though they gleam with the dark polish which has been applied. The chairs have this modern look to them and the whole place looks wonderfully relaxed.

Ok, ok – but what about the food? Well, its awesome. Pastas which all seem freshly made in unique sauces, and freshly baked bread, as far as the eye can see. I recommend the Pesto pasta, which has just the right amount of roasted pine nuts in it, and resists the temptation to get too cheesy. Bruschetta and several types of Focaccia bread can be had with your pasta or salad. Another great dish which is soooo authentic is the fondue – and so many options here.

(TIP: Moshe’s is one of the few places in Bombay where you can buy Fondue cheese to use in the fondue-maker you have at home)

Dishes from Morocco including Tajine rotate in and out of the supplementary menu, which is written in chalk on a blackboard. For those who love desserts – sorry but I ain’t one of you – the range of choice seems limitless.

The veggie options are decent though not limitless, and the food is a bit pricey.

The nice thing? There is no pretence to the place. Moshe walks around the place most evenings. He is as much a Bombayite as the next bloke, and will give you tips on the best hidden menu dish to order. This is definitely one restuarant where you have plenty of options not listed in the printed menu card or on the blackboard. Ask and you will be happy you did!

My recco – Make it a long slow meal with friends. Order a couple of fondue, crack some jokes, sip some wine, and trade travel tips with the folks at the next table. Dont leave the cafe without a goodie bag full of bread and cheese, and a paunch worth bragging about!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Named after the famed 5-spice powder which is a key component of Chinese cooking, 5 Spice is practically an institution in Bandra, and Bombay as a whole.

This place toes an interesting line between conventional “Indian Chinese” cuisine and a more authentic hong kong-style. In the balance I would put it in the Indian Chinese boat, but with just a hint of the real deal.

The menu is loaded with veggie options. If  you were to start with a soup, I would recommend the Veg Wonton Soup which is done particularly well. Without introducing artificial spice, this mildly flavoured clearish soup allows the more subtle flavours to hold court. In appetizers, there are a few I could recommend. The corn cream melts like butter in your mouth and the accompanying mint sauce is stuff of legend now. Another good option is the veg fried wontons, which have enough stuffing to keep you engaged. My personal favourite remains the veg steamed wontons.

In the main course, you cannot go wrong with the burnt chilly fried rice. No place does it better! If you prefer a more subtle rice dish, go for the Veg Moon Fan. In noodles, I would probably say the Veg singapore noodles are the most flexible.

The main course dishes have many options, but the Tofu with Black Bean chilly sauce is a must-have. Another good dish is the Tsing Ho potatoes – a definite “Indian Chinese” dish, but a new one! If you want a mix of veggies, go for the Hot Wok.

The ambience is modern asian with nice even lighting. There could be more space between tables, but nobody’s perfect.

They recently upped prices and this prevents them from being a 5-bone eatery. But, I cant be too harsh. This is one place where you forgive them the price tag.

My recco – you must visit this place to experience the current home of Indian Chinese food in India. Dont save space for the desserts – pig out on starters and way more!

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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