This is a plush luxurious eating experience.

Spices is located in the uber-upscale JW Marriott hotel which actually sits on Juhu beach. This killer eatery sets the mood from the get-go. It teased us in, with a long candle-lit corridor greeting us at the entrance. The walls are lined with silk cushions and there is a water channel on either side of the dark wood floor which forms the walkway.

The main seating area is soothingly lit and has ample spacing between tables. No need to jostle for space here. The dark wood and silk theme continues with the tables and apholstery, ensuring you are suitably inspired for the meal ahead.

The menu is actually quite diverse with good offerings from Japan, Thailand and China. We recommend focusing on the Japanese or Thai food. There is actually a Spices Sushi bar as well, and this emphasis on Japenese food continues with their Teppanyaki menu, with food prepared at the table. Teppanyaki is not vegetarian friendly and the server had only one tofu teppanyaki suggestion, which he seemed unconvinced with himself.

On the other hand, the sushi menu has quite a few vegetarian options, and the Kappa Maki (cucumber rolls) are actually excellent. The presentation is top notch, and the wasabi (green horse-radish paste) and ginger were fresh. There are very good avocado sushi and mixed veg sushi plates also available.

A good accompaniment is the miso soup, which is top notch. Probably the most famous, traditionally vegetarian japanese dish, this tofu based clear soup is delivered impeccably at Spices. Delicately flavoured it balances out the striking flavour of the wasabi, which I always tend to overdo anyway.

The piece de resistance was the Vegetarian Udon soup, which has thick meaty Udon noodles in a thin soya-flavoured broth. The authenticity of flavours is unmistakable and the chefs have resisted the urge to spice up this delicacy.

The Thai food has limited vegetarian options and we recommend asking the server to guide you through it. We had some wonderfully silken tofu red curry and veg thai fried rice. Both were pretty good. The highlight was the tofu itself which seemed freshly made.

The bill was high as expected in a top 5-star hotel’s restaurant. It seemed worth the hit – the ambience, the aromas and the flavours made for a singular experience. We give Spices a full 5 bones.

My recco – Go for dinner on a special occasion or for a “pick me up” meal. Pamper yourself in an authentic japanese or thai meal, just don’t have a bit of both!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Japanese food is the rage in Bombay and a number of high-end eateries have entered with the goal of servicing this demand. Origami, on the top floor of the upscale Atria Mall is one of the better ones.

Many people associate Japanese food with raw fish. The truth is that the Japanese like all their food fresh and well presented. The actual raw material includes many vegetarian staples and several dishes are meant to be vegetarian.

There are several courses in traditional japanese food, and Origami provides good veg dishes in all courses. We strongly recommend the veg sushi and mainly kappa maki (cucumber rolls). They also offer avocado rolls and other mixed veg rolls. The wasabi is sharp, the ginger is literally in the pink of health, and the soya sauce is Kikkoman – need I say more?

There is also the fried veg tempura which is served with an excellent tempura sauce. The veggies themselves could be better, however.

For the main course, we recommend the Veg Bento box. This delightfully presented dish, comes served in the compartments of a wooden shadow box. The edamame (steamed snow peas) was a pleasant surprise and was fresh and crisp.

Another couple good options include Tofu & miso steak and the Veggies in teriyaki sauce.

There are some good sake options, and the servers can assist you in making that decision. If undecided, you could always wash the food down with some icy Asahi beer.

The service is prompt and courteous and reasonably helpful. I only wish they stopped trying to push the thai dishes and recommending “spicy” dishes. The delicate flavours of the japanese food actually comes through very well.

The main downside is the astronomical pricing. Authentic Japanese food is still rare in Bombay, but this pricing still keeps it out of the reach of most.

My recco – Go here for a smart business lunch or dinner with someone close. This is an impressive experience all around.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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We love Thai food and so the premier Thai restaurant in Bandra is a place we visit occasionally.

Thai Ban is a quaintly decorated eatery located in the restaurant rich neighbourhood of Pali Naka. The smells in the restaurant conjure up images of a sumptuous treat to come, and it is not too far off the fact.

The appetizers and soups section is pretty decent and we recommend the Steamed Veg thai spring rolls and the Fried corn cakes. They have also recently introduced a Tofu & Bell pepper satay which is not bad, though not 100% authentic. The Tom Yum (fiery clear thai soup) and Tom Kha (coconut  milk soup) are decent without being spectacular.

For those in mood for something different, try the Spicy young papaya salad.

The main course at Thai Ban is very good in depth and authenticity. One of the few restaurants with a good vegetarian Masaman curry, you also get a good spicy green curry. We would recommend the Tao Hood Thod, which has fried tofu in a spicy and sour sauce. Its got a tangy flavour and the tofu is just perfectly succulent. Another favourite is the Pahd Kraw Prik Je (Veggies in chilly garlic basil sauce). Fresh thai basil makes this vegetable really flavourful. They have now introduced a “make your own main course” section and we would suggest trying the Kapprao sauce (which uses Thai bird chillies).

The rices and noodles are decent, and we would recommend the Thai fried rice. Have the non-spicy option. Thai food has many subtle spices and we recommend resisting the urge to just fire up the spice on all dishes. Your digestive system would probably thank you too! The traditional favourite – Pahd Thai noodles- is only ordinary and not the best in Bombay.

Thai Ban has very few tables and is always full for lunch. So, get here early or book in advance.

Tip: This is the best eatery in the area for a working lunch. Good ambience & food and it cannot get too crowded!

The one major negative with Thai Ban is the pricing. The food is very expensive, especially for an eatery of this category. Adding to this, the portions are woefully small. They recently upped their prices and so you can expect major damages on the bill.

Tip #2: Order home delivery from here. They don’t keep the 30 min standard delivery timeline, but they do give a 10% discount on home delivery.

My recco: Go for lunch and try multiple courses – appetizers + main course + rice/noodles.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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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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