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:

spices-oct307.jpg

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:

hardrockcafe-dec2107.jpg

The hippest lounge to open in Bombay in recent times, comes with a twist.

The food looks intriguing, though we did not try anything. The Patatas Bravas seemed the biggest surprise, and I would love it if someone tried it and wrote to us to tell us if it matches the Catalan original for authenticity. Hummus, fusion mediterranean and some asian fusion snacks are what you get to eat.

What you really come here for are the drinks and music. Live music every night on stage in a huge converted mill is a great concept. Even cooler – folks sit in “pods” rather than just at tables. You need to book these in advance. Each circular pod has unobstructed view to the stage and there seemed to be about 20-30 of these of various sizes. The walls of the pods change colour with the music and that adds to the lounge ambience.

The drinks looked innovative and we highly recommend the Thai Mojito. An asian rendition of the caribbean classic, it uses dark rum, chillies and coriander leaves to make a peppy, refreshing adaptation, which we really liked.

The music was great with Pune based DJ Ma Faiza lighting it up along with some dude on live saxophone. Great fusion there as well.

The energy overall is high, the prices are ok considering how hip this place is, and the ambience “one of a kind”. Definitely visit this place soon.

My recco – Book a pod, grab 4-5 close friends and spend the night having exotic drinks and grub at a fairly exotic lounge.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

bluefrog-jan0408.jpg

Easily the most authentic chinese meal we have enjoyed in Bombay, and a place with great ambience.

This restaurant is one with no lack of real-estate. Still, if I were you, I would book in advance and insist on a table outside. The outside seating has dimly lit pavilions over each table. There is a meandering pool filled with goldfish and small bridges to walk over. Its like a zen garden!

The inside area where we sat had its perks too. We got to see the whole kitchen and the chefs at work. My passable mandarin made me realise that the folks in charge were from China indeed. We saw them roll dumplings, make noodles and various other fancy dishes.

But let me get to the food. It was amazing. We started with a veg. dumpling soup which comes in a clay pot and is made for 2 people. Mushrooms with several different textures along with the aforementioned dumplings in a delicate clear soup. We followed this up with two main course items worth talking about.

The pan fried green beans are a rare delicacy and this is the best preparation we have had in India. Along with this, we tried the clay pot beancurd. Spicy and supported by shiitake mushrooms, bok choy and other veggies the dish is again a “best in class”.

We also had some fine freshly made rice noodles and steamed rice. The authenticity of the meal (and the flavours) were beyond compare.

I polished it down with a lychee caiprioska and we also had some nice jasmine tea. All excellent.

The waiters prevented us from over-ordering and the service was prompt without rushing us. The ambience was just perfect.

The only downside is probably the pricing. But, we do believe that when the food is not local, you often get what you pay for. We believe that the pricing is high, but we forget it in the flavours of the meal & the ambience.

The reward is a 5-bone rating for this authentic chinese oasis in the indian chinese desert out there.

My recco – Go for dinner, get a table outside and get ready to experience “real chinese” (Hunan, Cantonese style mainly) food.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

chinahouse-jan408.jpg

Going to places like Henry Tham’s shows you just how integrated Bombay is with the global party scene. A truly world-class ambience awaits you here.

Located a stone’s throw from the Gateway of India, Henry Tham’s is named after the owner/restaurateur who has given Bombay several excellent restaurants. It is definitely his piece de resistance.

This place serves authentic Cantonese style chinese cuisine as well as some great Japanese and South East Asian delicacies.

The Miso Soup here is very authentic and the delicate flavours of this vegetarian classic shine through nicely. Another nice starter are the sauteed mushrooms.

This is one restaurant where you feel at ease in the hands of your waiter. Let him/her guide you and you will get the best out of this experience. They have a wide range from the veggies in sambal sauce to the crispy vegetables cantonese style.

This is a restaurant where you don’t mind if they make you wait for the table. You see the ground floor is a top-class bar and the cocktails/mocktails are also a must-have. Live music is there most evenings and this ranges from rock to jazz.

The bar, lounge and dining areas all have the feel of a nice plush lounge. The lighting with tall glass floor lamps, strategic use of asian curios and contemporary decor makes for a unique look. If you are lucky, they will seat you at the tables with the high backs. Enough to make you feel like a king/queen, these plush thrones help set the mood for an evening to remember.

The one caveat – remember that kings & queens have money and you must expect to pay well for this experience. As with all upscale lounges, you will leave with your wallet a wee bit lighter.

My recco – Go with someone special + make reservations, but go early. Spend a while chilling at the lounge or bar and then head up to the dining area. Make it a long, slow evening!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

henrythams-sep14.jpg