If you have tried Vietnamese food before, you know how extraordinarily delicious it is. It looks simple, but is full of complex flavours and textures that’s hard to replicate. Perhaps, the reason why we don’t have enough standalone Vietnamese restaurants in Mumbai. With a plethora of Chinese and Japanese restaurants in in the city, good or bad, it’s evident that the focus on East Asian food is far more than Southeast Asian food. Yes, some pan-Asian eateries do have pho on their menu, and that’s about it. So, breaking the mould, a new Vietnamese-inspired restaurant, Plural, opened a year ago. Knowing that they recently introduced a new menu turned my appetite into a ferocious monster.
And since meat and seafood make up the lion's share of the Vietnamese palate, we were curious what led to a vegetarian restaurant. Vedant K Shah, founder of Plural, explains, “Plural has an environmentally conscious and sustainable ethos. Our entire idea is to highlight and showcase the fact that if you treat vegetables in the right manner, you can really make them shine. What we do is we take vegetables and other proteins, including tofu, and infuse and inject Vietnamese and other Southeast Asian flavour profiles into them, that way maintaining authenticity.”
When you step into Plural, it almost feels like you’re walking into a Vietnamese home. With elements such as rattan, terracotta and textured wallpapers, the place exudes the perfect boho chic aesthetic and has a refreshing vibe to it.
If savoury drinks are your thing, we highly recommend The Shroomster - a delightful concoction of Woodburn's whiskey, shitake cordial, sesame orgeat, truffle oil and mushroom dust. The mushroom dust is made with the trimmings of mushrooms. If you’re a gin person, go for their Simple As - a refreshing mix of gin, lemongrass cordial and basil. Since coffee-based cocktails are the flavour of the season, you can’t miss their Spiked Vietnamese coffee - a great infusion of cafe rum, condensed milk, and coffee. All that is great, but what makes their cocktail menu special is the fact that it highly lends itself to sustainability and it utilises the same ingredients that are used in the kitchen.
Shah elaborates, “One of the primary things that we do is, of course, to adhere to sustainability. We try to keep a closed loop between the kitchen and the bar. What that means is that a lot of the things that would have traditionally been discarded from the kitchen, including the rinds of citrus fruits or the trimmings of mushrooms or the pulps of certain other fruits, or even, let's say, the peels of our vegetable skins, all of them get reappropriated into the bar. To give you an example, we make a citrus cordial out of the spent rinds of all citrus fruits. We make celery and root vegetable dust from all the peelings of the vegetable skin that go into our tequila-based cocktail. We also make guava leather where they combine guava pulp and beetroot juice and dehydrate it in the oven.”
When you see a bibimbap on a Southeast Asian-inspired food menu, you know it’s very much a place of contradictions. Let’s pretend we overlooked that. We started with munching on crispy and addictive lotus root chips that’s coated and dry rubbed with their in-house powder which is a mix of peri-peri, five spices and chilli paste that pairs well with the cocktails. Next, we sampled the aromatic lemongrass soup with exotic veggies and dumplings with a chilli oil drizzle. Then we tried the tempeh baos. Tempeh is, of course, an acquired taste. Personally, not a fan of fermented soybeans but it tasted otherworldly. “We marinate the tempeh in fragrant chilli and pan-sear to give it a nice little smoky flavour, and then we stuff them in steamed bao. On top, we add some fried leeks just for some crunch and then to round it off and balance it we add citrus and coriander salsa,” explains Shah.
The spinach and water chestnut dim sums tasted decent. But then, what I was waiting for was the perfect bowl of pho, which is a rare find. Well, while there was no compromise on the quality of ingredients which included mushroom medley, five spiced tofu and fresh herbs, it struggled to bring the broth to life. It wasn’t as flavoursome and joyful as I expected it to be. Next up was mushroom banh mi - baguette sandwiched with vegan pate, roasted portobello, broccoli florets, red peppers, pickled onion, and spicy honey peanut sauces. The baguette was extraordinarily rock hard, which again was quite disappointing. But their rice paper rolling skill is on point so do try their summer rolls stuffed with seasonal veggies that come with a zingy nuoc cham dip. For sweet endings, they have a vegan chocolate mousse, namelaka and a sugar-free cheesecake. Skip them all.
Are we going back to Plural? For a bowl of pho, no! But definitely for the lotus root chips, tempeh baos, summer rolls, Vietnamese spiked coffee and shroomster.
Address: Jai Hind Building, Nanik Motwani Marg, Kala Ghoda, Fort, Mumbai
Cost for two: Rs 3,000