While 2021 was undoubtedly a tough year for everyone it was extra challenging for chef and restaurateur Rahul Akerkar. Just about four days after the news of his restaurant Qualia being listed in the 50 Best Discovery List of the World’s Best Restaurants for 2021 was announced, the star chef had to close it down. The much celebrated restaurant in Lodha World One Towers in central Mumbai couldn’t survive the second Mumbai lockdown. But you can’t keep a good man down for too long. Akerkar is back with a premium dining space, this time in collaboration with corporate giant Aditya Birla Group.
Rustic but ravishing
If you were once wooed by the charm of Qualia you won’t be disappointed by Akerkar’s latest showstopper in Mumbai’s Worli area. Ode is a visually arresting space dressed in aged wood, grey concrete, sleek leather and decked up with a cloud like mesh chandelier. A lounge area by the bar greets you on arrival and leads to the main dining room with a large community table, tables of twos and fours, comfortable sofas and seating by the open kitchen. The vibe here is comfortable rather than seductive. A plant-laden, al fresco dining area will be open to diner from the first week of January.
Familiar food with a side of surprise
The name Ode is also a hint to the food here – a mix of Indian and European that Akerkar grew up eating. “I was raised by parents of mixed heritage and our food at home was an equal confluence of culinary traditions. Over the years, I have come to embrace that, and what you see today at Ode, is the continuing unfolding of that story. The food at Ode is western accented but pays homage to local flavours and ingredients. The flavours are familiar but layered with nuances that keep surprising the diner,” says Akerkar.
The familiar and novel come together beautifully in a cold starter of cucumber where the vegetable is smoked, charred and pickled before being laid on a bed of tangy kiwi salsa. The Jenga tower of flavours is topped with a sprinkling of peanut and garlic thecha reminiscent of the red chutney stuffed in a street side vada pav. Another starter of gougeres (a choux pastry) is served with a deliciously addictive tomato chutney. It’s easy to eat a 100 of these cheesy, light and ethereal puffs and not realise it. Still, all this is mere palate-tickling foreplay for the Apricot and Rum-Glazed Pork Ribs. Here the ribs are rested on a sauce made with khandeshi kala masala (a garam masala from the Maharashtra hinterland traditionally used to make meat curries) and bitter chocolate. If there’s a better, more meticulously put together plate of ribs in town, it hasn’t crossed my fork as yet.
The food at Ode is seasonal without being boring and creative without being an ego trip for the chef. A dish of charred cabbage is made sensational with a cider cumin glaze and burnt garlic raita. Then there is Cecamariti (sourdough pasta) under a duvet of a sauce made from local cheese, Assamese long pepper and charred Brussels sprouts. It’s salty and satisfying, with layers of depth and complexity. Dishes at Ode are more familiar than fussy and champion local produce. The menu also holds pizzas with all sorts of toppings that range from bacon to burrata, kachampuli-glazed eggplant and pickled Bhavnagri chillies. There’s a rotating menu of sides which includes oyster mushrooms, long beans, bitter greens, grilled broccoli and potatoes of the day.
The bar too doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries which leads to pleasant surprises such as goat cheese, balsamic, kokum, red bell peppers and tomatoes in your drink. The thing to have here, I learnt is the Bleating Russki – a joyful collision of vodka with goat cheese, cockscomb and strawberry. Thankfully the cocktail aren’t too sweet, instead allowing the booze to play a prominent role.
In an otherwise unblemished meal the only dent was the dessert. The cloyingly sweet, stickily caramelised tarte tatin (a classic French dessert made of apples or pear smothered in a buttery, flaky pastry) gave us a moment of pause. That is until the tangerine sorbet hit the table with its astutely sweet and refreshingly tart notes. The truth about Ode is, you either love it, or you haven’t been yet.
Where: Raheja Altimus, Gate no. 4, Worli, P.B. Marg, Mumbai
Timing: Lunch: 12:00 pm – 4:00 pm; Dinner: 7:00 pm – 1:00 am
Meal for two: INR 4,500 with drinks