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Restaurant Review: Get Ready To Be Starstruck At Karan Johar's Restaurant, Neuma

The highly-anticipated restaurant by filmmaker Karan Johar is now open. Here is what we think of it.

Sayoni Bhaduri

For a Tuesday evening, the restaurant was packed and the hostess at the door had to turn quite a few of the Versace and Louboutin-clad patrons away. Recently opened, Neuma has big shoes to fill, and the excitement is palpable. After all, this was the little bungalow in the alleys of Colaba that catapulted Mumbai’s fine-dining scene to new heights, under the watchful eyes of legendary chef Rahul Akerkar and his restaurant, Indigo.

On the task are the folks of True Palate Café Pvt Ltd, who have partnered with Indian filmmaker Karan Johar and Bunty Sajdeh, CEO, Cornerstone Sport and Dharma Cornerstone Agency. They in turn got architect Ashiesh Shah to reimagine the space. Neuma is divided into separate, distinct spaces, each with a unique character. He has been inspired by the architecture of the bungalow that he has augmented art pieces and collectables gathered, over the years, from his travels. “An avid art collector and curator myself, I have always delved deeper into art and design and thoroughly enjoyed infusing this knowledge into my spaces,” Shah explains.

Décor drama

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As you arrive at the restaurant, you enter the outdoor Garden Café with a coffee bar on one side and a communal table on the other. You step inside and are awed by the oakwood sun porch area with a large skylight. This leads to a Courtyard, complete with classic black and white tiles, potted plants, moulding on wall panels. 

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Right beside the Courtyard is The Blanc, distinguished by the intimate seating and an extensive collection of curios. This takes you up to the private dining space, Verde. The staircase leading to the first floor is inspired by Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. “It was quite challenging, given the legacy of its predecessor. However, this only encouraged us to push the envelope and start thinking out of the box. One witnesses an infusion of colour, texture and form in Neuma where each space has a distinct character straying away from monotony, truly dynamic, offering the diner a series of delightful and unique experiences, much like creating a world within a world,” Shah explains.

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The one area that is hard to miss is the Rose Bar. A boudoir-esque space that we foresee converting into a clubbing space. The highlight décor feature here is the sculptural light fixture inspired by Anish Kapoor. With the use of red lights, velvet seating, tasselled cushions and roses - this room has all the drama that is stripped away from the other sections of the restaurant.

After meandering through all the various sections of Neuma, we found ourselves in the Rose Bar, seated at a table adjacent to celebrities. But our focus was clear—the food. The menu is a contemporary one and has the intention of highlighting fresh produce. It is precise and covers all its possible audiences—vegan, vegetarian, seafood lovers and meat-a-holics—with a mix of classic and comfort foods. Think avo toasts to lasagna and mac and cheese to cheesecake.

The main focus is to let the produce sing, a goal that executive chef Abhinav Sharma takes quite zealously. Neuma’s vegan menu has been designed by chef Rishim Sachdeva, who was at Olive Bar & Kitchen before moving to London to launch Tendril.

Tipple tales

After a quick conversation with the bar manager, we picked our tipples—Neuma’s take on a whisky sour, Isla Vu and sous vide dirty martini. Served in Nick and Nora glasses, the drinks looked every bit of posh as the location and equally delicate, but they packed in a punch. Neuma’s version of the martini is part of their batched cocktails, and it was savoury overload—most will find it overwhelming but for me, it was a martini to remember. Isla Vu balanced the permeating smoky characteristic of the Islay whisky with blended Scotch whisky and to add a new take to the classic cocktail.  

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The thoughtful and nuanced cocktails do not come as a surprise, since the bar programme was designed by Countertop India. Spearheaded by Arijit Bose, with Zac Abbott consulting Countertop India is considered one of India’s best-known bar and beverage companies. They’ve been behind the success of some of India’s best bars including Bar Tesouro in Goa. For Neuma, Bose and Abbott have focused on skill, sustainability and flavour.

Plates of deliciousness

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With our appetites tickled, we turned to chef Abhinav to recommend small plates we should pick, to which he responded by saying that we won’t be disappointed with any of them. We went with baked brie, New Zealand lamb chops and pan-seared scallops. Mumbai has seen a rise in the popularity of the old-school baked cheese dish. In Neuma’s case, it was a beautiful balance of salty and sweet proffered by the creamy and gooey cheese, and the rich earthy honey. The use of phyllo and parmesan may come across as unnecessary, but the former offers a textural crunch while the latter emboldens the overall cheesiness.

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The lamb chops were another success. Chops are marinated with a simple and classic mix of paprika, lemon juice and garlic, on which the sous vide weaves a web of pure culinary magic. The lamb chops are succulent and tender and seeped with the flavour of the marinade. These are served with a portion of scallion potatoes. 

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The third dish we dug into was the scallops, pan-seared perfectly to let the inherent sweetness of the mollusk shine. However, the use of moilee curry and tamarind quinoa with the drizzle of the herb oil didn’t seem to work as well as imagined on the menu. There was nothing wrong with any of the elements, but they just didn’t come together.

For our main course, chef Sharma recommended the snapper laksa and squash agnolotti. To our surprise, the agnolotti turned out to be a cracker of a dish. The sunset-hued stuffed pasta was made with butternut squash and filled with herb and feta cheese mix. The agnolotti came generously coated in a sauce that had just the right amount of tang and acidity to counter the richness of the cheese. The snapper laksa in comparison felt lacklustre, despite the beautiful flakey cook on the fish. But if you ever thought that bok choi is just another boring green thrown in for the sake of being a Southeast Asian ingredient—you must try chef Abhinav’s beautifully charred bok choi on the laksa. 

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The Philadelphia cheesecake with chocolate shortbread and chocolate soil, simply named chocolate cheesecake was rich and decadent and was a great conclusion to the meal at Neuma.

While we expect the elite and glitterati of Mumbai to be flocking Neuma on a regular basis, for us middle-class mortals it is the perfect date night and special occasion venue that will have a top of the mind recall. 

Where: 4, Mandlik Road, Apollo Bunder, Colaba, Mumbai – 400001 | Ph: 7031483333 and 7031493333

Hours: 12.30 pm to 1.30 am, Tuesday - Sunday (Dinner seating: 7 pm and 10.30 pm) | Mondays closed

Meal for two: Rs 5,000 approximately

Photo: Neuma
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