The welcome drink in my hand, a bright little concoction that stars wasabi paste, is the same shade of pale mossy yellow-green as the vast swathe of mangroves stretching to the horizon in front of me. We’re at Vikhroli, on Mumbai’s eastern shoreline, and inside the Godrej development called The Trees. Nonya is the new pan-Asian restaurant at the recently opened Taj The Trees, a 151-key five-star hotel that’s already become quite popular with Mumbai residents looking for a luxe weekend staycation as well as corporate clients visiting in the week.
Cosy yet spacious (it actually seats 101!), Nonya has room for a live kitchen, a sushi theatre, and a large al fresco bar area. Glam deco interiors — think warm wood, teal velvet, glazed glass, and golden accents — set the tone for a fine meal. As my charger plate is whisked away and the menu presented on a digital tablet, an amuse bouche appears to “tantalise the tastebuds”, like executive chef Biju Philip puts it. The strong flavours on braised leeks do set the bar high for what’s to follow, although the dry ice ‘smoke; it’s served with is a tad too 2014 in 2024.
Appetising Asian all the way
I’m intrigued to see morels on an Asian menu, those fabulous morsels of foraged mountain fungus that are known as gucchi in India. Crispy fried with chilli, garlic and a dash of nutty sesame oil, they have just the right amount of bite and taste. Pebble potatoes and water chestnut with the zing of black pepper make for a rather addictive appetiser too. The soy-braised Belgian pork belly is tossed in a delightfully sticky hoisin sauce. Plump and shining, the Prawn Har Gow Dimsum are given an umami hit with the addition of sesame oil.
For the Chongqing chicken, a heap of chillies has been dry roasted to release the flavours and aromas. In combination with traditional Shaoxing rice wine, and Sichuan peppercorns, this one is a dish that has you salivating in hunger as you take in the first whiffs and then satisfying you with its rich and deep tones. Meanwhile the Som Tam Salad, made using the classic Thai recipe of raw papaya slivers, with chili, beans, and palm sugar, could do with a bit of heat. Bird eye chillies for the win!
Avocado tartare? Yes please, but make it Asian. So, it sashays in, cool and smooth, wrapped in a sesame dressing, and jazzed up with red onion and jalapeños. Their Chinese BBQ pork bun is spot on, perfectly spiced and delicately cooked and so delicious that we get another portion for the table. The tuna and salmon sashimi is so fresh, it gleams temptingly. The shrimp tempura sushi is done to perfection.
Next, they trundle in a trolley for some tableside drama. The chef is ready to carve the Peking Duck. Showing off his exemplary knife skills is an added bonus! He carefully spoons hoisin sauce onto sesame pancakes, adds slivers of cucumber and scallion, tops it with the slices of duck that’s been marinated overnight and then slow-cooked for two hours. Deftly, he folds it into a neat roll. While I’ve been apprehensive about the duck tasting too gamey, my first bite assures me that it’s one of the tastiest Peking Ducks I’ve had.
The main question
The menu is rather vast and it’s impossible to sample everything. Of the mains I do try, the ones that truly stand out are the Kung Pao Chicken. They’ve stuck with the traditional recipe but done it well, so you know exactly what you’re getting, so this is a safe yet super menu choice. When I taste the Char Siu Pork, I realise they’re keeping it similarly ‘simple but good’ for all their mains. Something different would be their cumin sliced lamb. Laced as it is with dry red chili, cumin, and coriander, it has a very Indian touch. The E fu noodles are passable, but the fried rice with bamboo shoot and green onion is well made.
Matchamisu is a clever dessert that takes the traditional tiramisu and adds the fresh-yet-funky umaminess of Japanese green tea to it. Served beautifully in teacups, it’s great for the ‘gram too. The matcha-soaked spongefinger in mine had disintegrated though, so I would advise you not to take too much time admiring it but to just spoon it up quickly, while it’s still cool and collected.
Mixing it up
Their signature cocktails are all Asian-inspired and feature everything from yuzu to wasabi and jasmine tea to ginger candy. While there are plenty that are refreshing and others that are potent and spirit forward, the one that piqued my interest was Soy Tina’s, which had vodka with vermouth, garlic, soy-macerated olives, and lime peel. A mouth-puckeringly savoury cocktail that you won’t forget in a hurry! It was nice to see a good selection of non-alcoholic drinks with a few named for Mumbai areas. It would have been nice to see more of the city in the bar menu, and perhaps more local ingredients too. Kokam, tamarind, turmeric, coconut, all lend themselves to Asian accents quite well.
They say that Nonya comes from a story where a girl of that name, whose mother was from China and father from Malaysia, lived in Singapore. And that any preparation that’s a combination of Malay, Chinese and Singaporean ingredients and techniques is dubbed a Nonya dish. Which is why this pan-Asian restaurant by the Taj (there’s a Nonya on the 44th floor of the Taj Hotel Jumeirah Lakes Towers in Dubai too) brings the best of China, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia to the table, and also travels to Thailand, Vietnam, Korea and Japan, for some creative inspiration.
The Zee Zest verdict
In a city that is awash with pan-Asian restaurants, how does Nonya hold its own? Quite well, actually, especially when it comes to appetisers that are unique yet flavourful, both for vegetarians as well as non-vegetarians. Apart from the a la carte that’s currently available for dinner and will soon be served at lunchtime as well, they also offer a curated experience called Asian Nomad, where you’ll be served a five-course meal that draws from all these cuisines and creates a nuanced narrative around then. Besides, to have that glorious vista of mangroves while you sit in a100 per cent ‘green power’ hotel that uses natural sunlight for lighting more than half its spaces, is certainly the kind of sustainable luxury that today’s travellers and diners seek.
Where: Off, Eastern Express Hwy, Juhi - D wing, Pirojshanagar, Vikhroli, Mumbai
Timing: 12.30pm-3pm; 7pm-11.30pm
Meal for two: INR 5,000 (plus taxes