The foodie gossip mills were abuzz with speculation on this new Asian place about to open in the city of Mumbai. But when it did launch, I was out out travelling in the castles and beaches of Spain! Not that I am complaining, but I hear I did miss a very hip and happening launch party with some stellar modern Asian food presented very artistically, in a buzzing art-district setting.
So last week when I had the opportunity to visit Dashanzi at J W Marriott Juhu, I was quite excited to explore this cool, new Asian fine dining destination in town. Bright poppy elements of modern art leaped out of corners and walls, lifting the mood of the dark polished interiors as we walked in, making me feel like I was in a sleek drawing room of a penthouse perched atop a dizzying skyscraper of a rich Japanese tycoon! The stylish bar, with possibly the biggest Gin collection in the country, is quite a vision with a plethora of popular and coveted labels stacked in a deliberately chaotic manner. I remember laughing out loud thinking ‘The bar is my oyster!’ 😉
Once seated, the dishes start arriving beginning with an elaborate Japanese Rock Garden style presentation of a Sushi Platter, with the gem-like Maki Rolls and Sashimi having way more eye-appeal than taste. But salvation is close by in the absolutely melting Pork Belly that literally falls off the chopsticks, served with a crisp bun called Mantao. And speaking of Mantao, here’s a slightly grisly folklore you will love. Just imagine the plucking chords of soothing Chinese music playing in the background as you read this…
“Long, long ago in a faraway land we now know as China, Chancellor Zhuge Liang, after winning a tough battle, was returning home with his tired, injury-ridden and depleted army. But a mountain river was proving particularly difficult to cross, swift and dangerous as it was. A Barbarian king helpfully asked the Chancellor to follow the Barbarian tradition of beheading 49 soldiers and throwing the heads into the river to appease the river god, who would then let them pass. But the clever Chancellor – possibly the first big foodie of human civilization! – decided to slaughter their livestock instead, filling this meat into head-shaped buns (round with a flat base) and throwing these buns into the river. The river god, although tricked, was pleased enough at the Chancellor’s ingenuity to let him and his army through. And as a heartfelt ‘Xie Xie’ (thank you in my limited Chinese!) the Chancellor went on to name the bun Mantao, meaning Barbarian’s Head!”
Alright, back to present day and prettier things, like the charming little Steamed Dimsums, the beautifully tender Edamame Tofu served on a grill rack, and the Bombay Duck with Togarashi Mayo that looks like a fascinating Sea-Urchin on a rock! Very pleased with the eye-appeal, we power on towards the main course, pausing occasionally to sip on our crisp Asian Gin n Tonic and Chamomile Negroni, both very smooth and refreshing. And although the Lamb Chops are a tad dry, the simple deliciousness of the Miso Baked Silver Cod and the aromatic Chilean Sea Bass n Rice Hotpot make me promise my ‘taste buddies’ a return visit, or two!
The sensorial experience continues as a chef purposefully pushes in a trolley full of painting paraphernalia, rolls out a white mat covering our entire table and promptly takes to splashing different coloured fruit and chocolate sauces and nuts and crumbs in an exciting demonstration of live food art. And then as we watch breathless, the chef raises a large chocolate ball filled with frozen icecream, still spewing clouds of smoke from the liquid nitrogen inside, and drops it to crash and splatter, creating a beautiful pattern on the table mat, and prodding us into digging our spoons into the spoils as we marvel at the construction and deconstruction of the dessert.
Dashanzi, true to its namesake of the posh, cosmopolitan art district in Beijing, is a sensorial experience of modern asian art, both in edible and non-edible forms. And while it’s true that not everything is on point, the beautiful flavour and texture combinations of most of the dishes (and we had plenty to eat!), and the quirky pops of Asian art, make it a place definitely worth experiencing and soaking in. Of course, the magnificent Gin bar helps too! 😉