It’s been more than a fortnight since I ate the basil-chilli ice cream (Rs 350) at EAST (East Asian Spice Trail) but I still remember it vividly. The creaminess and smoothness of the in-house ice cream, the complexity of flavours – the sweetness of basil at the front of the palate and the gentle bite of chilli at the back. I was also pleasantly surprised by the topping of fresh jackfruit, one of my favourite fruits and which I don’t find often enough in Indian desserts. In a few months, when the season is upon us, they may substitute the jackfruit with mangoes though I’d still stick to the former (However, I’d love to see them use the juicy Thai Mahachanok mango).
EAST is the new Pan-Asian restaurant at Sahara Star (Ocean, the previous Pan-Asian restaurant, now functions exclusively as a private dining space) which, as part of a larger refurbishment and redesign, has been designed to look more contemporary and spiffy.
Just past the entrance, the teppanyaki grill and counter, with a live kitchen behind, brings energy and a sense of drama to the restaurant. To the left and right are the dining areas. A glass panelled wall running around the edge of the semi-circular restaurant looks into the central atrium and gives the restaurant a sense of spaciousness.
Heading the kitchen brigade and at the heart of the restaurant is Chef Kroongtana Nimmu (Chang). A Thai of Chinese origin, Chef Nimmu is adept at both cuisines with a close understanding of Asian cooking. His recommendations are worth following and he flits from table to table introducing himself and offering suggestions to his guests.
We followed his recommendation while making our way through the menu which offers at least twice the number of starters and appetizers than main courses.
The first to arrive at the table was the spring roll cigars with prawns (Rs 650). I loved the idea of the crisp wrapping mimicking the crunchiness of a prawn shell. I would have preferred it if they had filled it with a whole prawn rather than mince. It was a good start to the meal, nonetheless.
This was followed in quick succession by a beautifully crunchy, piquant Som Tam (Rs 650), plump batter-fried mushrooms stir-fried in an intensely peppery sauce (Rs 450) and, one of my favourite dishes of the evening, chicken wrapped in seaweed and steamed (Rs 650). Though I felt the Szechwan sauce was a tad unnecessary, the other elements – the aromatic chicken mince, the chewiness of the nori and the nuttiness of sesame oil – were perfectly in harmony.
Another dish I quite enjoyed was the steamed sea bass topped with soy ginger (Rs 1500). The sharp tartness of the ginger-chilli topping was a good foil to the mildly sweet, billowy meat of the sea bass.
For the main course, Chef Nimmu suggested we try the chicken tom kha (Rs 550), not as a soup but the way Thais eat it: with steamed rice. (It immediately reminded about how differently rasam is consumed in India – in the south, unlike the rest of the country, it’s not just a drink but an acceptable, and common, substitute for sambhar, to be eaten with rice.) In this case too, the thick, creamy tom kha, which Chef Nimmu had interestingly flavoured with slices of som khaek (also known as kudampuli or Malabar tamarind), worked brilliantly as a curry.
Unfortunately, there’s no pork on the menu with the exception of the stir fried lettuce and Chinese cabbage with ham in sweet & sour Sichuan (Rs 550). Light, but intensely meaty, with a rich savouriness, this was an explosion of umami. It was a welcome elevation to the meal which, though well executed, thus far lacked originality.
A couple of dishes I felt could (should?) go quite easily go off the menu, or at the very least, need to be re-worked. The black pepper tenderloin (Rs 800) lacked the zing of the black pepper mushrooms and the meat was far too chewy. At this level, I’d expect the meat to be so tender that it would melt in my mouth. The prawn har gao (Rs 750) were a disaster, a thick, clunky skin had nothing in common with the delicate, translucent veil of a traditional har gao. While I did enjoy the crunchiness of the wok crisp mixed vegetables in Sichuan sauce (Rs 450), particularly the batter-coated broccoli florets, I felt that this was too ordinary a dish for a restaurant of this standing. It needed to be more sophisticated.
On the whole though it was a thoroughly enjoyable meal and I’d be happy to return.
Opp Domestic Airport
Vile Parle (E)
Tel: 3890 7444
Lunch 12:30 pm to 03:00 pm
Dinner 7:00 pm to 1:00 am
|Invited by PR company||Yes|
|Guest of the chef/ restaurant||Yes|
|Restaurant knew I’m a food writer||Yes|
|Meal comped by the restaurant||Yes|