Culinary Collaborations at The White Owl

The restaurant business in Mumbai, is fast paced, competitive, expensive and in my opinion slightly boring. Everyone is opening the same style restaurants with ” world cuisine”, almost every menu is the same format of pizza, pasta, burger, sandwich and the occasional steak or roast chicken, and most of them are just about average taste wise. The blog was created because eating out was fun and discovering new foods was new to me. I feel like I’ve eaten it all and then some.

Cities like Bangalore and Delhi seem to be racing ahead and trying new things. Mumbai is anything but adventurous and with a restaurant I suppose there is too much at stake for them to be bold. Just when things seem dull and drab, some restaurants decide to take the plunge and spice it up. The first one was Cafe Zoe, with their mighty bold concept for One Night Stand Chef, where they let an amateur cook/chef take over the kitchen and plan a special menu for one night only. I don’t think any restaurant , pardon my French , has the ‘ kahoonas’ to do that.  Taking the lead from this concept, The White Owl, which I think is a seriously under-rated restaurant has taken it a step further and invited an amateur to team up with their fantastic Chef Kshama Prabhu and curated a special menu for the entire month.

A friend and fellow colleague Nikhil Merchant, popularly known as Nonchalant Gourmand has mixed his flavours and style of cooking with Chef Kshama and have come up with the ultimate Culinary Collaboration. I really enjoy the food at White Owl and have reviewed it in the past but the addition of Nikhil, who is a supremely talent chef in his own right, is an extremely exciting concept. Nikhil was kind enough to invite me and few select friends for a preview of sorts of his new menu.

I didn’t go in with any expectation ( I never do ) except a lot of curiosity because I know both chefs like to play around and create different things. What I was served was nothing short of a fantastic fusion of flavours and styles and of course great company, making it a memorable night. Apologies for the terrible picture quality but the restaurant isn’t conducive for photography and I took some with the flash to try and get a good shot but no such luck. 

You know it’s going to be a great night when the first dish served is a firecracker. Chorizo and beef skewers punctuated with mushroom, coated in chipotle sauce oregano and green pepper makes for one brilliant starter. There really isn’t anything quite like well cooked beef or chorizo and soft meat is a luxury as most places don’t do the meat justice.

The grilled apple gallete is a great starter that you don’t see on a lot of menus, if fact I haven’t seen it on any and mores the pity. A pie with spiced green apples, caramalised onions, goat’s cheese and ample balsamic reduction which looked and tasted deceptively like chocolate is an unusual choice for a starter but one that works. I adore green apples and the last time I was at the White Owl I ate a green apple pie for dessert which I still dream of !

Eggs are universal breakfast ingredients but to me and my fellow Parsi community it works wonderfully for lunch dinner and a snack even. If eggs are on the menu, you can be sure I’m ordering them. The poached eggs on crisp garlic bread with pearl onions and sauteed mushrooms were another fabulous starter. The mushroom works well with the eggs and the garlic bread is a lovely addition.

There are two salads on this menu and both lovely though my favourite was the shrimp and water chestnut with greens and butter garlic dressing. It works for me because it has two of my favourite ingredients, shrimp and water chestnut but it really works because for once a restaurant has used tiny baby prawns ( jinga) like we use in a Parsi or Goan prawn curry which not only have more flavour than their big fat tiger brothers but you get a mouthful of shrimp in each bite. It’s delicious. Add the buttery dressing, the crispness of the water chestnut and the salad leaves and it’s another one of my favourites for the night. Simple but beautiful.

The second salad is an Asian Mango salad which is similar to a Som Tam or the Thai papaya salad but this has local raw green mango as well as alphonso. It’s a popular salad but raw mango isn’t my personal favourite so the shrimp gets my vote.

I don’t essentially like fig and the thought of eating it with chicken in a slider had never crossed my mind. I’ll be the first to admit it’s a combination that works and works quite well at that. I like my burgers wet and juicy but the figs help with that. I think the bread bun could have been a tad softer or better yet put the entire thing into a mini bun ( soft pao ) to give it a completely different texture. Either ways, the sliders with house fries ( slurp) is a great option for mains.

The Herb and Blue Cheese Quiche is enjoyable but didn’t blow me away like the starters or salad so not sure how well I enjoyed it. The blue cheese is subtle and not very strong so don’t be scared to order it.

I had a bite of the pumpkin and potato gnocchi casserole which was enough to tell me the gnocchi was made very well. I never order it because most places make it lumpy and stodgy but this was soft. I can’t say more because quite honestly a bite is all I had.
The alphonso mango crepes was the perfect way to end the meal. I adore crepes and can’t understand why people don’t serve them enough. These were soft and dreamy stuffed with mango and served with vanilla ice cream. The only thing I would alter to this wonderful dessert is perhaps serve the mango that’s stuffed inside the pancake cold. As the crepe is warm the cold mango inside would have been a better contrast. Either way, hot or cold, it’s something I’d eat again and again and again. And maybe once more again.

I think not only has the concept of pairing and amateur with the professional worked but it’s given birth to a different and tasty menu. It made my dinner a good one which is rare as I’ve had more lackluster meals in the city that I care to count. My compliments to the chef, once again I’ve had a great meal at The White Owl, and take a bow Mr Merchant, I look forward to your next collaboration.