Step in through a little red door and enter Tori. In the hustle bustle of Bandra, it’s a bite of peace and quiet. This Latin-Asian restaurant has an outdoor area, that is cool even in the summers, thanks to two large standing air conditioners. The interiors are reminiscent of its Mexican predecessor Sanchos, because according to founder Abhayraj Kohli, “You don’t need to break somebody else’s creation just to do something new.” An installation of a Koi fish metal sculpture blends the Latin with the Asian.
The origin of the cuisine served at Tori, dates to 70 years ago. After World War 2, there was a lot of migration to Asia from South America, and two cuisines were born, ‘Nikkei’, Japanese and Peruvian, ‘Chifa’, Chinese and Peruvian. Kohli, inspired by his experiencehelping Chef Richard Sandoval open his firstLatin-Asian restaurantsin Washington DC, says the idea to introduce this cuisine to India was always in his mind.
A total pandemic baby, from ideation to launch, Tori opened its doors in January. Chef Thomas Catley, ex-Nobu, draws from his travels and vast experience to create thoughtful flavours.
To start with they have an extensive selection of cocktails, I ordered the DAF, their signature tequila-based cocktail, but ended up finishing half of my fellow diner’s ‘ShereKhan’. Appropriately named and made with tiger’s milk, a Peruvian citrus-based, spicy marinade and Pisco, the drink brimmed with herbaceous flavours. For teetotallers, a house made Horchata, a traditional rice-based Mexican drink, or the Peruvian Chicha Morada made from purple corn is on the menu.
Ordering appetizers means you face a serious dilemma, carpaccios, ceviches, baos and tacos present several options for vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. A personal favourite was the watermelon carpaccio and as a fan of the tuna carpaccio it aims to replicate, I was thoroughly surprised when the slow roasted slices of fruit left an umami taste on my tongue, and a fatty texture similar to cured fish.
The spicy tuna roll was served with no soy on the chef’s recommendation and as a serious soy + sushi buff, I was sceptical, but pleasantly surprised with the flavours that hit my palate. An unfamiliar ingredient in the tofu carpaccio prompted a conversation with Chef Dipesh, about the Bombay-twist to Tori, and the incorporation of local ingredients in the dishes. The crunchy mystery ingredient in the dish was actually a local yam!
Moving to the mains, the lunch menu gives you an option of a Bento box, complete with a bao of the day, rice, curry, salad and a traditional pickle. I tried the shrimp with in-house XO sauce, one of the best dishes I tasted, completely overshadowing the other option, the Thai green chicken curry. The spicy and flavourful kimchi rice is worth eating without any curry as well, and the baos were light and fluffy.
For dessert, Asian flavours like Yuzu, Matcha, Miso dominate the menu. For the consistent chocolate lovers, the Tori 5 textured chocolate cake is an option. Though a little rich, it screams chocolate in every bite.
Launching a luxury restaurant amid a pandemic, entrepreneur Kohli says it has been a hell of a journey. “It makes me so happy when people say this is the first restaurant I’m visiting after I started stepping out,” he signs off.
A meal for two will cost approximately ₹6000, including alcohol.