Ishaara interiors by Minnie Bhatt
Ishaara interiors by Minnie Bhatt

Priya Pathiyan

At Ishaara, on the third level of Palladium in Lower Parel, Mumbai, lovely light streams in from the windows, illuminating an upbeat tropical paradise – all plantain leaves and rattan chairs and bird cages with potted plants; the work of the talented interior designer Minnie Bhatt, we discover.

When we do go in to check it out, we realise the luminescence is not just external. That happy glow comes from a team that places great value on great service and from guests basking in the warmth of their genuine smiles. The serving staff is largely speech or hearing impaired and we loved that the brilliantly designed menu encourages you to engage with them meaningfully while placing your order. The managers show you the ropes, tell you how to go about doing the ordering, and explain the signs for ‘thank you’ and the name of the waiter assigned to your table. It’s all quite fun and the team is so encouraging that you feel grateful for them accepting your limited ability to sign accurately.

 

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We could have started at the live chaat counter (our crystal ball predicts many a quick munch between the shops here!) but we decide to get our Pani Puri and Dahi Puri at the table. Both arrive, crisp and cram-worthy, with the chutneys and yoghurt at the perfect temperature. A Sweet Potato Brûlée that comes next is probably our dish of the day, with a nicely charred rasher of sweet potato that gives it a smokey-sweet umaminess that makes you spoon it up again and again with the yoghurt and chutneys that flank it.

 

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The Lobster Patti Samosa uses sweet local lobster and transforms it into the perfect rainy-day snack encased in the crunchy pastry. We don’t know what to expect from something called Makroot Cauliflower as we can’t quite imagine how the exotic kaffir lime and the homely vegetable will come together. But it’s a marriage made in heaven and transports our tastebuds there too. Perfectly grilled cauliflower florets encased in a sauce that combines tart tomato with the kaffir lime and a good balance of spices tell us that we must try much more from the tandoor on our next visit.

While the restaurant does a decent job of most of the dishes, we think they may need to finesse some of their regional specials a bit to up the authenticity quotient. The Patrani Mushroom and the John Dory Moilee didn’t quite hit the high notes in an otherwise melodious meal. But we will certainly return to sample more from the rather substantial variety the menu offers. And to sign a big happy smile at the very hospitable team. That certainly puts a song in our heart as we leave.

The high-concept restaurant, a joint venture by Prashant Issar and Anuj Shah of Stratix Hospitality and Riyaaz Amlani of Impresario Handmade Restaurants, has a very affordable price point considering the location and the very on-point ambience. Just right for ladies who lunch and families that bond over food, we believe. Their alcohol licence and tasting menus should be up soon to make things even more interesting.

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