A lot has been said, written and waxed poetic about Masque.
Farm-to-fork, fine-dining, seasonal and innovative are just a few of the many aspects embodied by this new restaurant from experimental chefs Aditi Dugar and Prateek Sadhu.
Perhaps most significant though, is their focus on exotic and relatively-unknown ingredients foraged from farms across India. It is these unsung heroes of local agriculture, which emerged the stars of the show at my recent lunch here…
The visit was planned rather strategically for the last week of December – you know, during that time between Christmas and the New Year when you can’t help but lose track of what day it is, who you are or what you’re supposed to be doing. Let’s just chalk it down to #Decembering?
Well, the luxuriously lazy afternoon presented the perfect opportunity for my friends and I to entirely lose ourselves to the Masque experience…
Unobtrusively tucked away in a far corner of Laxmi Mills (the once-thriving cotton quarter of the city), the interiors of the restaurant instantly impressed with an elegantly-rustic yet minimalist simplicity enhanced by the abundance of natural light flooding in during the day. In a nod to the modernisation of Mumbai’s abandoned mills, a striking installation by Rathin Burman occupies pride of place here, seamlessly cordoning off the main dining space.
The relaxed air at lunchtime meant that we could impose on Chef Prateek to join us at our table and talk us through the unique concept… So we were thrilled when he went one step further, taking us behind the scenes to an immaculately-maintained kitchen to let us in on all his latest finds – from larger-than-life lemons to a rare fruit plucked off a cactus plant in Himachal Pradesh!
It’s such exotic and under-appreciated, locally-sourced ingredients which rule the roost at Masque. Even the fresh and crumbly buffalo milk feta festooning our flatbread had a story to tell, as all the cheese used here has been produced by a priest in Andhra Pradesh.
While dinner can span up to eleven courses, our lunch was a relatively lighter affair with the option of two to four courses. Of course, our initial decision to go for just the two courses was all-too-quickly abandoned with one quick glance through the menu!
Each of our dishes was executed with a watchmaker’s precision and personally presented by a chef with an accompanying description (including of the ingredients used).
The menu will have likely changed by the time you visit, but to give you a taste of what we had, we started with a blanched-tomato salad (accompanied by a delicate tomato “tea”) and a kale “som tam” assembled at our table. A Thai-inspired dressing formed the base of the kale salad, its subtle fieriness generously permeating through the sprightly mix of fresh greens (grown at Masque’s own farm) and other lively elements (which included raw mango)!
For seconds, all three of us went for a “Caciocavallo Brûlée”, not dissimilar to a crème brûlée in style and presentation but featuring a stretched curd cheese (instead of cream), artfully balanced by sweet, tart and nutty textures on top.
We divided and conquered all the vegetarian thirds.
I loved the douce nuttiness of the house-made noodles, served with impossibly tender slivers of eggplant and liberally doused over with a silky-smooth broth.
Corn-stuffed agnolotti could so easily have been a heffalump of pasta – but the thoughtfully-portioned serving prevented the starchy dish from proving overwhelmingly heavy, with a bed of portobello mushrooms adding an earthy contrast.
The make-it-yourself tacos received an elegant spin too, courtesy the bevy of gourmet trimmings that came alongside!
Helmed by maverick bartender Chetan Gangan and boasting an impressive selection of botanicals and fresh herbs, the bar proved a rather fascinating draw as well.
Half the pleasure here was setting the parameters for our bespoke cocktails, aided by a ‘bistronomy card’ from which we selected a variety of ingredients and flavour profiles.
Each creation is meticulously filed in their records, so if you fancy a tall, sweet-and-sour concoction involving Turtuk apple, ginger, cinnamon and gin – do ask for the TFD special (#100 on the menu) the next time you’re in!
A thinly-sliced Pondicherry chocolate tart was a delicate yet indulgently rich choice of afters, with the mellow sweetness of a fig jam and homemade ice cream providing the perfect textural contrast.
In fact, the dessert might have been the very epitome of perfection… but by this point would we have expected anything less?
With its impassioned approach and continually-changing menu, I have no doubt that I’ll find myself revisiting Masque before long… and that’s rather telling for a food-writer who doesn’t have the luxury of repeating the same restaurant (including her timeless favourites) too often!
Masque, Laxmi Woollen Mills, Shakti Mills Lane, Mahalaxmi.