Fusion cuisine is not a new concept in Mumbai, let alone Kamala Mills – the city’s most thriving foodie hub. So I have to confess that I was initially sceptical about POH, especially given the mixed reviews surrounding this Progressive Oriental House experimenting with a contemporary spin on classic Asian cuisine.
Proving once again that it always pays for one’s epicurious appetite to have the final word, a couple of friends and I recently sought out the restaurant – finding ourselves both intrigued and delighted by a dinner which was as much about the food as the stylised experience…
If one harbours any confusion around the premise of POH, it’s subtly but instantly cleared up on walking into the moodily-lit interiors, featuring a mixed medley of traditional Chinese and Japanese elements married with modern-day materials.
The concrete imagining of bamboo shoots on a wall is particularly striking, as are the retro Chinese lanterns and chandelier fashioned from a larger-than-life Chinese fan. Even the place mats reflect the the Oriental influences, initially comprising of just half a plate. The other half arrives soon after, the yang to its yin, presenting an amuse bouche to herald the start of the evening.
Dinner takes shape over a multi-course (there are far too many to count) tasting menu.
I’m dining with proudly-Parsi pals, who have stringent daily requirements for their meat intake. As such, the approving nods they pass on our vegetarian starters, speak volumes of the robust depth of flavours embodied by these complex dishes.
The Banana Blossom Salad is essentially a Burmese-inspired take on bhel, featuring a crunchy gallimaufry of fried banana blossom, crispy shallots and peanuts atop a bed of mashed (sweet) potato. An encircling tower of banana flower leaves add a final flourish.
POH’s experimental approach reflects in the underlying ingredients too, manifesting in pepper-glazed tofu masquerading as a tomato in something which is ‘Not a Capri Salad.’ The star element here is of course the soy milk-based ‘cheese’ which hits an umami-rich note. There’s a yuzu soy cream swirling around dehydrated lotus stem too. It imparts a zestfully-lush tang to the honeyed flavour of the crisp lotus, foiled by the sharp-as-a-tack tinge of Sichuan pepper.
The nuanced riff on textures play out in the many dishes that follow. There’s lamb ‘foie gras’ gyoza – dumplings smoothly filled with lamb brain, and trimmed on the side with leek ash, celery puree and curried hummus. A carpaccio-like assembly of finely-sliced scallops are doused with Thai green curry butter (as is my vegetarian-friendly version with zucchini), before dehydrated beets are added to the mix.
Conventional norms are also challenged, with Steamed Chicken Tartare presented on a bed of herbed pineapple (I’m told that it’s usually the other way around!). A guessing game isn’t amiss here either, as it takes several bites to fathom that this dish involves aerated cubes of chicken breast custard.
It’s not an entirely flawless show, as pallid parcels of pak choi dumplings demonstrate. The rationale underlying certain pairings – such as of a smoked water chestnut tortellini – is also questionable, the final result being decidedly less impactful than the added-value of each individual component.
But just as the more-is-more attitude starts to wear thin, a sweet-and-sour sorbet arrives to cleanse our palate, and it’s on to mains – boldly-spiced and spot-hitting Masamman curries, which we greedily pile on to fried (Kerala) red rice. I only wish that the artichokes in my veggie version have as much bite as the tender lamb shank being torn into on the other side of the table.
Given all the copious consumption, it’s unsurprising that Maya mops her eyebrow nervously at the mention of dessert. And then this happens.
POH's Mess @POHIndia // A contemporary riff on the English classic with nitro-frozen shards of melting yogurt, fruit leather, honeycomb caramel and white chocolate yogurt bowl (smashed to smithereens)! Don't miss the dark chocolate tart behind, stuffed with caramel and paired with honey wasabi ice cream… T'was an extravagantly experimental feast which managed to surprised# and delight 👀👌🏻 @Maya.Tata @Rastar119! Full review on the blog soon. #AboutLastNight #TableSideDrama #ProgressiveOrientalHouse #TopMumbaiRestaurants #FoodTalkIndia #TheFoodieDiariesBombay
The table-side theatrics see a white chocolate yogurt bowl smashed to smithereens, before nitro-frozen shards of yogurt are doused over the jaunty jumble (which also includes dehydrated bits of fruit and honeycomb caramel). It’s all dramatically fun, but if I have to confess, lacking a compellingly-moreish bite. Much better is the caramel-stuffed dark chocolate tart, its bitter-sweetness cleverly countered by a honey-wasabi ice cream. We wipe the plate clean.
Despite the occasional misses, dinner is a thoroughly enjoyable affair overall and one – which in my mind at least – confirms POH as a progressive addition to the city’s otherwise staid mix of Asian restaurants.
POH – Progressive Oriental House, Kamla Mills Compound Gate no 4, Lower Parel, Mumbai
Timings: 12:30 PM – 4 PM & 7:00 PM – 12 midnight | Tel: +91 7506980738
For more new & noteworthy openings in 2017, do have a read of my running round-up here.