It’s of little surprise to find a full house at Americano just a few days into its opening. The “new school” Italian eatery in Kala Ghoda is headed by none other than Chef Alex Sanchez; and as you’d imagine there’s been much anticipation around his first solo venture, following his legendary days at The Table, Colaba.
The concept behind Alex’ new restaurant is refreshingly simple. With Americano, he’s sought to create a neighbourhood hangout that draws back diners with thoughtfully-prepared dishes, expertly-concocted drinks and reasonable prices.
His vision manifests in fuss-free interiors, subtly imbued with startling shades of blue – right from the exposed ceiling through to denim napkins. Seating is divided across a bar counter, a long communal table, cosy booths and tables positioned by an open-style kitchen, from where Alex can gregariously chat with guests elated to see him after such a long while!
Observing him deftly at work, it’s clear that he’s having as much fun doing what he knows best, as his guests, as they tuck into uncomplicated dishes that are high on carbs and comfort.
To start – there are Sweetcorn “Ribs” for this vegetarian, liberally dusted with a chilli spice mix, its heat soothed by a green garlic aioli. An elevated take on a Bombay staple “bhutta” (roasted corn-on-the-cob), it has all the makings of the city’s next iconic dish.
A confluence of garlic, lemon and rosemary impart a host of flavours to R.R.M’s oven-roasted prawns; although he laments that the crudo of sea bass is less successful in delivering a cohesive explosion of textures, despite an enlivening addition of red peppers. Still, it’s a small blip in an otherwise gratifying meal that continues with the palpable pleasures of a pizza and pasta – albeit far removed from the standard penne or spaghetti one is used to seeing in Indian-style Italian restaurants, doused in an arrabbiata or pesto sauce.
I’m truly thrilled to spot Cacio e Pepe on the menu – one of my favourite pastas, rooted in an Ancient Roman recipe. Translating to “cheese and pepper”, it’s a dish which requires skilful precision in transforming dry pecorino cheese and water into a softly-smooth and creamy sauce, purring with a kick of pepper. Needless to say Chef Alex gets it right, with tonnarelli (a thicker style of spaghetti) used in a master stroke to deliver more ‘bite’ than your typical pasta.
As for the pizza, the dough is homemade and hand-stretched. It’s dished out from a shiny golden oven, Neapolitan-style, braced with a fabulously-fresh tomato sauce and fior di latte. While the base is crisp, the pillowy cornicone (edges) can be dipped in salsa verde, chilli garlic or goats cheese (served on the side) for a moreish finish.
It’s the desserts which are truly a triumph though. Tiramisu Americano is rather special, silkily-soaked in rum and decadently-dense, with a chocolate-coated disc adding a wonderful crunch. Then there’s the Torta Tenerina, a dark chocolate cake which melts on each bite, its intense richness foiled by clouds of impossibly-light whipped cream, good enough to eat on its own.
We bookmark the brown butter panna cotta and the the warm almond olive oil cake for our next visit, as we don’t doubt that we’ll be back at this new neighbourhood stalwart soon. The epitome of comfort food, Americano speaks the language of food that one can always rely on.
Before we leave, we can’t resist asking Alex whether weekend brunch is in the works too. His eyes instantly light up and his grin gives it away. If the tiramisu pancakes and chipotle eggs hollandaise at The Table are anything to go by (both introduced under his creative direction), we have no doubt that Americano will soon be our favourite Sunday spot too!
Americano, 123, Nagindas Master Road, near Kulture Shop, Kala Ghoda.
Contact: 022-22647700 | firstname.lastname@example.org