“It’s not the swish-est of places”, our friends warn as we drive up to Chef Seefah’s eponymous new eatery in Bandra’s Hill Road.
Drat. Too late to rethink my cocktail dress or R.R.M.’s shiny new mules, we chide ourselves as we trudge around a building boasting a McDonald’s, side-stepping to a nondescript elevator at the back, peppered with unsavoury whiffs of stale air.
I know, I know. We should have known better than to scrub up.
Chef Seefah’s first restaurant, The Blue, was oft described as a hole-in-the-wall, albeit one where fuss-free diminutive interiors were eclipsed by whispers of bold dishes, which had the city’s most discerning gourmands jostling for one of 20 highly-coveted seats.
Her new space, Seefah is certainly more capacious, albeit with similarly simplistic interiors embellished with sparse hints of cherry blossoms painted on the blue walls. Divided across an island set-up with high-bar chairs and smaller tables for four, the seating is quick to fill up on a Sunday night, with a distinctly-neighbourhood tone running through the otherwise muted room.
The suspense & intrigue heightens as we settle in with a zeitgeisty butterfly pea juice, imbued with a startling purple hue that’s perfect for the ‘gram. Will Seefah live up to expectations, becoming Bombay’s next bolthole for foodies in the know?
To cut a long review short, our dinner is gratifying if not the elevated epicurean evening we’re hoping for. There are a few special dishes, but there are also under-powering ones, well-intentioned but missing a spark.
Sushi rolls help us ease into a menu spanning Thai & Japanese specialties.
Overloaded with avocado, asparagus, cucumber and cream cheese, the Greenhouse California Roll (a chef’s special) is a riot of veggie-friendly textures, enriched by the zesty tang of yuzu mayo. It also transpires that avocado and cream cheese have a flawless marriage with this season’s bountiful supply of mangoes, manifesting in a mellow yet marvellously-moreish mango maki roll.
Draped with Gochujang (A Korean answer to miso which is salty yet spicy), a thinly-sliced tofu carpaccio is astonishingly full of flavour; but a tofu and avocado salad fails to pack much punch, despite the sharply-laced sesame dressing.
The only non-vegetarian among our party, R.R.M. finds much to thrill in a laceratingly-spicy tom yum soup, substantively apportioned with a more-than-generous heap of fresh prawns. Paired with a side of jasmine rice, it’s a meal in itself and a wonderfully well-priced one at that!
As for our veggie mains, well they sway between hits and misses. The Thai green curry is visibly diluted-down – its whitish hue hinting the lack of aromatic flavours at the outset. The Donburi is more satisfying, with the intensely-curried spices of the veg katsu seeping through the chewy strands of Japanese rice. My only lament is that the tempura served atop the bowl could have been a touch crisper; for those inclined towards the devilishly deep-fried pleasures of life, the absence of Panko breadcrumbs is palpable.
Surprisingly, it’s the humble aubergine which proves a stand-out act – impossibly tender, melt-in-your-mouth slivers lifted by a sharp-as-a-tack sprinkling of chilli.
We finish with mango sticky rice, compiled with a colourful composition of black sesame, coconut and blue pea rice. Top marks for effort, but ultimately it makes a better picture than a dessert dish, lacking any consistency in flavour or texture.
The unabashedly decadent honey-toast (prepared with thick brioche) looks like one to try next time, should we revisit. Well, would we revisit?
To level with you, no doubt Seefah will find a loyal following in its local community and perhaps among non-vegetarians. However, as someone who’s only willing to trade-off ambience for a superlative menu, I would mayhap think twice before making the journey again for a less than transporting experience.
Seefah, 3rd Floor, Khan House, Next Time Square, Hill Road, Bandra (w), Mumbai 400 050. Phone: 089288 95952/089288 88710