Appropriately named, Ishaara the newest restaurant in Mumbai offers not just a great meal but also a unique experience to learn a new language to order your meal. Sign language. Seasoned hotel industry professionals Prashant Issar and Anuj Shah (of Mirchi & Mime fame) in partnership with Riyaaz Amlani, opened this new modern Indian restaurant recently with much fanfare. But it’s not just the food that’s drawing crowds. Ishaara at Palladium employs speech and hearing impaired servers, although that is far from the focus – when I entered to review it, there was no signage that notified me about it being a sign language-friendly zone.
Designed by Minnie Bhatt, Ishaara is an undeniably pleasant space with well-spaced tables, a flood of natural light and live plants. No unconstrained clutter and colour which has become the norm among new restaurants these days. The grill and tandoor kitchen is an open one and visible to diners while the curry, biryani, and dessert kitchen is right behind it.
The food is a blend of street eats and classic Indian favourites along with an easy-to-navigate alcohol list. The menu demonstrates how to order a meal by using one’s hands. Upon being seated at the table, a manager explains the drill. Guests are also taught words such as ‘good,’ ‘not so good,’ yes’, ‘no’, ‘okay,’ ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ in sign language, so that they can have a less matter-of-fact, more pleasant conversations with the servers. Finally, when a speech and hearing impaired server brings your dish, it comes with a placard indicating its name.
Ishaara has a full-fledged chaat section with various temptations, which makes for a perfect post shopping fuel up. You have to start with the dahi puri. Sweetened yogurt bolstered with chutney and topped with sev, it’s the perfect way to wake up your taste buds for the gastronomic pleasure and reward that will ensue.
The meats are impeccably bought and respectfully cooked. Take the dori kabab. The melting tender mutton pate is dismantled using a thread from the rod at the table. Spices dance and dazzle in the sheikh kabab but not so much that the hand-pounded meat cannot be identified. Vegetarians will love the pretty and perky tandoori broccoli bathed in chilli and accompanied by a tangy and creamy sauce. The lusciously robust hamour tikka is a beautifully cooked piece of fish, skillfully excised from the bone and heavily imbued with turmeric. It’s simply unmissable. Among the mains the kathal roganjosh is a clear winner. The jackfruit pieces are cooked to winning softness before being whisked into a subtle roganjosh gravy. The raw mango prawn curry is well-balanced in sour and spice. Interestingly the gravies at Ishaara are carved from roasted veggies and not cashews or cream, which strips it off the heaviness typically associated with Indian curries.
In desserts, the flourless brownie has a homey quality and is perfect for sharing. This rich, fudge-y, and moist chocolate cake will serve as the perfect treat after any meal. Other sweet endings include eton mess, yuzu lime mousse, gajar halwa crumble, motichoor, and besan laddoo ice cream.
Staff in green tees and beige pants move surely and confidently. Worldly, inquisitive, and rarely fazed, they are the spine of Ishaara. Issar is a constant presence at the restaurant and runs the show with great charm. Armed with gloves, he can be spotted behind the chaat counter rustling up a dish or just reciting backstories about the dishes to guests.
It’s only the second Friday post the launch but Ishaara is crackling with energy. At the end of a meal you walk out of the restaurant not just happy with all the flavours dancing on your tongue but also the incredible experience of having communicated effortlessly through genial signs with a set of people you previously failed to relate to. That’s a double whammy.
Where: 3rd Floor, Palladium, High Street Phoenix, Tulsi Pipe Rd, Lower Parel, Mumbai
Contact: +91 86575 31988, 86575 31989
Opening Hours: 12 pm to 12 am
Recommended dishes: Chaats, dori kabab, hamour tikka, sheikh kabab, meen moilee, sufiyana biryani and flourless chocolate brownie.
Price: Rs 2,000 for two
Noise Level: Easy and conversation friendly
Service: Attentive and pleasing
All images: Courtesy Ishaara