As a food critic I get asked one question more than any other: Where should I eat right now? Well…if you love Asian food beyond Chinese and Japanese then it has to be Meishi at The Park, Juhu. The food here has all cravings covered: Soul-soothing stews filled with meat falling off the bone, chilli pepper-heavy curries, and zesty salads. And of course fragrant and sublime desserts. But start off easy with the togarashi bathed edamame. Sometimes, simple really is best.
Look up from your dish and the room is stylish, but unfussy. Black, grey, and burnt orange make up the minimalistic space. The only deviation is a private dining area enclosed in gold chain curtains. Back to the food. Like the decor, there is a quiet confidence to the menu which has dishes not just from China, Malaysia, Japan, and Thailand but also Bhutan, Nepal, Singapore, and Tibet. It’s interesting enough for a special occasion or for a weeknight dinner.
The prawn tempura is thrillingly crisp with a spicy wasabi kick. The sushi presented enticingly on a boat with dry ice for added drama is both beautiful to eat and pretty to look at. The California maki topped with ikura (salmon caviar) is truly sublime. The plump silken pearls of caviar glow like precious gemstones and when you put them in your mouth each orb bursts with a satisfying pop flooding your mouth with a wave of culinary bliss. Don’t miss it. The spicy lobster dim sum specked by yellow chilli comes with a good level of heat.
Another dazzling starter is a salad of fresh burrata with rocket leaves and sun-dried tomatoes. This is a seemingly simple salad but the Thai style dressing and the inclusion of pickled peanuts; fragrant edible flowers and crispy bacon chips elevate it from the ordinary, to the extraordinary. Just cutting into the burrata and watching the cheese spill its milky-white innards onto the salad is deeply satisfying.
But the star of the show is undoubtedly the datshi. This national dish of Bhutan has just three ingredients – cheese, chillies, and vegetables. The chillies of Bhutan are high up on the Scoville Heat Scale and are meant to make you warm enough to sweat. Thankfully Executive Chef Altamsh Patel uses a mix of local green chillies, Bhavnagari chillies, and Thai chillies which tame down the heat. Full-flavoured and perfectly cooked, the natural creaminess of the dish beautifully cuts through the heat. It comes with a side of deliciously perky red rice from Bhutan. The non-vegetarian version is amped up with pork/chicken. If you’re the kind of spice fan who likes to sprinkle Tabasco over everything, then you’ve found your dream dish in Bhutanese datshi. If not…skip it. The soba noodles jazzed up with vegetables and a good amount of soy is a crowd-pleaser. There is also Tibetan thukpa, tangra style hakka chowmein and Singapore black pepper crabs served with ambemohar rice. Not everything at Meishi is a triumph. Excess dressing stole some thunder from the otherwise pleasing salad of asparagus, broccoli and fungus. The advertised asparagus remained a fugitive presence.
Once your stomach is lined, order the Sesame Sour, a unique concoction of whisky, black sesame syrup, ginger and egg white. Or the expertly executed cocktail of gin, cucumber and watermelon. Avoid the Purple Haze a concoction of salted butter vodka, vanilla, yogurt, blueberry and coconut foam. It tastes odd…as if a dessert had mistakenly wandered onto a drink.
But on the whole Mesihi is an easy place to like, from its affable staff to its laid-back interiors and chilled retro soundtrack. It’s already attracting a fun-loving, fashionable crowd. And looks set to stay that way.
Where: The Park Hotel, Juhu Tara Rd, Shivaji Nagr, Juhu
Contact: 022 6815 9100
Opening Hours: 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight, all days
Recommended dishes: Datshi
Price: Rs 4,000 for two
Noise Level: Low
All images: Courtesy Meishi