Long story short: Mirchi and Mime silently goes about the business of being awesome
Mumbai is home to the silly and the sublime. It is equally capable of the compassionate and the cruel, the stately and the shanty, the resplendent and the rundown. Truly, it is a city of great character with many hues, and it takes a lifetime to get to know all the strings it has in its bow.
Even when experienced in a purely culinary sense, the city never ceases to amaze with its many facets. It is thus easy to dismiss Mirchi and Mime as just another gimmick as the circus stops in town (as I wrongly assumed so), but it is so, so much more than just a show of pomp. Like the Transformers, there’s more to them than meets the eye.
Much like its neighbours, Mirchi and Mime has a decidedly Western feel to it. The wide arch at the entrance gives those that saunter by enough of a glance into what the place has to offer, and the few plants adorning the entrance are enough to add a dash of serenity to things. We’re bright and early by our standards, and we’re ushered in without much ado into a bright, open, well-spaced out place that has the far wall adorned with framed brass ladles and ancient scrapers. The vibe is one of an evolved diner, and it doesn’t feel casual at all, but it’s not prissy enough to make you put on your poshest accent and best manner. It straddles something in the middle of those two, and it is quite inviting all said and done.
Mirchi and Mime doesn’t indulge in any lip service for the simple reason that almost their entire staff are speech and hearing impaired. As the back of the staff’s shirts say, “I know sign language, what’s your superpower?” As Clayton points out at the start of our meal, our steward (Mangesh) has a sign to motion for him, and we were quickly shown that plus the signs for “Thank You” and “Welcome”. After all, you might leave your reservations at the door, but you have to bring your manners along with you.
Like the Mythical Daredevil, being differently abled has sharpened the communication skills of the staff and they are as good, if not better, at communicating as anywhere else you might go. The service here is fluid, soundless and perfectly composed, much like a Bentley Mulsanne at speed, and the only reminder of the staff being off the beaten path is the sign language on the menu that guides you on how to order food effortlessly, quickly bringing you up to pace with what you need to know. Don’t worry, if you must go all caveman and simply grunt and point at the food items you wish to partake of, feel free to do so.
Since we were told the food would be brought to us as it gets readied, we decided to pace ourselves a bit and instead only ordered for some (unspiked) drinks and starters instead.
I opted for the Masala Lemonade while the missus went with the Berry Pomegranate Granita and like it was when she chose to marry me, it wasn’t the best decision she’d made. Don’t get me wrong; she gets to spend plenty of time with moi and that’s awesome, but the drink was a little less awesome. While the flavour of it was fantastically fruitalicious, as she got to the end some of the Pomegranate seeds started to be vacuumed up by her straw. This was apparently done by design, since some guests complained that fresh Pomegranate wasn’t used when it was. The reaction then was to keep the seeds and say “Hah! Is fresh! We told you! Chomp on that, suckas!” Regardless, the fruits and berries were having a summer party for the ages in the pretty jar the drink was served in.
My Masala Lemonade on the other hand, while humble, served up big fistfuls of flavour. When the powers of pepper, spices and some citrus combine, you get this fabulous drink that is the perfect way to beat the heat. By itself, the ingredients of this drink were fine, but combined they are worth far more than the sum of their parts, and I cannot recommend this drink strongly enough to anyone stopping by these parts. I’d have gone bottoms up except there was a fair bit of it to go around and I thought I’d nurse my drink thoughtfully all meal long (spoiler alert: I did).
To begin proceedings, we ordered for the Lobster Nihari, some of the acclaimed Shakrkand Chaat and the Duck Seekh Kabab. Why Duck? Because I was high on quack.
Thanks for the polite applause folks, I’ll be here all night.
The Lobster was the first to arrive, and it was beautifully plated. The Lobster Nihari itself was just barely keeping itself dry as it sat perched on the brioche, and it all sat in a moat of soup that threatened to swallow it whole unless I did so myself. Not one to stare a gift horse in the mouth, we dug in and the firm texture of the lobster was matched only by the firm, crumbly nature of the brioche itself. The mildly sweet flavour of the lobster was matched by the hint of mushroom and pepper in the soup, while the buttery flakiness of the brioche lent a certain richness to the dish as it tied everything together. In between forkfuls of the brioche and lobster, I couldn’t help but think that the hype for the place seems to be just that bit real.
The Duck Seekh Kabab arrived at table as one long seekh fresh off the skewer, and what caught the eye (besides the lady in the little black dress in the corner) were the flecks of pepper poking out of the seekh and the fine slivers of orange rinds doing their best impression of a tightrope act atop the kabab. To most, and I must admit to even me, Duck tastes a lot like Chicken but it doesn’t quite have the moistness that Chicken usually does. And that’s a good thing when it comes to the seekh because the rinds of orange provide citrusy freshness to the kabab, which serves as a lovely juxtaposition to the dryness of the seekh itself. I wish the rinds were slightly more commonly seen, but this dish too was a winner for me.
The Shakarchand Chaat, however, was perhaps the dish I’d pick as the winner of these three. I’m not just saying that to rustle your jimmies either. This is a typically Delhi dish, all verve and vigor and vitality passed off with an extra dose of pizzaz for good measure. The sweet potatoes were deep fried and resultantly crunchy, and they came served on a layer of mash along with some imli chutney and a smidgen of dahi. Just as you’d find on the street, some Pomegranate bits were sprinkled over it all and the result was a smorgasbord of divinity. It was Indian, decidedly so, but it was elevated beyond street food. The Tamarind chutney was laid on in nearly perfect concentric circles and in terms of textures, presentation and flavor, I found this flawless. Highly recommended, and that’s coming from a staunch vegetarian.
By this point, we were starting to feel a bit stuffed, but decided to order for one main dish apiece.
Big mistake. Kids, lend me your ears. Repeat after me. The mains are plentiful and I will not call for dedicated dishes unless I’m asking for trouble.
In my case, the wife reneged on our agreement to share the main course, and so while I was expected to hold up my end of the bargain, she promptly dropped hers like a hot potato. Not that I’m complaining much, mind you.
The wifey’s Raw Mango Prawn Curry was very Thai Red Curry in its nature, rich and aromatic and thick with pieces of prawn swimming about while you work your way through it. Paired with some aged Basmati Rice, this is the kind of dish that brings a smile to your face and keeps it firmly planted there. Even in simplicity there can be a pureness of technique, and yet again the chefs demonstrated a fantastic command of their craft with a dish that was at once compelling and familiar. It was not a big departure from the norm, for there was the slightest hint of sourness courtesy the raw mango, but it was still the kind of dish that I’m happy to wolf down.
Me, myself and I called for the Norwegian Salmon with Arborio Rice. I like a nice risotto and so I couldn’t resist the temptation of releasing my inner Neanderthal and saying “Me want” when I saw this on the menu. Served in a bowl fit for giants or those with giant appetites, this was a fantastic dish and for me quite easily better than the Prawn Curry. With some Raisins and Cashew nuts dotting the landscape, this was a dish I couldn’t get enough of. The Salmon was tender and delicious and the sauce this came in was just right, tangy and with an element of sweetness I couldn’t get over, much like my crush in 3rd grade. The Raisins, as you might expect, were never raisin’ hell and were sweet as heck while the Cashew nuts were neutral in flavour and provided a delightful crunch to it all. This dish tasted like all the happiness in the world distilled, and for that alone it was my dish of the day.
Thanks to my wife’s skullduggery, I was now packed more tightly than sardines in a cheap tin can, and so I opted to forego desserts. Clayton told us later that the Eton Mess is what we should have gone for but alas; as they say, hindsight is 20/20. The wife had called for the Weikfeld Fruit Trifle and while it was quite nice, there was only so far it could go. It was homely and it was true to itself, and that’s the only way it could be. No more, no less.
It would be very easy for the whole concept of M&M to overpower who they are, but it doesn’t do that, not for a minute. It has been an age and a half since I’ve been to a restaurant where not one thing was wrong with every single dish. I noted the seeds in the Pomegranate Granita, but that’s only because I was clutching at straws. This is the closest I have come to a perfect meal in a long, long time and you can’t put a price on that. Well, you can. It cost me Rs. 2600 all inclusive, but was it worth it? To the last rupee, yes.
I can safely say then that I’ll silently gesture for my friends to accompany me here for the sequel to this visit. After all, if great food and service can’t be a sign of the times, what can?