Creatively indulgent, the new menu at Chef Vineet Bhatia’s Ziya presents guests with a journey worth taking at The Oberoi, Mumbai
by Tayunaz Merchant
Walk into Ziya and an unsurpassed view of the Arabian Sea will take your breath away. When Michelin-starred chef Vineet Bhatia decided to bring his artistry back to India eight years ago after achieving mega global recognition, it was only
apt for him to return to the city and restaurant where his illustrious career began. Life, therefore, came full circle as Ziya was born at The Oberoi, Mumbai.
With a revamped menu centered on a simple philosophy, he categorises the restaurant’s new culinary offerings based on where in nature the produce is sourced from – ‘Earth’, ‘Land’ and ‘Sea’. Breeze through the menu and you will discover decidedly innovative modern Indian cuisine as you’re reminded of the bountiful produce and myriad flavours that our country has to offer. A food magician of sorts, Chef Bhatia creates artful pairings on every plate. One is immediately enticed by a beetroot kachori stuffed with puffed rice and potatoes, drizzled with a tangy tamarind sauce and zesty green chutney, topped with crunchy sev and ruby-like pomegranate seeds that pop in your mouth. And despite the delicate nature of the dish, every element is packed with a raw essence that is reminiscent of Delhi’s vibrant streets. Another eccentric take on street food, this time from Mumbai, is the infamous Pav Bhaji. Crispy, crunchy pin wheels made of butter-soaked bread are stuffed with cottage cheese and laid on a bed of luscious potato curry that oozes with robust flavours. Unquestionably, both dishes shattered any prior reservations I might have had about eating street food in a fine dining setting.
Emulating the food, the atmosphere is a genius mix of modern and traditional Indian elements. The minimalistic subtle décor and design philosophy is characterised by contemporary lines that flow seamlessly through the restaurant and establish the mood, while intricate gold lattice work panels – reminiscent of old Jharoka windows – add an ethnic touch. As we moved from the ‘Earth’ section of the menu towards the ‘Sea’, I picked the jewel of the Arabian Sea. Sizzling fillets of pan-fried pomfret come topped with a quenelle of whipped burnt garlic butter, flowing indolently into an unpretentious yet delicious sabudana khichdi and a velvety makhani sauce. This is uncomplicated authenticity at its best.
From the ‘Land’ section, our efficient, knowledgeable and passionate server insisted that we try the Mangalorean Ghee Roast. It was supreme – tender morsels of lamb, assimilated with bold and complex spices, skillfully paired with the often-understated Maharashtrian upma. In this dish, the chef plays with an amalgam of textures and flavours; soft and fluffy components are interspersed with spinach and crispy desiccated coconut and onion.
With each bite, one can’t help but marvel at the virtuosity it takes to seamlessly blend offerings from two vastly different regions of India into one sublime creation. The definite showstopper, however, is a meaty umami explosion of plump and succulent lamb chops massaged and blackened with a robust Indian spice rub. This star of the meal was dramatically presented on an aromatic and hearty yellow curry, the flavours of which seemed to come straight from the deserts of Rajasthan. I could have done with another serving, but good manners prevailed – something I regret, because if you’re someone that lives to eat, this dish is a delight.
I wasn’t done with Ziya yet. Waiting with bated breath for the final course, I discovered the ‘Chocomosa’. You may hesitate at the thought of a dessert samosa, but all doubts melt away once you savour the confident creations of this trendsetting chef. Voila – the meal ends on a truly sweet note, as a flaky pastry enveloping creamy chocolate custard is brought to the table. Gently placed on a bed of luscious coffee shrikhand, it is decorated with miniature swirls of coffee meringue and tempered dark chocolate echoing the Jharoka panels on the wall. It’s easy to understand why this is his most copied signature dish. One also has to applaud the young but enormously skilled and competent Chef Nayna Nanji and her proficient squad of sous chefs for executing an unforgettable dining extravaganza. Chef Bhatia should be so very proud of his team.
Everything about Ziya is a revelation, and the renowned service at The Oberoi, Mumbai allowed me to savour each moment of the magnificent dining experience. Servers who have been there since my childhood continue to show genuine care, bringing a sense of warmth and, fittingly, a feeling of ‘homecoming’ to every visit. With ingenious combinations of modern and traditional food, a sublime atmosphere and impeccable service, Ziya is a worthy indulgence. After all, how often do you get a chance to dine in the Nawabi style and be treated like the Rajas of yore?