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Reviewed: Toast And Tonic, BKC, Mumbai

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Years ago, I walked into this neat restaurant on Richmond Road in Bengaluru and instantly fell in love. So much so that it was the first place I directed anyone who asked me for Luru recommendations to.

Toast and Tonic is an East Village, NY-style eatery that’s the latest brainchild of coolest of the cool, Chef Manu Chandra. After the successes of both Monkey Bar and Fatty Bao, it should come as no surprise that the diners of Maximum City have taken to his newest venture like a duck (the menu has duck tacos…so good) to water.

Anyway, my point is that I was prematurely excited considering I already had a fair idea of what I was in for, but my dinner date did not, so I was keen to get started.

 

The easy vibe of the place and the extensive bar makes for a great choice for post-work drinks, as we soon found out. Surrounded by suited consultant-banker types getting a bit loose after a hard day at the office, my partner-in-crime and I got super charged to catch up with the rest of the party around us.

Aside from great cocktails, Toast and Tonic offers a special menu of flavoured tonic concoctions that can be paired with a gin of your choice. Trust me when I tell you that you’ll very quickly experience that #CantStopWontStop feeling, because each tonic infusion is tastier than the one before.

 

The range is vast; for the unadventurous, there’s a classic-tasting basil and orange tonic served with gin, coriander, and orange ice, and is called the Herbalist; while for the more playful, there are combinations like the Gin-tleman’s tonic, which is gin, jasmine tea, elderflower, and grapefruit tonic, served with rose petal-cucumber ice.

But as it turned out, our favourites ended up being the two that we were most wary of — the British Raj, which is basically gin, pomegranate, and cinnamon tonic water, served with rose petal-cucumber ice; and the Vanillain, which had gin, vanilla, and cinnamon tonic and pear-spiced ice. You know that sounds good!

Our musings over the concoctions were punctuated with different dishes coming to the table, with mostly a mix of small plates and one apparently unmissable main.

 

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Welcome interruption #1 was the Bajra and Ricotta Gnudi, which is a lighter, more pillowy version of gnocchi. It was served with creamed amaranth leaves (a staple vegetable of Goa and called tambdi bhaji locally, owing to its red colour) and spinach, a slight crunch of toasted pine nuts, served on a bed of a velvety green veloute — one of the 5 mother sauces of French cooking (smooth like velvet, hence the name).

I always like to keep a menu close to me, so I can peruse and pick a mix of what speaks to me and what the server suggests — a sort of ‘one for me, one for you’ deal.

So, next up was the soft eggs and fresh andouille sausage on sourdough toast. Four 6-minute eggs (half runny yolks) and smoked andouille sausage with green mustard spread, smoked bandel cheese, cream cheese, and topped with gin mustard hollandaise over the eggs.

You can gather from the description that this serving was quite rich and decadent, but also I’m a sucker for a well cooked egg and delicious sausage. Only problem with this course was that the toast was soaked in all the other stuff and hence was hard to cut through.

You have to balance out tastes at a meal when you want to try a bit of everything, so it helps to choose some lighter options as well. Therefore, our server got us a chilli tossed tuna poke bowl, served with seaweed, sticky gobindhobog rice, mustard greens, fried onions, chia seeds, and a passion fruit-pineapple vinaigrette.

 

Now, poke bowls are becoming quite famous in the city, but Toast And Tonic is still one of the few places who are currently doing it. And well. The fresh flavours and raw fish serve almost as a palate cleanser of sorts, giving you a break from the other rich options. We both love Asian flavours, so this was a real hit, aside from being exactly what we needed to carry on.

My ever-so-smart date that night suggested we skip the flatbreads and burgers for fear that it would fill us up too much. But can I just take a minute to talk about the Bulgogi Buff Burger, served with black bean mayo, kimchi and tapioca chips? This would definitely be the next thing I try when I go back because it’s Korean flavours in a sexy ass looking burger. I mean, come on. Just look.

 

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It’s alright though, because just like with travel, you should always leave something for the next time. Instead, we ordered a portion of the crisp soft shell crab from Bhimavaram in Andhra Pradesh.

These refer to crabs that have recently molted their old exoskeleton and are still soft, and are a delicacy for most. I personally like the effort that goes into eating crabs wholeheartedly, but that’s just the Goan in me speaking.

I appreciate that soft shell is much easier to eat in a restaurant setting. This preparation was served in a Singapore style chilli peanut sauce. It was served with Chinese buns called mantous that were the perfect accompaniment for dipping into that yummy peanut sauce.

 

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We also got another seafood option, a lightly poached tiger shrimp swimming in a kokum and coconut broth, served with prawn pickle and prawn crackers (you know the ones you get as bar snacks?). Everything about this dish appealed to my coastal sensibilities, especially the sour, tart flavour of the kokum. Yum.

We capped the savoury portion of our meal with the udon, house-cured chorizo and clams — the dish that our server told us we couldn’t leave without trying (I wasn’t planning to anyway).

In Portugal they have a dish called cataplana, which is a big copper vessel in which they cook a fisherman’s stew and one version is a surf and turf of sorts, with pork and clams. This instantly reminded me of that dish, aside from the udon, of course. It was served with Bangalore black forest ham, fresh cilantro, and smoked bandel cheese, and can only be described as an explosion of flavour.

 

Our full tummies weren’t really allowing me to make decisions, considering I was a step away from a food coma by now. So again we went with the ‘one for us, one for them’ philosophy, picking the expression of jaggery on their insistence and the coffee, because we’re both addicted.

The banana cake, served with a jaggery cardamom honey comb, jaggery caramel, coffee, and cardamom ice cream was interesting in terms of its use of jaggery and wasn’t overpoweringly sweet, but not my cuppa tea.

‘Cause like I said, I like coffee.

 

 

So the filter coffee cremeux, millet coffee cake, coffee cardamom ice cream, cashew nut sesame granola, filter coffee gel got my vote.

When you read about all the elements, it might seem like there’s too much going on, but I, for one, found it perfectly balanced and just right to end the meal. I’m a sucker for multi-utility, aren’t you?

This story first appeared on Askmen India. For more such stories, log on to in.askmen.com.

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A multi tasking octopus with a keen eye for solving mysteries. In the real world --a journalist, food lover and dreamer with a penchant for cynicism.

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