3 August 2014

Lemon Leaf, Bandra: The Sequel

Lemon Grass in Bandra has been at that landmark Turner road corner ever since I can remember. I had my first ever Khao Suey there, a desi version of the Burmese dish, but delicious nevertheless. Many random lunch and dinner plans were made there over the subsequent years. It was our go to place, for a quick, filling Pan Asian meal, with no frills attached. If you want fancy, fine dine stuff please head to Royal China down the road. 

However, with the advent of so many new restaurants cropping up in the area, I forgot about Lemon Grass. Till they revamped and relaunched themselves to become Lemon Leaf. I decided to go eat there anonymously, and find out if the sequel was as good as the original. 

Ambiance: The place looked pretty similar to me except the addition of a few paintings and murals on the wall. White, traditional lanterns hang from the ceiling and nicely contrast the green on the wall and the chairs. We skipped the indoor air conditioned seating for the outdoor area, where the pitter-patter of the rain was the perfect accompaniment to our conversation. 





They've retained Lemon Grass's simple, fuss-free interiors which have worked for them previously and will work for them this time around too.

Service: I recognized a few of the staff that has been waiting  on the tables there since years, and they recognized me back! Service that night was decent and efficient. I personally love interrogating the waiters, asking them for recommendations. They told us that they've added some dishes from Malaysia, Vietman, Sri Lanka, Indonesia onto the new menu, which we must try.

Food: My aim was to try a few of the newer dishes, and see how they fared. Would they make me come back for more a second time around? 

That very same day, the folks at Mumbai Boss did a exhaustive article on the new menu at Lemon Leaf which definitely warrants a read. Link here. I only read it, after I was done with my dinner, for fear of being biased.

Navigating through the menu was a pain. It is crazy long, with too many options and too many cuisines. I would've loved for them to classify the pages cuisine-wise instead of course-wise. It just would've been easier to maneuver.

First dish of the night, and something I was excited to try was the Sri Lankan Kuthu Roti with eggs, onions, tomatoes and spices (Rs. 285/-). Now I have never made a trip to Sri Lanka, but it is on my list of places to visit before I turn 30. (Maybe I should do a blogpost about that someday. Hmm). After eating this dish, I want to go visit Sri Lanka even more. 

It does not make for a visually appealing dish. A bowl of diced chicken, egg, tomatoes, chilli and greasy paratha, tossed in oil and spices akin to 'anda bhurji'. The heat and spice makes it a perfect dish to eat in the monsoon, which is exactly how we ate it that night.


Sri Lankan Kuthu Roti

Next we had the Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls (Rs. 275/-). Ours was stuffed with grilled chicken, lettuce, and mint. This was a light and healthier option, since the stuffing was mainly greens and grilled chicken. They serve it with this sweet and spicy dip which saves it from becoming very bland. My complaint was the pricing. Four measly pieces of this roll does not warrant a price of 275 bucks.


Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls

From Sri Lanka to Vietnam, we then took a trip to Malaysia, with the famous Roti Canai (Rs. 385/-). My first time eating Roti Canai was when I was doing a course at Manipal University. Due to the large influx of International students especially from South East Asia, they had this stall serving Malay and Indonesian food in the food court. I tried my first Nasi Goreng there too!

Every subsequent time I've eaten Roti Canai, it's been different; both in India and abroad. So I honestly didn't know what to expect. We got a bowl of piping hot, spicy, chicken curry which tasted a tad bit like Thai curry to me. The roti was not as flaky as the previous versions I ate earlier. Accompanied with the sambal, it makes for an interesting dish, even though it may not be very close to the original.

Roti Canai
Always make space for the desserts at Lemon Leaf and/or Grass. They bring these beauties to your table to help you pick, which may lead to extreme confusion and potential arguments at your table. Having spent 10 minutes pondering, I went ahead and picked the Creamy Coconut Custard in Almond Biscuit (Rs. 200/-). My reason was that it was the only dessert on the menu with a slight Asian influence. The custard was indeed creamy and dense but lacked any coconut flavor. However, the crumbly almond biscuit perfectly contrasted the texture of the custard. Slightly on the heavier side, three spoonfuls of this and you're sorted! I loved the addition of the tiny almond macaroon on the top which made for a pretty picture.


Creamy Coconut Custard in Almond Biscuit
Overall, does the sequel stand up to the original? Yes, it does. I loved the variety of new dishes added to the menu. One gets to sample dishes across South East Asia, which may not be easily available in the city at that price point. Will I go back? Maybe, I will. For the comforting Khao Swey, and my new favorite The Kuthu Roti. But considering how many new restaurants crop up left, right and center, we are spoiled for choice!

Meal for Two: Rs. 1200/- with tax, and excluding alcohol. (We dined there anonymously.)

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