36 Oak & Barley
GPS: 76, August Kranti Marg, Gowalia Tank, Mumbai - 36
Tring Tring: +912223811010/23880001
In & Out: 12 noon – 1:00am
Damages: Rs.2500 for a meal for two without alcohol
Must-Order: Mushroom Dumpling in Shitake Broth
The most notable change when you walk into the spacious and woodsy 36O&B, (which happened to be one of our fave low-key hangout joints, East earlier) is in the owner, Nachiket Shetye. While the restaurant hasn’t changed hands since its Nish avatar, Nachiket has lost nearly 60% of his former self with a dazzling weight loss which had Mariam and me reeling in envy and nearly rethinking our copious order! Especially when he mentioned that he had done away with carbs altogether for the past 18 months to shed 35 odd kilos! But then of course umami prevailed and we were back to eating and gossiping while silently admitting that weight loss is something that happens to other people!
Since Mariam was working and I was trying to be good we eschewed the bar menu and went for virgins instead. As I waited for Mariam to navigate her way through traffic I stuck to The Girl who Played with Fire (girls like us!) and their Vegetable Juice of the Day which was a sharp and yummy blend of apple, beetroot, celery and ginger. It was thick, frothy and filled with fresh herby goodness though it was strangely served warm. Though I did request for some ice to cool it I wondered why it didn’t come chilled already.
By the time M turned up we were dying of hunger and quickly went for some salads and starters and subconsciously chose their Asian offerings (East hangover!). The Papaya Bell Pepper & Bean Salad with peanuts in a honey chilli lime dressing was impossibly crunchy and fresh with a peppery tang that had sweetness and fire in equal measure. It perked up our palates properly for the remaining courses. The Mushroom Dumplings in Shitake Broth was another portion of perfection with the most delicate dumplings ever filled with mushroom bits and set off by a miso flavoured shitake broth that had all the earthy flavours of this distinctive mushroom. The dumpling skin was the softest we have had so far (Yauatcha notwithstanding) and we almost forgot we were having a vegetarian dish altogether, so delish were the flavors.
|Raw Papaya Salad Photo Courtesy: Mariam Mamaji|
|Shitake Mushroom Dumpling Photo Courtesy: Mariam Mamaji|
We then crossed over from Asia to America and went straight for the Buffalo Sliders, two mini beef burgers with tomato lettuce and mustard. While we were happy they omitted the mayo (we happen to completely ignore store-bought mayo every time we come face-to-face with any!), the patty was clearly a frozen one and the mustard overshadowed the flavor of the meat altogether. While it wasn’t disastrous by far, we will avoid this one when we come back to O&B next time round.
|Buffalo Sliders Photo Courtesy: Mariam Mamaji|
However the mains perked up our spirits once again. Since Mariam had recently read somewhere that the influx of Vietnamese Basa in the city was due to trade dumping of Basa bred in dubious polluted water inlets in Vietnam, we bypassed it for the Barramundi in Kasundi Cream instead. The fish was firm, plump and coated with creamy kasundi and a hint of another subtle mystery flavor, which was soon revealed to be fennel. We were amazed at how the fennel managed to reach our taste buds because usually its such a delicate flavor that it gets overlaid by stronger flavours, especially mustard. Kudos to O&B for managing to keep the taste so distinct!
|Barramundi in Kasundi Cream Photo Courtesy: Mariam Mamaji|
However we were in for a dessert disaster. The list looked promising enough with many options laced with alcohol, and we settled for the Brandied Chocolate Mousse with Prunes. However what we got was a glass full of cream with a thin layer of prunes right in the middle! Digging our spoons in deep yielded cream and more cream and needless to say our palates were soon coated with the greasy gag-inducing layer. Upon asking if this was what we had ordered we were told that the thin layer in the middle was the chocolate and the prunes and all the rest was mascarpone. Cardiac arrest anyone?? We feared for our alimentary canal and soon set this one aside for a green tea (mine) and espresso (Mariam). As you know, M is an espresso fiend and she soon pronounced the O&B version ‘not bad’. Phew!
Crowd V/s Company
Despite trying to position itself as an all-day eatery and café O&B settles for surprisingly dark interiors with a nightclub feel more than a sunny daytime place. The limited source of natural light is downplayed further with dark wood, a black panther hanging over the bar, a dark red wall with dark wood artefacts and an all-black washroom prefaced by a chainmail curtain (sexy in an S&Mish way!). The vast unoccupied floor space further indicates nightclub ambitions (for people to stand around jostling for the bar?), though as most new places this one too has received the patronage of the LWL (Ladies Who Lunch) and should therefore do just fine, especially because it doesn’t have any competition in the neighborhood.
As soon as Nachiket reintroduces their famous Burmese Khao Swye and Malaysian Canai Roti as he has promised we’ll be back to this all-day eatery . . . and pretend it’s a 4pm teatime snack to make everyone happy!