By Sharell Cook.
When three businessmen get together to research gaps in the restaurant market in India, you can be sure they’ll come up with a great new concept. When one of them has lived in Thailand for most of his life, it’s guaranteed to be unique. Bowl House is definitely that.
India has a plethora of Chinese restaurants, some decent and some avoidable. However, there aren’t really any restaurant chains that offer a mix of South East and East Asian food together. Traditionally, anyone wanting eat this kind of cuisine would need to rely on restaurants in luxury hotels, and be prepared to spend accordingly.
That’s where Bowl House steps in. It brings diners the best dishes from the South East and East Asian regions at inexpensive prices, and in a casual but contemporary environment. And most importantly, the food is authentic. Just how authentic, you may be wondering?
In setting up the Bowl House, the partners perused many restaurant menus and selected the most popular dishes that would appeal to the Indian palate. They spent a great deal of time in Thailand conducting research, and then created their own recipes. One of the partners has over 20 years experience in the food industry, and he especially trained the kitchen staff to cook each dish to perfection. Ingredients are imported, but sourced locally in India.
As a lover of Asian food, and as someone who’s visited both Thailand and Malaysia, I know how difficult it is to find genuine dishes in Mumbai (and indeed India). In fact, I’d almost given up on the idea. Dishes with different names but the same flavour, and Thai dishes that tasted distinctly Chinese, left me feeling too jaded. Understandably then, I was very keen to try Bowl House.
There are three branches of Bowl House in Mumbai (as well as one in Hyderabad). I ate at the one in R-City Mall, Ghatkopar West. Its inviting interior is decorated with contemporary Chinese murals in warm shades, and profiles of the Buddha.
In order to sample as much as we could, my companions and I decided on a wide variety of dishes. To start with, we tried the Indonesian Gado Gado salad (green salad with spicy peanut dressing), Japanese Potato Cakes (mashed potato inside a panko crust), Chicken Momos (steamed minced chicken dumplings), Satay Chicken (char grilled Thai spiced chicken), Thai Lemongrass Prawns (wok tossed prawns, with lemongrass, holy basil and chili garlic sauce), and Chicken and Black Bean Sauce.
For main course, we had the Malaysian Kari Kapitan (Malay spices with ground cashew, cooked in coconut milk), Thai Holy Basil Chicken (chicken, holy basil, and greens, wok tossed with sweet soy), Vegetables in Soy Chili Gravy, and Thai Spicy Lemongrass Vegetables (seasonal vegetables simmered in a spicy tangy lemongrass sauce). The dishes were accompanied by Basil Fried Rice, Burned Garlic Fried Rice, and Japanese Udon Noodles.
And, for desert, we ordered Chocolate Brownie, Rose Chikki ice cream, and Roast Almond ice cream.
What can I say? Every dish was creatively crafted using exclusive blends of ingredients that gave wonderfully diverse tastes. There were bursts of fresh ginger, fresh lemongrass, and fresh basil. The Indonesian Gado Gado was a superb combination of textures and flavours – crispy cucumber, soft tofu and potato, crunchy peanuts, and a sweet and sour note to top it off. The chicken satay was supple and tender. I had no problem biting it off its skewer. The individual sauces that accompanied the appetizers were well selected to enhance their zest. The Japanese Potato Cakes, whilst deliciously crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside, took on a whole new persona when dipped in the wasabi mayonnaise. Likewise, the salsa did the same to the momos.
Apparently, the Thai Lemongrass Prawns is the restaurant’s most sought after dish. It certainly was succulent. But honestly, everything I tried, I’d eat again. The curries were a particular treat. I just can’t pass up a Thai or Malaysian curry that’s the real thing! The food at Bowl House is distinctive, and is undoubtedly unlike what most Indians are used to. Yet, it’s spicy, and so fresh and full of flavour that people will want to return for more.
As for the brownie, it came out in a sizzling chocolate sauce, just as it should. The ice cream was, pleasingly, completely natural and free of preservatives. The Bowl House even offers paan ice cream. Unfortunately, demand for it is so high that it was sold out when I was there. Being all natural means that supplies only keep for 4-5 days, and it’s impossible to stock up.
But here’s the really appealing bit. The cost. Two people can easily dine at the Bowl House for under 500 rupees. Prices range from 110 rupees for a salad, up to 260 rupees for a curry with prawns and steamed rice. This makes it very affordable and true paisa vasool. The Bowl House also has a full bar, including a cocktail and wine list, and happy hours.
And as for the future? The owners of the Bowl House are thinking big. They have plans to expand across India. The next outlet will open by the first week of April in Korum Mall, Thane. Based on the experience that I had, I’m sure it will be successful.
The finer details: The Bowl House, Shop No. T-19, R-City Mall, LBS Marg, Ghatkopar (W), Mumbai. Phone: (22) 67703320, 9930819006. Open for lunch and dinner daily, from midday to midnight. Home delivery is available for orders of 350 rupees or more.