Friday, 22 April 2016
Zulu Terrace, Andheri West, Mumbai
Dark. Insipid. Avoidable. These are the words I usually associate with Hookah places. Mostly because I don't like hookah myself. And because I get blind without sufficient lighting and I need my food well-lighted to enjoy it. And finally because most of the hookah places don't really pay much attention to food because they earn most of their revenues from hookah and alcohol. I have been to a couple of such places with my friends and office colleagues in last couple of years and always come home quite disappointed. Hence those words to describe them.
Zulu Terrace is here to probably banish all these thoughts for once and for all by taking care of us all whether we love hookah or not :D I got an invite to visit them for a blogger review and did not have high expectations. All I prayed for was a chance to see my food clearly in good lighting before eating it and good enough vegetarian food options. I was pleasantly surprised on more counts than one.
Go in the Fun Republic Lane and take the first left. Zulu Terrace is located right ahead, above Doolally and Barbecue Nation :D Go up the huge stairs and well,as the name explains it, walk right out on the terrace with canopies, trees lit up by ethereal lights giving it a fairyland-ish aura and a very laid back, hookah-soaked ambiance. It screams relaxation with friends. Needless to say,a lot of youngsters can be seen enjoying hookah and conversations. There is a huge TV screen along with a couple of small ones where right now, IPL matches are being screened LIVE but if you are not interested in that, just sway to some awesome music. It is like a pub + cafe + everything that signifies laid-back comfort to everyone,all together at one place. It would look beautiful in the morning too with chairs as well as plush sofa seating. Plus they have a mist fan cooling system so it is never really hot even if one is not sitting directly in the path of a fan :) AND while it is certainly dark,as all hookah places/bars are, they have placed these beautiful lamps high above which perfectly light up all my food so it was not like a literal blind tasting for me. Love that :D
Chef Danny Lobo warmly welcomed us and navigated us through the menu. He can be spotted personally taking care of everyone who walks in and most of the patrons are regulars whom he welcomes with a happy smile or a bear hug :) We ended up chatting on length about how he has a dream of Zulu Terrace not just being a hookah place but also being recognized for its food, how they keep changing the specials of the day to keep the regular patrons interested and happy, how they have imported the mist fan cooling system from China, how the place was conceptualized as an all-day place to chill for anyone and everyone, how he personally makes some dishes including the amazing brownie we had during the desserts...It was not only an evening of good food but some great conversations too! Oh,he loves cricket, so if you are a cricket lover, do not miss to have a memorable chat on the topic with him :D
Chef helped us taste some of the best dishes on the menu which has a lot of options for both veggies as well as non-veggies. This is where my earlier perception of all hookah places being 'dark and disappointing' melted away. The menu has Indian, Chinese, Mid-Eastern, Continental dishes that have been carefully chosen and put together. So the choices might be limited (there aren't 100 dishes to choose from) but everything is delicious. This is how it should be. Give me just 30 dishes but make them memorable :)
We started off with a Guava and a Fruit Blossom Mocktail both of which instantly refreshed us. I loved the Guava mocktail that started off sweet but thanks to that swipe of salt on the rim, went down like a slab of tequila :D Mocktail that behaves like Cocktail? Yes Please! It was instantly followed by Veggies on a grill where Potatoes, Cauliflower, Paneer, Tomatoes and Corn jostled for our attention. It was accompanied by a dip made of hung curd that my spice-loving sister loved. I loved the corn which was perfectly grilled yet remained extremely juicy from inside. Lip-smacking. Next entree was Exotic veggies in Hunan sauce. Self-explanatory. The sweet-spicy and flavorful Hunan sauce did not overpower the veggies,all of them retained their natural crunchy flavors.
The main course started off on a winning note with Penne in mixed sauce as I was confused whether t go for White sauce or Red one. Well, Chef Lobo banished the confusion by giving us a lip smacking pasta in pink sauce where cheese enhanced rather than overpowered our tastebuds. A good pasta, now is there anything better than that? Well, maybe yes :D One would think that like all hookah places,Zulu Terrace will also only excel in finger foods or starters or pasta/pizza. Nothing could be farther from truth as we sample 2 full meal plates- one with fried rice and tandoori veggies plus Paneer steak in mushroom pepper sauce and another one with fried rice and exotic veggies in barbecue sauce. Honestly, I cannot choose a favorite. My sister and I dug in and did not stop till we had licked the plate clean. I love mushrooms but I never choose mushroom based sauce for anything, here I loved the rice and mushroom sauce paneer steak combo. My sister loves barbecue sauce in any case and it was just an explosion of flavor through and through.
While we were already stuffed, we remembered Chef mentioning him making brownies in-house and we had to taste Sizzling Brownie with Ice-cream. It was a good end to a very good meal. I would say that looking at the ambiance and the regular clientele, they have got the menu pat down. There is plenty to satiate every taste bud. Not only that, people like me who don't like hookah or don't drink have enough to be happy about. Most importantly, the price is justified and a good meal for 2 will not cross Rs. 1200. Staff is very efficient and quick on their toes. I could see every 2nd table enjoying a hookah, I hope that with passage of time they become equally famous for good food at affordable price points too. AND they have some amazing happy hours offers going on throughout the day which must not be missed by anyone. I will definitely be going back with some of my hookah loving friends :)