The Chef Behind: The Tasting Room
‘The Chef Behind’ is a series of profiles that look at the people in charge of the kitchens of the city’s most popular restaurants.
The Tasting Room has the distinction of being Mumbai’s first wine bar. It was initially run by Sula, and had a shamefully limited wine list. However, since Riyaaz Amlani’s Impressario group (of Mocha, Salt Water Cafe and delItalia fame) took over three years ago, The Tasting Room has firmly established itself as a destination for quality European comfort fare and a well-balanced wine list with reasonable prices. A large part of the attraction of The Tasting Room is its ambience: housed inside Good Earth, the furniture and home accessories store, the restaurant has quirky posters for decor, is painted in shooting shades of pista and maroon, and has, at some tables, capacious sofas that can alter the course of even the most disastrous first date.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kshama Prabhu is one of the few female head chefs in the city. But she doesn’t care for that tiny detail and won’t hesitate to crack the whip when any of her 20-odd male kitchen staff fall out of line. As soon as she graduated from the Merit Swiss Asian School of Hospitality in Ooty in 2002, Prabhu moved abroad to work. She spent three years in Dubai, and a year each in London and Brisbane. “My best experience was at Gordon Ramsay’s Boxwood Cafe in London where I worked under Stuart Gillies,” Prabhu says. “Although Ramsay was busy with the opening of his restaurant in New York, he did visit several times and it was incredible to work for him.” Ultimately, the gloomy weather and visa issues forced her return to India where she spent a few months at Corleone, the Italian restaurant at the InterContinental Marine Drive, before heading to Brisbane. She came back with the hope of opening her own restaurant (which she still hopes to do in the near future) but decided instead to man the kitchen at The Tasting Room.
Prabhu started working at The Tasting Room in April 2009, and proudly points out to the ringing changes she introduced, while being careful to credit them to “we”. After she came on board, specials was introduced, the dinner-only antipasti selection was served in the daytime as well, and the menu was revamped to move beyond pasta, which had dominated it in the past. The list of best-selling items doesn’t particularly overlap with the list of dishes of which she is most proud. In addition to the famous watermelon and feta salad she inherited, the cafe’s revenue earners are the grilled chicken breast, the Moroccan tagine and the polenta with corn and jalapeno. “I’m most proud of my Caeser’s salad, lamb ragu with spaghetti, oven-roasted chicken and the Baileys mousse,” says Prabhu, adding that the number of customers who come in specifically to the cafe now exceed those taking a break from their shopping. They can expect to see a new menu towards the end of July. “I aim for it to be more Mediterranean than Italian, with dishes from Turkey, Greece and North Africa,” she promises.
Devendra Das likes a bong, all Bongs and while not preoccupied by either, chronicles his gluttonous experiences.Food, Kshama Prabhu, Special Top Story, The Chef Behind, The Tasting Room
LocationThe Tasting Room
Senapati Bapat Marg
Phone6528 5284, 2495 1954 Ext. 224
HoursDaily, 9am to 12.30am