Restaurant Review: Opa

September 5, 2011 8:31 am by

The Royal Garden Hotel on Juhu Tara Road is, in a word, unremarkable. It’s for good reason that the budget hotel features on the 237th spot in TripAdvisor’s rankings of 369 Mumbai hotels. It’s in dire need of a fresh coat of paint and the creepers that cascade over a wall at the entrance could benefit from a trim. The hotel has no culinary attractions either and can be best described as the Indian equivalent of a motel. For a good part of this year, the hotel’s owner, Ashish Sajnani, has invested his attention, and presumably a fair amount of money, in building Opa, a Mediterranean restaurant, on the ground floor. Sameep Padora, the architect of the Indigo Deli at the Palladium mall, has designed the eatery. At Opa, Padora has managed to recreate Indigo Deli’s warm ambience with the use of dark wood and diffused lighting. As a result of these modern architectural flourishes, the restaurant looks like a stand-alone establishment—a dissociation from its weather-beaten parent hotel that is likely to work in favour of the 4,300 square feet Opa.

If it’s a quiet meal you want, get a table indoors. The al fresco section, though tastefully done up with high wicker tables, granite flooring and a koi fish pond, is subject to the constant cacophony of speeding rickshaws and blaring car horns. Indoors, thick glass walls keep out the jarring sounds of the city. Sajnani calls the place a Mediterranean restaurant that serves modern European fare. In addition to breakfast and sandwiches, which they will start serving in a few weeks, the menu has soups, salads, starters, pastas, risottos and entrees in the form of grilled meats. We ordered the traditional Greek salad with spanakopita. Made up of salad leaves and julienne red and yellow peppers, dressed with olive oil, lime and a few specks of feta, the salad is deliberately simple in order to highlight the spanakopita, a samosa-shaped savoury pastry stuffed with spinach and feta. The phyllo triangles were sadly under-baked and not quite as flaky as we would have liked. The red wine poached figs topped with Camembert we ate next, however, were outstanding. The lusciously sweet dish came served, almost ceremoniously, in silver-plated appetiser spoons. Each fig was crowned with a swirl of creamy Camembert and a sprig of chive balancing delicately on top. Chef Mahesh More’s presentation, and combination of flavours, were both flawless. The golden brown crab cakes were equally meritorious. They were crisp on the outside and tender and lightly seasoned within; each cake had a pungent remoulade underneath and a tangy pineapple salsa on the side.

More, who has worked on cruise liners before he was appointed head chef at Opa, displayed great flair with the vegetarian entrees. In the chargrilled medallion of cottage cheese with vegetables and wilted spinach, we were pleasantly surprised to find caramelised onions and raisins stuffed into the pan-seared paneer patty. The dish came with an intensely smoky roasted tomato and red bell pepper reduction. Our steaming butternut squash risotto had a nice balance of cream and white wine. On a particularly damp day, like the one when we visited, the fiery Jamaican jerk chicken, a wholesome roast dish served with barley cooked with red beans, is perfect. But when preparing the pan-seared basa, the chef seemed to have paid greater attention to the side dish, an unusual but delicious serving of half-cooked tendli tossed in basil pesto. The bland fish, on the other hand, was paired with an equally tasteless and unexciting herbed butter sauce.

We were most disheartened to learn that Opa isn’t yet serving dessert. We take this part of the meal very seriously and for a fine dining restaurant to have neglected it is inexcusable. Gauging our disappointment, our waiter recommended “a most excellent caramel custard”. Except it wasn’t. They would do better not to serve the oversweet dessert, which we suspect was assembled in the room service kitchen. If Opa hopes to have us back, they need to figure out dessert because a meal without a sweet ending isn’t worth having.

A meal for two costs approximately Rs2,300. All reviews are conducted anonymously.