Food Review: 36 Oak & Barley

January 30, 2012 8:11 am by

New Kemps Corner restaurant 36 Oak & Barley sits at a traffic-snarled junction down the street from Cumbulla Hill Hospital, in a charmless ground floor space with little natural light. Inherent disadvantages such as these pose their own set of problems, chief among them, the question of how to draw people inside. The answer, clearly, is great food. Chef Nachiket Shetye ably proved his culinary skills with East, the underrated Asian restaurant that 36 Oak & Barley has replaced. But in trying to reinvent the concept—all day dining, multi-cuisine fare—and decor—red walls, panthers (more on them later)—something went terribly awry.

The 2,400 square foot establishment derives its ambience entirely from the decor, which apes dingy midtown Manhattan bars, the kind you’d only frequent to drown your sorrows in drunken solitude. There’s a giant jaguar sculpture jutting out of a wall; it’s less a conversation starter (like the owners indicated) and more a prompt to notice that the feline theme extends itself to other parts of the space, including a red wall on the far end decorated with sculptures of mini panther heads caged in wire mesh.

The food presents a choice of American, Italian and Thai cuisines, each solidly represented by their “best of” hits, namely sliders, noodles, risotto and dumplings. The meal, however, proceeded to quickly unravel until the very end, when a deft execution of berry panna cotta saved our quickly plummeting mood.

First, the good stuff: in place of a bread basket, you are provided with a crisp, warm sprout salad and homemade cheesesticks, which do the job of whetting your appetite and saving most of it for the meal to come. The warm chunked salad of zucchini and tomatoes with creamy goat cheese was tossed in a light glaze of basil, garlic and balsamic, leaving the veggies close to their natural state of crunchiness.

And onto the bad: the vegetable steamed dumplings served in a coriander broth were a bland mass, despite the side of sweetish coriander relish. The lamb meatballs came atop a base of oversalted tomato sauce; the meatballs, tough and consequently chewy, were inedible. After we chose the rajma sliders, the staff informed us that the dish is “an option for Jains”. We hope it is soon banished from the menu for the sake of Jains everywhere. The bone-dry patty of rajma and peas was so parched of just about every morsel of flavour that even the non-Kosher addition of onion slices couldn’t save it from utter ineptness. The John Dory with braised onions smelt fishy, its case further weakened by the seemingly disparate addition of a sweet pineapple salsa that didn’t mesh well with either the fish or the onions.

For dessert, skip the rich chocolate cake (you’ll find better variants at a dozen other places), and try instead the vanilla and berry panna cotta, topped with a sprinkling of tapioca balls, and executed to perfection. Initially, 36 Oak & Barley may well find takers from the neighbourhood, who will be drawn there by convenience and a familiarity with Shetye’s reputation. The larger challenge will be getting people to return, for which they will definitely need to iron out the menu and do something about the depressing décor.

A meal for two, excluding alcohol, costs approximately Rs2,000. This review was conducted anonymously.

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36 Oak & Barley

Location76 Nidhi
August Kranti Marg
Near Gowalia Tank
Kemps Corner

Phone2381 1010

HoursDaily, noon to 1am

Comments (11)

  1. Siobhan |

    See what you mean, Mazen – we couldn’t agree with you more! You kinda feel short changed when you have a houseful of precocious brats knocking about in what typically is a resto-bar / lounge setting. Many of us in Mumbai find ourselves wedged between a rock and a hard place deciding on a fine dine-drinking joint that is both not child friendly as well as large group friendly. For crying out loud, last we noticed there was such a thing as a baby sitting service that couples can avail of when out on the town pubbing grubbing and gaming. Would implore the management for an about face with its policy to let in minors. With due respect, 36 Oak and Barley ain’t no Hello! Kitty restaurant or Rainforest Cafe.

  2. Mazen Khanachet |

    Love the spartan industrial decor: it is very atmospheric. The food is gorgeous and the produce fresh from the farmer’s market. Service is caring and attentive without being overbearing. Once upon a time they used to have a zero tolerance policy toward little monsters which made it a quaint fine diner appropriate for celebrating wedding anniversaries, romantic dates or Valentine’s. Alas, the management no longer stands up to patrons with kids- net outcome; the place on weekends can be out of a full blown Indian family circus with the kids running amok.

  3. MR |

    Or maybe, just maybe, the reviewer did, infact, have a bad meal..and maybe because some of you are friends of the chef/owner, got fantastic food?Why justify the food by saying that the reviewer is being vengeful/was in a bad mood etc etc

  4. Varun G |

    One of the best jain food menus u can find in South Mumbai.

  5. Varun G |

    Whoever reviewed the place has absolutely no sense about food and ambience. Was probably going through a low phase of life when he/she reviewed it.

    Fantastic place
    Fantastic food
    Fantastic staff

    A must go….

  6. Khozema |

    I agree with you that the traffic at that junction is manic during the day. However, right here – in this part of town. Other than Crossword there is nowhere else I can go to get a cup of coffee or a meal, unless I head Colaba or the Mills. So traffic being excused the location is convenient for us that live in the neighbourhood.

    The food is very good. Everything I got was delicious, the cheese fondue, the beetroot and orange salad, one of the fish main courses and the panna cotta.

    I was very surprised to read your review so I looked up a few other, for instance Burp, Eating out in Bombay, BPB amongst others on a google search and they all had fantastic things to say about it! (ref: http://know.burrp.com/food-dining/review-36-oak-barley/35965)

    To be very honest it sounds like the reviewer has a terrible bias against the restaurant, its owners or he/she had a miserable day and vengefully took it out on this review.

  7. Amit Bachani |

    Reason I’m posting is because I had a completely different experience at the restaurant than the reviewer here. I thought the place looked like a really cool bar, and with the drinks sensibly priced, my friends and I will definitely frequent this place, given it’s central location. Cocktails that the women drank, were unique and pretty good, while the guys stuck to whiskey and vodka. Food wise, appetizers were good and we actually over ate, loved the cheese sticks that are given on the table. Main course we stuck to simple chinese / thai options, which were the trademark of East, it’s a shame they don’t have the Roti Canai anymore. Onto desserts, the Panna cotta was good, but I preferred the cheese cake. All in all we had a completely different experience than the reviewer here. Icing on the cake – was the tab- 4 couples with alcohol, apps, mains and desserts – was approx 6000, which I thought was great for a neighbourhood bar/restaurant – given that i live 5 minutes way(Napean Sea Rd.)

  8. Alok |

    I’ll have to disagree with most of this review and question the legitimacy of this as a “food review”. I’ve been here a couple of times now and each time neither I nor my friends had anything to complain about. The food was really good, well priced and the flavors are beautifully subtle. The cocktails too were excellent. And yes the Pannacotta is just aces.

    I’m not sure what the traffic outside any restaurant has to do with a food so-called review. Also after living mid town in Manhattan I’m struggling to remember any bar that looks even remotely similar to this place.

    If I had a complaint – and I do was one of the owners coming up and chatting to us with a mouth full of tobacco. The gesture was nice but I’d rather be excused.

  9. KS |

    Agree. Went there last week, and the food was decent at best. Thai curry was weak in terms of flavor, & the companion we were with mentioned that the John Dory was very bleh.

    Was a big fan of East, and this has a long ways to go.

  10. Harsh |

    LOL, Either you asked for a bribe and didn’t get it or were generally in a grumpy mood.
    Went there with my friends on Saturday.. The Food and Alcohol was both tasty and well priced. (The sangria was amazing! )
    Another Highlight was the smoking corridor which allowed me and my friends to smoke (as well as carry our drinks) in peace, away from the traffic etc.
    On the whole, we felt it was a good experience.. and with respect to the ambiance ‘aping dingy midtown bars’ comment.. Which bars do you frequent in Manhattan? Because clearly you have no idea how Bars look and feel.