Restaurant Review: Umame
There are some restaurants that make no pretence about being more than what they are; they profess no culinary acrobatics or dazzle by way of decor. They are solid, rating consistency and comfort above all else, the sort of place you could take the folks for a fancy occasion and bank on nothing going awry. It was this faith that earned Farrokh Khambata’s much loved Joss his loyal customer base, something he managed to replicate in part at Spanish restaurant Amadeus, and to a lesser extent at its back door cousin Cafe at the NCPA.
With Umame, the putative heir to Joss, which has come up in place of the characterless Valhalla, Khambata has returned to his fallback mix of Far Eastern cuisines. It’s a safe ploy, admittedly, but one that suffers no less for it. By sticking to what he knows best, Khambata has recreated an atmosphere of inoffensive familiarity. The high-backed chairs, the marble walls, the lighting that hovers just a notch above from being too “dim”, the light box images of skyscrapers on the ceiling—nothing is intrusive or too distracting, and judging by the crowd of middle-aged diners last week, it’s exactly how they like it.
It’s a philosophy that extends across the food, a mix of Thai, Indonesian, Malaysian and Japanese, where everything is how you’d expect it to be. When deviations are made, as with injecting cream cheese into a soft shell crab sushi roll, the result is an indulgent, and not entirely successful mouthful. The gyoza pot stickers, filled with mushy Wagyu beef, was another similarly overstretched idea, one that marred a perfectly delicious cut of meat by first softening and then spicing it too much.
Order instead the xiao long bao, a light dumpling of a chicken and prawn mixture bound together with gelatin (the provision of a straw was a neat way of getting out the last drops of umame-rich broth); the sashimi platter, which had a lovely cut of yellowtail, along with tuna, eel and salmon; and the water chestnut and corn siu mai, which were crispy little dumplings of contrasting textures. If you have to choose just one appetiser, you cannot go wrong with the Iberian pork belly, a superlative dish of impeccably cooked meat, coated with a treacly soy glaze. Of the mains, the sweetish, sauce-y Singapore chilli prawns and ‘loc lac’ beef, a quickly seared Vietnamese dish, were ably executed. The wok-seared veggies were likewise tossed in their juices long enough for the broccoli, corn, enoki mushrooms and asparagus stems to retain their crunch. The Massaman red curry with lamb shank, a velvety concoction enriched with a delectable bone, was so mouth-coatingly rich that let it be your only entree should you choose to order it.
Scoops of just sweet enough Gianduja and Tahitian vanilla ice-cream ended an indulgent feast that more often than not achieved the right balance of sauce and meat, texture and taste. You may not walk away with your palate floored, but as Khambata no doubt knows, there is no harm in sticking to a tried-and-tested formula.
A meal for two, with alcohol, costs about Rs5,000. This review was conducted anonymously.Tags: Farrokh Khambata, restaurant reviews, Restaurants, Umame
Eros Theatre Building
M. Karve Road
Phone022 6111 0303/04/05
HoursDaily, from noon to 3.30pm; and from 7pm to 1.30am