There is something very pleasing about the concept of running a restaurant inside a store. I think it brings a sense of calmness to the otherwise rushed demeanour of the stereotypical shopper. And places like Good Earth have executed the idea so well that it is no surprise The Tasting Room has gone on to become more frequently visited than the actual store itself.
My dad and I were extremely close and one of my fondest memories with him were our trips to Ikea, a Swedish furniture depot. Dad loved Ikea, mainly for the options to buy and assemble furniture himself- perhaps helping him relive his college woodshop days. But what I loved was the Ikea restaurant inside and I would gladly tag along and wait for him to make his purchases after which both of us would walk into the restaurant for a simple but delicious meal of Swedish meatballs and gravy with mash and lingonberry jam.
Walking into The Tasting Room after an optimistic but unproductive jaunt of furniture stores in the area reminded me of those trips but this place looks nothing like the stark white, almost clinical interiors of Ikea’s humble eatery.
The Tasting Room exudes a brand of effortless charm that most “vintage” styled cafes here strive towards but generally fail at. They have a huge industrial space broken in sections by textured partition walls in hues of wispy gold and powder blue. You see tall lanterns lit by twinkling fairy lights from within, delicate crystal chandeliers over marble top tables and fabric backed chairs in an eclectic mix of floral and geometric patterns. But the bold walls, dark flooring and sleek metallic bar and patisserie balance out the otherwise petite accents to the place.
(All the pretty fixtures fail to offer bright lighting, so be warned- there are dim pictures to follow)
The menu is concise and easy to get through and the presence of duck and seafood mains outnumbering the standard chicken and pork is a pleasant surprise.
However do exercise caution while ordering. Our first visit here with family friends was thorougly enjoyable given the company, but our choices in the food were a bit of a let down. I found their braised chorizo slightly tough and the jus a little too peppery for my liking and mom’s roast chicken was dry and not the best we’ve had either.
Keeping those snags in mind, we settled for other protein options on the menu this time and chose one appetiser and two mains:
Corn and Vegetable Cigars with a Cilantro Wasabi Dip
The fritters themselves were strictly average, any flavour of the “vegetables” mysteriously absent. But the dip, despite not managing to really save the appetiser was a delight with the potent wasabi zing ever so slightly offset by the creaminess from the mayo base.
I am well aware wasabi mayo is a common fixture on many menus but these guys seemed to be the first to actually do it well which deserved a mention.
Grilled Duck Breast Burger with Pepper Gouda and Cherry Compote
Since duck meat is all “dark” meat, I think it lends itself well to a burger patty mince and does not have the tendency to end up overcooked and dry like the humble chicken. The patty here is hearty, not overly seasoned and cooked to perfection. The lower bun is slathered with a jammy cherry compote that offers a delicious tartness to complement the duck- I am glad Bombay is finally beginning to understand the beautiful citrus/rosaceae-poultry pairing that most restaurants world over have cashed on. The wholewheat bun itself is unexceptional and the gouda is nondescript, but the fries were just how I like them- with a relatively thick cut and crispy exterior and a hot, fluffy interior. I savoured every last one, dipping liberally in the sweet grainy mustard provided on the side. All in all a really good burger, and possibly my second favourite in the city after Cafe Zoe’s tenderloin beauty; this is of course if they serve up a consistent version of it during every visit.
Seared Fillet of Basa with Cauliflower Mash and Bhavnagri Cream Sauce
The cooking of the fish is absolutely spot on with the browned crust giving way to white, impossibly flaky fish inside. The mash was standard fare and the cream sauce though an agreeable accompaniment was a tad over seasoned and lacked the mild punch promised by the Bhavnagri chillies.
The wait staff are polite and efficient and the food is brought in quickly and steaming hot. I believe our meal was actually done in about 40 minutes and we surprisingly didn’t feel rushed despite the fast service. Good stuff.
A great little spot for a tea time rendezvous or cosy dinner date, The Tasting Room aims and for most part succeeds in offering food that is befittingly as elegant and enjoyable as its interiors. What has my respect is a relatively simple menu featuring a few European classics and a good wine list without any of the questionable attempts at fusion or garish liquid nitrogen fueled theatrics most restaurants here have opted for off late.
Sometimes less is truly more.