DestinAsian

INDIAN MODERN

IT’S THURSDAY NIGHT

IN MUMBAI, AND The Bombay Canteen is packed. The crowd is young. The conversation is loud. The cocktails are flowing. And—here’s the surprise—the food is Indian: the remixed, rebooted, and regional form dubbed “contemporary” or “modern” or “nouvelle” (but never “fusion”!) by the country’s hottest chefs.

A few years have passed since I last visited Mumbai (“Say Bombay!” my Indian wife, Shailaja, admonishes), and a lot has changed. The last time we were here, we scoured the city for a good Maharashtrian restaurant and found only Trishna, a stuffy old favorite that specializes in seafood dishes from the state’s Arabian Sea coast. Just as in Delhi (where we live) or Bangalore or Kolkata or any other Indian metropolis, the city’s top tables were serving Italian or Mediterranean or Japanese or Vietnamese. And the joints doing Indian were doing it badly, serving up a dumbed-down menu of Punjabi and Mughlai dishes (dal makni, palak paneer, muttar paneer, chicken curry, mutton curry) or a comparably bastardized and truncated version of South Indian fare. (On a separate jaunt to Kochi, we discovered that just about the only place you could get real Keralan food was in the toddy shops.)

Over the last six years or so, however, Indian restaurants have witnessed something of a revolution, and “local”

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