They have always been the pioneers of authentic Asian cuisine in Mumbai. And seven years later, it only gets better.
One does not enter Pa Pa Ya without having a firm mind to devour all the novelties of the menu. And they always have something up their sleeve.
From the first time they brought sushi to Mumbai in 2015 until today, each new menu release has added and improved something tasty. And this time it’s a plethora of Japanese and Chinese dishes, with a particularly delicious focus on dim sum.
Before we get to the food, which is definitely the star of the show here, the ambiance is worth considering. You know, a restaurant means business when it skips the bells and whistles in favor of a stellar menu. The time spent preparing a special menu for their seventh anniversary is evident in the evening’s food list. And the interiors play their supporting role well in creating a warm yet inviting atmosphere.
In keeping with the pan-Asian modern bistro vibe, there’s a fair amount of tapas-style plates, sushi, dim-sum and more. There are also enough main courses to satiate the Puritans, retaining the signature and incorporating new techniques.
We started our meal with the most tender and well cooked group of Chicken Gyoza. Unlike other gastronomic establishments, here is one that does not hesitate to offer you quantity and quality. The chicken is seasoned to perfection and the wrapper is just the right amount of chewy with a bite. Must try.
We then moved on to Shumai, again going with chicken and chestnut. And surprisingly, again, we weren’t disappointed at all. It’s manual enough to ensure it’s gobbled up in a jiffy, the steam rising in spirals be damned.
Between the Poached Exotic Vegetables with Black Bean Sauce and the Pokchoy Pool Chicken Balls, the latter was an easy win. Although they’re both prepared in similar styles, there was just something boring about the first one, making it one of the few dishes that didn’t eventually go away. And on a night out where everything ends up in the right place, it’s the little things that count. The sauce was just too heavy and overshadowed both the protein and the dish, not in a good way.
On the sushi side, we tasted the Dragon Roll as well as the Yellowtail sushi. I’m happy to report that both performed admirably well, making the happy occasion even better. The first was a shrimp tempura that ticked all the right boxes, providing the right balance of texture and flavor. Comparatively, the Yellowtail tipped slightly to the just-good-enough side. As I said before, the enemy of the great will always be good, an appropriate conclusion here.
The tacos were a little odd on the menu, both welcome but glaringly different at the same time. It’s hard to fault the beer tempura avocado tacos with corn and scallion kimchi. Each bite is tangy without overwhelming your palate and ruining the delicate flavor of the hero ingredient. It may seem like a basic option, but Pa Pa Ya is nothing if not complete right off the bat. The grilled chicken and avocado tacos, however, were more surprising for their flavor than the dish itself. It was almost reminiscent of a Chicken Chettinad, which isn’t problematic except for the fact that you’re sitting in an obviously pan-Asian restaurant. Not bad, but definitely weird.
A definite highlight of the meal was the sashimi course. Tuna and salmon are sliced with a deft hand, and the latter paired with ponzu brings out the freshness of the fish brilliantly. If you are a sashimi lover, Pa Pa Ya has more than you need.
All those tapas later, you know it’s “I’m too full for main course time”. Which was just as well, considering the Katsu Curry was enough to serve more than 2 people with a reasonable appetite. It was also slightly sweeter than the traditional dish, and definitely not recommended with chicken. Since it’s paired with traditional Japanese rice which also has a hint of sweetness, the whole dish falls flat.
Pa Pa Ya’s drinks aren’t particularly innovative or exciting, but not too bad. Go for the classics over the signature concoctions if you’re looking for 10/10 winners.
At the end of the meal, a twist similar to the most dramatic Hindi soap operas occurred. The desserts. If there is someone you don’t like, Pa Pa Ya’s mochi tray is a must for them. I can’t begin to explain where and how they got it so wrong, and I can only hope to someday find some justification for what the most bizarre array of flavors did to my palate.
The liquid hazelnut fondant cake with matcha and a blueberry quenelle was hard on the mouth in every way. With the matcha flavor completely absent and the fondant cake texture too dense, this was not a winner. Surprisingly, it was the seemingly boring choice of a burning chocolate ball that really paid off.
Suffice it to say, Zorawar Kalra and the team intended to mark this Pa Pa Ya anniversary with a bang. And apart from a few hiccups, they pretty much succeeded.
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
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