6 August 2008

Mosaic: Putting the bits in their places

Another restaurant in CP. Ho-hum. “Fine Indian cuisine,” says the description. Ho-hum again. The only way to get excited about Mosaic is to go there. Because once you’ve actually sat down at one of their striking orange-tablecloth-ed tables and opened their large maroon menu, you will find yourself faced with a seemingly endless array of possibilities that cannot fail to thrill you if you have the slightest bit of curiosity about regional Indian food. Mosaic’s menu traverses the entire country. 

The space is small, low-ceilinged and cosy, with no more than ten tables. The orange and ochre draperies are set off by bare white walls, and by way of decoration there are a few terracotta pieces that go well with the colour scheme. No frills. The focus, quite clearly, is on the food. It seemed only polite for us to respond with the same dedication – so we went down the menu, course by course and region by region.

We started by sampling a couple of the starters – mochar chop, which is a classic Bengali snack made out of spiced banana flower (mocha), covered in mashed potato and breadcrumb-fried, and prawns Koliwada, a deep-fried masala dish that goes well with beer and was apparently created by Punjabis living in the Koliwada area of Mumbai. The mochar chop (Rs 100) lived up to expectations completely – four decent-sized roundels, with the soft mocha filling and the crisp outer layer in perfect proportions. The prawns Koliwada (Rs 225) was disappointing – the masala was generic and overpowered the poor prawns. 

Next up was soup. The mixed seafood moily (Rs 100) was a flavourful Kerala-style coconut broth, with lots of little pieces of prawn and squid, while the smoked sitaphal soup (Rs 65) was great comfort food – basically made from smoked pumpkin, pureed to a smooth pouring consistency and gently spiced. 

Then came the main courses. The pork in til gravy (Rs 200) had tender cubes of meat in a distinctive sauce, and came with a choice of side dishes and cereal. (We chose a Coorg mushroom dish and rice.) The mirch baingan ka salan (Rs 150), a Hyderabadi specialty made of brinjals cooked in an exciting combination of green chillies, peanut and sesame seeds, was sadly lacking in flavour. And the brinjals hadn’t absorbed any of the sauce. 

By this time, we were stuffed as well, but the desserts looked too exciting to ignore. We plumped for the innovative-sounding chikoo mousse and the paatti shapta, a complicated Bengali dish of rice pancakes with a filling of grated coconut and palm gur, served with a dollop of kheer (this is what Bengalis call thickened milk that’s on its way to becoming cream – it has nothing to do with North Indian kheer). The chikoo mousse (Rs 70) was light and fluffy and delicate, and has converted even those of us who have no love of the fruit. But the paatti shapta (Rs 75) surpassed everything else on the menu – it’s simply the best I’ve had outside of a Bengali home. 

Last but not least, mention must be made of cheap beer (Rs 175 for a 650ml Kingfisher bottle). This space earlier housed Mag Pappas’ Odyssiea – where you could knock back the Kingfisher as you chomped on Souvlaki. There is now no place for Greek food here, but the management has wisely decided to continue with the joyful tradition of happy hours until 11pm, with 50 per cent off on all Indian liquor. We’re planning another visit to Mosaic soon.

M-45/1 Connaught Place, Outer Circle (2341-6842). m Rajiv Chowk. All major credit cards accepted. Alcohol served. Meal for two Rs 800-900.

Published in Time Out Delhi, 2007. (Mosaic, unfortunately, no longer exists.)

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