The number of ingredient-focused restaurants in the country may be limited, but Mumbai’s newly launched restaurant – Navais proof that quality trumps quantity. Sitting in the plush locale of Bandra, the ingredient-focused restaurant draws inspiration from both, Founder Anushka Pathak’s travels and Chef Akash Deshpande’s expertise in the ingredient-driven culinary industry.
Going back five years, Chef Akash regales his first meeting with Anushka Pathak. Having met on a dating app, the duo had grown to become really good friends. Pathak having seen his work told Chef Akash that she wanted him to head the kitchen if and when she opened her own restaurant. “Cut to the year 2020, Anushka reached out and said ‘let’s do it’! Post Covid was the perfect time to open a new restaurant, and so that is how it all began,” says Chef Akash.
A focus on ingredients
Talking about what inspired the ingredient-focused approach, Anushka Pathak mostly credits Chef Akash for it. “He (Chef Akash) is really good at it so it made sense,” Pathak adds hysterically. However, Pathak’s travels, too, had a part to play. “During my travels abroad, I discovered that some of the best restaurants worldwide are all ingredient-focused. Now, these may not have all been upscale dining places, but the whole idea of having one ‘hero’ ingredient and working around that ingredient was so inspiring.”
Given that the focus is on ingredients, Chef Akash shares that every ingredient featured on the menu was chosen with the help of each of Nava’s staff members. “We asked each staff member to go home and come back with an ingredient that you cannot find in Mumbai, and then we worked around those ingredients.” The staff members were then asked to prepare a dish around the said ingredient in a way that they did back at home, post which Chef Akash incorporated his French and European techniques learnt over the years.
The concept of creating a dish close to home was also inspired by Pathak’s travels. “I’d noticed that even at the most expensive fine dine restaurants, the menu would feature some cherished recipes prepared which are also prepared at home.” The idea of cooking nostalgia in the kitchen was the biggest takeaway for Pathak and Chef Akash. “And so, while building a restaurant that was ingredient centric was important, we also wanted it to be familiar; different kinds of food, but a familiar feeling.”
Art on a plate
While Nava ensures its food be the hero, it does not fall short on the ambience. Art enthusiasts and pretty much anyone with a soul for creativity will appreciate the artistic cues scattered all throughout the space. Designed by Tejal Mathur, the interiors of Nava resemble a typical Parisian apartment with a clean, monochromatic palette and classic European elements. These are then brought to life with a number of eclectic artworks and art pieces including a candle wax head of David (Renaissance sculpture) made by Chef Akash himself. The irregular form and shape of the bar, the open kitchen, the plush seating and the eclectic lighting all add to the artistic vision of Nava which continues onto the plate.
That’s right, Nava puts in as much creativity into its food as it does with its interiors. The restaurant delivers a truly memorable culinary experience with its unique art on a plate concept. Talking about the idea, Chef Akash shares how his dyslexia allows him to see things a little differently. “When I look at a plate, I see something completely different. Being an artist myself, art on a plate is how I present my food. It’s not about the number of ingredients or elements on a plate. It just has to be aesthetically appealing to me.”
Keeping it simple
One of the things I appreciated most about the food at Nava is the uncomplicated menu. Rejecting over-the-top titles and explanations, the menu simplifies the dishes calling them exactly what they are. For example, for the appetizers, my dinner companion and I opted for a tart, a galette and kokum prawns.
The soft yet firm tart shell was filled with an aromatic mushroom pâté, which made for a good opener, followed by the root vegetable and potato galette which was paired with a rich and creamy herbed goat cheese.
While we enjoyed all three of the appetizers, it was the prawns that really stood out. Cooked to perfection, the dish had very subtle flavours of kokum and coconut in the form of a sauce that complemented the prawns rather than overpowering them. The housemade prawn crackers were a fun and delicious addition!
While munching on our appetizers, my friend and I ordered a round of cocktails, The Scarlet Letter for her and Too Much Drama for myself. The former was on the sweeter side made with rum and a red wine strawberry stew, while the latter was prepared with Gondhoraj lemon infused gin — a housemade concoction, along with lychee, vanilla and green chilli giving it a sweet and sour flavour with a punch of spice.
Feeling almost completely full with the appetizers, my friend and I decided to keep it light for the mains! And so we opted for the lobster and tortellini.
A must-try for all seafood lovers, the lobster tail was beautifully cooked and served with a chorizo spiced beurre blanc and braised beetroot. The pairing of beetroot and lobster although unusual was quite a delicious combination. While the lobster was a lighter plate, the tortellini was comparatively richer. The housemade pasta was filled with ricotta cheese and served with herbed butter, and a creamy dijon and cognac sauce. Both dishes were beautifully presented and seemingly uncomplicated, both in terms of flavour and ingredients.
Being a dessert fanatic, I was most excited about the desserts at Nava. The art on a plate aesthetic was much more obvious here with desserts like Vincent Van Gogh’s ‘The Starry Night’ and the David Tadgola.
The Van Gogh dessert was one of the most intricately created desserts I’ve ever come across. The dessert itself is a sweet jasmine custard served with passionfruit jelly on a miniature edible version of Van Gogh’s infamous painting.
The Tadgola was definitely my favourite of the two desserts. The exterior was carved using white chocolate which is then filled with layers of white chocolate mousse, coconut sponge, and a tadgola filling. When served the dessert is covered with an edible cloth, the ingredients of which are a special secret!
The overall experience at Nava was a rather memorable one. Maintaining the focus on ingredients, each dish was created to look and taste phenomenal while being simple and uncomplicated. Talking about what to expect from Nava, Chef Akash urges netizens to have an open mind and promises they won’t be disappointed. “At the end of the day, it’s about food that tastes and looks good!”
Cost for two: ₹2,500 for two without alcohol Timings: 11 am – 4 PM | 7 pm – 1:30 am Address:2nd floor, Suburbia Building Between Linking Road, Swami Vivekananda Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400050