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April 15, 2024

Mumbai’s newest restaurant, Noon, focuses on local ingredients

Ruhi Gilder 
When Vanika Choudhary, the founder and chef of farm-to-fork bistro Sequel was pregnant, she only craved for one thing, which was food from her hometown. Having grown up in Kashmir, Choudhary had a hankering for gucchi (morel) pulao, kohlrabi pickle, and kanji, a fermented drink made with black carrots. It’s these dishes then, that paved the way for Choudhary’s newest venture, Noon.  
Chic dining 
In the grand commercial setting of ONE BKC, Noon exists on the ground floor in a space that adjoins Sequel. Vanika Choudhary explains that when she first saw the space, it seemed too big for just Sequel, unsustainable for the farmers and the format that the organic restaurant follows. Hence, Choudhary decided to ideate a new concept for one half of the space, a theory that had been lingering in her mind since her pregnancy almost four years ago.  
Noon interiors
Noon interiors
Noon, which is the Kashmiri word for salt, does not focus on a particular cuisine, instead takes inspiration from Choudhary’s experiences with food as a child, as well as her trips around the world. However global her inspirations may be, Choudhary’s ingredients are all local. Indigenous produce from across the country is celebrated with an emphasis on cooking techniques that elevate them. The interiors of Noon also resonate with this philosophy that Choudhary has built. Designed by a renowned name in interior design, Ashiesh Shah, the space exudes a warmth through its minimalist aesthetic. A naturally lacquered, off-white Channapatna bead chandelier catches your eye right away. Handmade in Karnataka, the craft was purposefully chosen by Noon’s founder to support local craftsmen and increase awareness about their craft traditions. Half-moon backed chairs and round-edged sofas that face away from one another occupy the centre of the room, while smaller tables are scattered alongside the walls.  
Noon interiors
Noon interiors
The Noon philosophy 
Not only is the food celebrated for being locally sourced, but the cocktails are also made with carefully selected ingredients and spirits. Indian spirits from Goa make it to the simply styled bar at Noon, as does a curated selection of wines that are made using vegan, organic and bio-dynamic viticulture methods. In collaboration with Thirsty City 127, Noon has crafted a cocktail program using house-made syrups, bitters, and most importantly, a menu list devoid of carbonated sodas, like Coca-Cola, Sprite and Fanta. I started my meal with the Pineapple Tepache, a drink made with house-fermented pineapple, Kashmiri raw honey and tequila. However, this isn’t your average tepache, where plain pineapple peels are fermented in water; instead spices like pepper, cinnamon, star anise and cumin are added to give it a kick of heat. The result is a sip that starts out being sweet on the palate, but ends with a pleasant buzz, aided of course by tequila.  
Saffron Kehwa
Saffron Kehwa
The tepache is far from the only fermented item on the menu, Choudhary experiments with close to 30 different ferments at Noon. “Fermentation as an art isn’t new to us, it’s something that we have been forever doing as a culture,” says Choudhary thinking back to her nani’s (grandmother) special kanji. The humble kanji finds its way to menus in interesting ways as a small plate incorporates shallots soaked in it. Following in her mother and grandmother’s footsteps, Noon’s founder ensures everything in the restaurant’s kitchen is hand ground by mortar-and-pestle. Preparation techniques like cooking on charcoal, sun-drying and preservation are integral parts of the processes at Noon. Ingredients are hyperlocal as well as from the far north of the country, black buckwheat comes from Ladakh, Proso millet is sourced from Karnataka, ragi is grown by the tribals in Tamil Nadu, and Ambemohar rice is from Maharashtra. 
Shot_Noon_Mumbai
Noon_Mumbai
Flavour first 
The meal starts with highlighting tiger prawns and millets in the form of tortillas. On a bed of avocado and gooseberry salsa sit two prawn pieces, surrounding by small sections of starfruit  a perfect, if not superior alternative to tomatoes. The plate is lightly sprinkled with halves of kanji spiced shallots that add a pop of deep red colour and sharp sourness to the otherwise earthy dish.
Sprouted Finger Millet Tortillas, Tiger Prawns_Noon_Mumbai (3)
Sprouted Finger Millet Tortillas, Tiger Prawns
As our first dish arrives so does my dining partner’s drink, named Number 1, perfect for fans of whisky and beer. Orange, pineapple, and lime juice is mixed with whisky and topped with bitters, and an IPA foam, balancing the bitter of the ale with the smooth whisky. 
Number 1
Number 1
Moving back to the food, a second small dish and one of my personal favourites, buckwheat tartlets reach the table. The real star of the dish was black garlic, incorporated in a mousse that generously filled the tarts. Topped with yellow beets that were slow cooked to give off the texture of meat, the humble vegetable lent this vegetarian dish unbelievable layers of flavour. Then, from the charcoal grilled section of the menu comes another prawn dish that was cooked to perfection. Simple tiger prawns, rubbed with kaffir lime, galangal and lemongrass. 
Buckwheat Tartlets_Noon_Mumbai
Buckwheat Tartlets_Noon_Mumbai
Right before the mains, another cocktail hits the table, a must-try, Noon’s Battle of Oranges, made using all the parts of an orange. The peel is used to infuse, while its juice is used in the cocktail itself, and the seeds of the orange are used to make bitters. Finished with a freshly burnt orange peel, each sip hits your olfactory senses as much as your tastebuds.  
Rainbow Trout, Prawn Garum_Noon_Mumbai (1)
Rainbow Trout, Prawn Garum_Noon_Mumbai (1)
The first main to arrive is a rainbow trout, where complete respect is given to the fresh produce that has been grilled on a cast iron skillet to form a crisp skin that falls apart with just the touch of a spoon. A prawn garum (fermented fish sauce) is poured over the fish for a fragrant hit, emphasizing the seafood flavours of the fish. An amaranth hollandaise adds a smooth buttery mouthfeel, while the tepache glazed baby carrots finish the dish. A gucchi pulao inspired plate makes its way to the table. Rice flavoured with local Maharashtrian spices and peppered abundantly with shiitake and shimeji mushrooms is accompanied by a spicy house-made kimchi and a millet miso, as well as a vegan edamame xo sauce. Make sure to get every element in each bite, and a symphony of fragrant spices, gamey mushrooms, and crunchy cabbage sing in unison.  
Clay pot cooked shiitake mushroom & kolam rice_Noon_Mumbai (1)
Clay pot cooked shiitake mushroom & kolam rice_Noon
Sweet endings 
Vanika Choudhary spent almost a year working on the menu ideation and sourcing of ingredients for Noon. A fact that’s evident in the final dish presented, one that incorporated rhasberries, aka black raspberry from the forests of Mahabaleshwar. Discovered by Choudhary while on a retreat, the berries are the tarter and grainIer cousins of raspberries. Served with a cacao and sea-salt ice cream, rhasberry and strawberry granita, cacao bark bits, the dessert was just the showstopper needed after the spicy clay pot rice. The ice cream was made with coconut milk that the kitchen makes in-house, lending a nutty flavour to the entire dish, while the tang of the berry married perfectly with the dark chocolate flavours. The restaurant even uses the husks of the coconut left over from making the milk to smoke the hara chana, part of the smoked hara chana and baby beet hummus. This fact more than anything defines the ethos of Noon, where a conscious effort is taken to reduce wastage, local sourcing is given priority and above all, ingredients find respect.  
Raw Cacao & Sea Salt Ice Cream
Raw Cacao & Sea Salt Ice Cream
Address: Ground floor, Unit B-102, ONE BKC, Bandra Kurla Complex, Mumbai, 400051  
Price for two: Rs. 5000 (with alcohol) 
Also read:
Someplace Else opens doors in Mumbai
Chefs return to indigenous ingredients from India

Ruhi Gilder

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