PA PA YA: PA PA VASOOL
When I stepped out of the protective walls of boarding school to enter junior college in Bombay, little did I know that three girls – Swati, Purvi and Shaheen – would befriend me, who would be an integral part of me for the next 25 years and counting! Marriage made us all spread our wings as we moved to different cities across continents and it has been impossible for all of us to get our visits to Bombay in sync. But this year, with no planning – just sheer coincidence – us four friends found ourselves in Bombay at the same time for a couple of days.
I had dined at Zorawar Kalra’s Farzi Café in Dubai and really wanted to try Pa Pa Ya which was, from what I was told, Kalra’s first foray outside of Indian cuisine – serving Asian/Far East eastern cuisine . Being centrally located at Lower Parel’s Palladium Mall, it was an easy choice when it came for our much awaited reunion.
Vibe: You walk into a dimly lit red walled room with 3D hexagonal molecular structure-like things (might be to imply all the chemistry experiments being done in the kitchen). A longish bar on the left greets you as you enter with tables filling up the rest of the space – its vibe is neither too casual nor too fine dining – it’s found a happy medium.
Food: I think the fact that Pa Pa Ya does not overkill all the dishes with molecular gastronomy while still being experimentative was a great route to take. The presentation of each dish was ingenious, and it was plain to see that each was plated painstakingly, like a work of art and finished with just the right touch.
What we ordered was a combination of the server’s recommendations coupled with Purvi’s suggestions (she had been to the restaurant before). We stuck to a lot of the starters. Here is the list we managed to get through over a leisurely lunch.
The meal started with a complimentary compressed watermelon with basil and Chilli foam amuse-bouche – total chemistry experiment – tasted the freshness of the watermelon and the chilli after-taste.
Grilled chicken and Avocado Tacos (gyoza dsheet shells, ching mai relish and grated mozzarella cheese) – OMG – these were really good. Good enough for us to order a second round!
Steamed Scampi (Dublin Bay prawns tempered with ginger and scallions) – prawns steamed with ginger and scallion till they’re cooked just right offering you the most succulent prawn dish.
Tuna Tataki Pizza (seared sliced tuna, unagi tare, jalapeños, crispy tortilla) – This was perhaps would not have been my choice at all – but Purvi recommended it highly – and it was an absolute winner! A paper-thin crispy corn tortilla topped with fine slices of seared tuna and a drizzle of jalapeño mayonnaise, this is something you must try.
Har Gao, Green Curry Prawn Farce (translucent prawn dumpling, nam pla prik) – I loved it. The prawns were succulent and the dumpling wrapper did not collapse when cut with a knife – thankfully. I loved the green curry twist that came with it – subtle, not overwhelm.
Lobster Sriracha Buns (lobster buns with sriracha, apple and fennel salad) – sitting on the fence on this one. But from reviews I heard later on – I might have swapped this for the Edamame and Chick Pea Sliders with Homemade Potato Chips which has got rave reviews by nearly everyone I know who has tried it.
Sichuan Style Crispy Prawns (crispy prawns, diced onions, leeks and spring onions) – thankfully this Sichuan sauce did not represent the overtly red sauce we are served at our Indian-Chinese restaurants. This dish is well balanced with an interesting mix of ingredients and I think it was the only dish we ordered off the mains list.
With no room for dessert, we skipped on trying what I would most definitely have devoured – The Chocolate Ball on Fire. Always a next time!
If there was one suggestion I could make it would be about the lighting. It would be nice if there was a little more light to let us feast our eyes on the 16 page menu!
NOTE: PA PA YA does not take reservations at lunch, so it’s best to arrive a little before 1PM on a weekday if you want to assure yourself of a table. I believe for dinner they do accept reservations.
Location: Pa Pa Ya, Level 3, Palladium Mall, Lower Parel, Open from 12noon – 3PM and 7PM – 11PM Tel: +91-22-43475454
ps: a promise made to Swati now fulfilled!