Mumbai, India
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

bpb Review: Tote on the Turf

Look Who Moved In

Olive at Mahalaxmi Racecourse has a new neighbor, and she’s a far cry from the girl next door. Tote on the Turf made its debut last night with a kick-ass launch party, complete with 25,000 sq ft of jaw-dropping decor, top level alcohol and top heavy socialites – can’t tell you who they were, as this Scouter is woefully ignorant of Mumbai’s social circuit, but most of the glittering, giggling crowd in attendance looked like it belonged on Page 3.

Nice Digs

But we can tell you this: the interiors of Tote, dear reader, you have to see to believe. The mezzanine level offers a charming outdoor patio lit up with a string of pretty lanterns, and the inside section, done predominantly in white, looks like it’s held up by a forest of eerily graceful, bare-branched trees. We also loved the upstairs lounge, with its cubic, three dimensional wooden walls, soaring ceilings (think Shiro), and huge bar, which an architect friend guestimated to be about 150 ft long.

Cheers to That!

And last night, this bar was certainly hopping. Elbowing our way through the three-deep crowd, we were ecstatic to find that they’d broken out the good stuff to celebrate Tote’s birthday: a friend asked for champagne, and the bartender reached for a half-finished bottle of Moet. “Pink,” our friend corrected, and within a minute, he was offered a flute spilling over with Bouvet Rosé. Nice! We also enjoyed a vodka-based Red Bull cocktail that tasted like a grown-up version of Kalakhatta, but a peach concoction, apparently a house specialty, felt weirdly fuzzy on the tongue. Available too was Kingfisher’s newest offering, a golden, ultra light lager, which was apparently being launched at Tote.

The service was terribly slow, but that was probably because the place was packed, and it was apparent that the bartenders, including owner Rahul Akerkar, were making a valiant effort to keep up. The music was fun, manned by DJ Nikhil Chinappa and a guy playing different instruments, including the flute. A persnickety guest commented that acoustics in the upstairs lounge were terrible: we hadn’t noticed, and didn’t really care.

Tasting Trouble

Now for our gripes. Coming from the gustatory magicians of the Indigo eateries, the food at Tote was a major disappointment. Part of the upstairs lounge was converted into an open-aired cooking station, which served up small plates of Asian-italian dishes like goat cheese balls and cream cheese nori rolls (odd); fusilli in green pesto, (pedestrian); and buttery cheese puff bites (addictive).

The more extensive dining set-up downstairs was chaotic, stuffy and funny-smelling, with a long line of hungry guests snaking up to an open kitchen. We gave up on sight, but a brave friend soldiered on, returning with treasures like fresh asparagus drizzled with creamy dressing and hearty mushroom risotto, along with the less successful sautéed mushrooms, which had a rubber-like consistency.

Wake Up Call

The food at parties, however, is usually sub-par to what the same kitchen produces when you’re sitting down for a nice a la carte, so we remain hopeful. But regardless of whether the menu gets better or not, we’re definitely going to return to Tote. It’s one of the most exciting entries on the Mumbai night scene, and just what the doctor ordered for a city that, tired of the same old Saturday Night, was about to fall asleep.

Getting There: Tote on the Turf, Next to Turf Club, Mahalaxmi Race Course, opens to public Sept 25, call Indigo at 6636 8999 for details.

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