Restaurant Review: Bastian, Bandra

Bastian, Bandra, Mumbai

Tuna poke.

A crab has replaced a Corleone as the mascot at the Bandra address that used to house Gangsta’s, the mafia-themed pub. Seafood speciality restaurant Bastian opened in its place two weeks ago. At Bastian, named after Sebastian the cheerful crustacean with a meaty role in the popular Disney animation film The Little Mermaid, the crab is both the hero and the hunted.

Chefs Kelvin Cheung and Boo Kwang Kim are the crab mafia in Bastian’s kitchen. While Cheung rose to popularity during his time as head chef at Colaba restaurant Ellipsis, which he quit in July 2015, Kwang Kim is a Korean American chef, who moved to Mumbai from Chicago after the pair were hired by Aalia Hospitality, which owned Gangsta’s, to helm One Street Over. During service at One Street Over, which is located a street away from Bastian, the two are liveried in their chef’s whites, but at Bastian coats are swapped for a relaxed uniform of tees and shorts. Their casual garb suits the restaurant’s kitschy crab house aesthetic conveyed by way of crab and tiki wall hangings and antiquated candle chandeliers.

It’s a pleasant departure from the gloomy, prison-like feel of its predecessor. By their culinary powers combined, Cheung and Kwang Kim have designed a menu with a vibrant selection of seafood given a modern Asian spin. While spawning season might not be the best time to open a seafood joint, Cheung said that most of the catch comes from Chennai where, unlike the country’s western coast, fishing is currently in progress.

Here vegetables haven’t been exiled or neglected as is often the case in the city’s seafood restaurants. The duo has provided a substantial dose of greens as salads, grilled sides and mains. Carrot, zucchini and radish are subjected to a shredder to create the adequately crunchy Bastian slaw (Rs450). Alas the slaw, which was doused in a ginger-infused house vinaigrette had too little lime. The stir fried lotus root with Szechuan chilli oil, celery and Chinese broccoli (Rs600), on the other hand, was full of the promised flavour of tempered chilli. The leftovers came home with us in a doggy bag.

Bastian, Kelvin Cheung, Boo Kwang Kim,There’s a section of charred vegetables flavoured with condiments and spices that are meant to be eaten as sides. The pineapple with togarashi (Rs150) was a stand out dish owing to its simplicity, the sweet and smoky flavour of the charred fruit matching excellently with the pungent punch of togarashi, a zesty Japanese spice mix. The teriyaki broccoli (Rs150) was perfectly al dente as was the crisp cauliflower with gochujang butter (Rs150). But the uncut cauliflower florets had not soaked up enough of the spiced butter, and were bland as a result. The more indulgent of these veggie wonders were the baby potatoes (Rs150) luxuriating in tangy and spicy kimchi butter, which by the way has ruined regular salted butter for us for good. Another starch worthy of attention was the sweet potato (Rs150) elevated with a maple glaze and sherry vin.

When presented alongside the enormous platter of crab, the spread resembled a South-East Asian Thanksgiving feast. As is true of most Thanksgiving meals, the meat eclipsed the rest. What Bastian calls a medium-sized mud crab can feed three ardent seafoodists. It’s printed on a separate menu that lists the seafood specials – crab, lobster, prawn and the fish of the day – prepared in your choice of one of six house sauces. Our crab (Rs2,400) was plunged in a pool of outstanding Singapore chilli composed of coconut curry perfumed with lemongrass, kaffir lime and house-made chilli oil, the remnants of which we could’ve licked clean. The ideal way to savour the flavour-charged gravy is with the fried mantou (Rs100) an airy bun that’s a real triumph of fat and carbs.

You would leave a happy customer if you ate just the crab. But it’s worth reserving some appetite for the first-rate tuna poke (Rs750) and salmon jalapeno (Rs750). These are also among the priciest items on the menu as the tuna and salmon are imported from Japan and Norway respectively. In their take on the poke, a popular Hawaiian salad, chunks of raw tuna and avocado were splashed in a light soya sambal and freckled with white and black sesame seeds for crunch and colour. Despite nearly full tummies, we didn’t spare the ruby red cubes of fish. The salmon sashimi garnished with jalapenos and dressed with house-made ponzu was tart, mildly pungent and incredibly fresh.

The restaurant’s cheesecake-only dessert menu merits a separate visit. They’ve listed seven innovations which, at Rs500 per slice, cost as much as an entree at most casual-dining restaurants. The Japan-inspired black and white sesame cheesecake was decidedly savoury, barely sweet and strictly for the experimental diner. It appealed to us for those very reasons. The lemon on lemon iteration with lemon curd and milk crumbs got the unanimous winning vote on our table on account of the citrus explosion in every bite of the cake. Skip the guilt-unleashing The Elvis overwrought with peanut butter, caramelised bananas and Old Monk rum. They’ve recreated Nestle’s Turtles brand of chocolates as a cheesecake flavour named Turtles, in which salted toffee, roasted peanuts, cream cheese and dark chocolate biscuit combined to deliver another crowd pleaser on a menu flush with winners.

Get: Stir fried lotus root with Szechuan chilli oil, celery and Chinese broccoli (Rs600); fried mantou (Rs100); crab in Singapore chilli sauce (Rs2,400); tuna poke (Rs750); salmon jalapeno (Rs750); lemon cheesecake (Rs500).

Skip: Bastian slaw (Rs450); cauliflower with gochujang butter (Rs150).

It is our policy to wait at least a week after an establishment has opened before we review it.

Prices include taxes. 

Bastian, New Kamal Building, opposite National College, Linking Road, Bandra (West). Tel: 022 2642 0146. Open daily, from 7pm to 1am. Get directions here.

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