Looks, they say, can be deceptive. And hard knocks of experience drum this fact home with force. When I first heard of Asia On My Plate, I expected it to be a fine dining restaurant specializing in Oriental cuisine. Part of this presumption was because it is located in a prominent location of Mumbai’s commercial hub – Lower Parel. I was therefore absolutely unprepared to visit the small, unassuming restaurant-in-the-wall, with very bright lights heralding its presence. My incorrect presumptions notwithstanding, Asia On My Plate has a welcoming environment. The red walls have interesting pictures of an Asian anime girl with witty quotes about the endearing properties of Asian food. If you decide to dine at Asia On My Plate, may we suggest you sit at the corner tables with high backed chairs? The longer tables have sofas so deep that the tables almost reach your chin, making eating a challenge.
Since the premise of the restaurant is to present meals-to-go, the menu is extremely limited. There are two salads, two sandwich options and six starters each, in vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. A couple of soups and a choice between almond cake and chocolate cake bring us to the end of the menu. Asia On My Plate sensibly offers meal combos where you can opt for rice or noodles with different gravies. The rice, noodles and curries are placed in bain-marie on a counter and you can taste the different gravies before making your decision. The most redeeming feature of this restaurant is its down to earth prices. For instance, an Asian Surprise Combo with a choice of rice/noodles plus a gravy is priced at INR 149 and INR 179; the Asian Delight Combo with either noodle or rice with 2 gravies is INR 199 and INR 229, for vegetarian and non-vegetarian, respectively. The food comes in deep plastic containers with sections for gravies and rice/noodles, with some Kimchi salad and Schezwan Chutney.
We ordered Chicken Dim Sum (INR 175) but it didn’t pass muster. The bottom of the wrapper was so thin that the filling dropped off, while the top ends were too thick and chewy. The accompanying Schezwan sauce, though a wee bit greasy, does give the Dim Sum a nice twang. The Popkorn Shrimps (INR 200) was good ole batter fried prawns. This spicy starter would go down perfectly with a chilled beer. It’s easy to see why it’s a fast-moving dish on the menu. We decided to opt for the Asian Surprise Combo (INR 179) with Peking Fried Rice and Cashew Chilly Sauce. This is the quintessential stir fried rice you get in most Chinese restaurants, but Asia On My Plate gives it a healthy spin with generous helpings of bell peppers, zucchini and other staple veggies. The sweetness of the Cashew Chilly Sauce makes it obvious that it has Thai origins.
We appreciated the fact that the restaurant offers generous portions, despite the hard-to-believe economical prices. The service is a little slow, probably because there’s just one captain and a server behind the counter, who get harried if too many people show up. But this newbie restaurant already seems to be building a loyal clientele. We spoke to a couple sitting next to our table, and they said that they have visited Asia On My Plate thrice since it opened, because it’s conveniently located, reasonably priced, and they do not have to worry about waiting in long queues to be served during their extremely short lunch breaks.
The bottomline – if you want to pick up food on-the-go in a hurry, food that’s a no-brainer to choose, is filling, and you don’t want to spend a bomb – then Asia On My Plate is for you. If you want to dine out with fawning servers at your beck and call, ample parking space and a lengthy menu with various options, then head to Mekong or Noodle Bar just down the street.