NRI By Atul Kochhar For Foreign Returned Indian Food

It’s not often that I feel like traveling out of Navi Mumbai to check out a new restaurant or cafe in Mumbai or its suburbs. However NRI, with Atul Kochhar at its helm, certainly had me intrigued. Yes, a well known chef heading the operation was definitely a factor but what really caught my interest was his menu – Indian dishes that had traveled abroad and got influenced enough to change into something new – still Indian but Not Really Indian – a new kind of NRI.

The restaurant itself is spacious and well lit, and I was happy to see it quite full even though it was the middle of the week. The space has quite a casual, even boistrous vibe, and I quite liked what I saw. The menus are printed on the paper table mats reinforcing that casual ambience. Nice!

The fare on offer isn’t classified into the usual Starters/Soups/Mains/Desserts but into Hot, Cold, Robata (grills), Tem Pakora (fries, dips, etcetera), NRI Curries, India Waale, and the more conventional Breads, and Mithaiwala (desserts) – an interesting variation indicating that every detail was looked at, at NRI. 

Off to a shaky start

We were hungry at the end of a long working day and I ordered quickly – Chicken Liver Masala on Toast (INR 350), and the Pork Curlies (INR 425) of which I’d heard many good things. Service was very prompt and food was on our table in less than 10 minutes. I expected the liver to be on the toast as mentioned on the menu but it came separately in a pretty compartmentalized serving dish – a generous pile of spiced liver paste with a grainy texture (which I quite liked) and a small stack of very thin baguette slices. This simple dish was a complete winner. The Pork Curlies turned out to be one big curly (a long spiral of sausage) grilled in a barbecue sauce, and the biggest disappointment of the evening. The sausage itself had no flavour whatsoever and the barbecue sauce was, well, very boring. The sausage wasn’t grilled long enough to develop those beautiful caramelised scorched bits on the skin – my heart broke with disappointment.

NRI, Atul Kochhar, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, pork sausage, chicken liver
Grilled Calamari. Photo – Rhea Mitra-Dalal

Seeing our disappointment our server recommended the Grilled Calamari (INR 300), which he swore was something we would really like. I’m so glad we went with his recommendation because this dish redeemed our evening instantly. I’d go back for just that calamari. In fact, the hubby already did.

The mains win the day

As we thought over our choices for mains we asked our server what he recommended as a must-try. He pointed to the Chicken Tikka Pie (INR 375),  Chef Kochhar’s signature dish served at his restaurant Benares. We needed no further convincing and when the pie was opened the birds began to sing… err no, sorry. No birds sang but we nearly did. Perfectly done flaky crust, succulent morsels of chicken tikka – as Indian as you like and then again, as NRI as you can imagine.

NRI, Atul Kochhar, Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, pork sausage, chicken liver
Chicken Tikka Pie Photo – Rhea Mitra-Dalal

The Caribbean Goat Curry (INR 575) served with what they call Buss Up Shut Roti (INR 90) was another hit with succulent pieces of meat and a well flavoured sauce. The show stealer however was the roti – multi layered, soft and delicious. Guests at a neighbouring table had ordered the Nalli Gosht (INR 525) that looked incredibly good. They licked that bowl clean so I’m assuming it was really good! 

This NRI is going places

We might have been quite stuffed but I wasn’t going anywhere without dessert. We asked to meet the Mithaiwala who turned out to be a server bearing a tray of desserts. I was expecting something a little more imaginative, to be honest. We tried the Gondhoraaj Tart and the Maracaibo Chocolate Orange dessert. I found the lemon curd in the tart too sour but the hubby liked it. The maracaibo chocolate dessert was lovely. 

Portions at NRI are quite generous and the prices are surprisingly affordable. The ambience is casual, seating comfortable, and service is friendly and prompt. They also have a varied drinks menu with cocktails and mocktails. While there were a couple of misses, most of what we ate here were hits. All in all, NRI is a great place to meet at after work while you wait for the rush hour crazy traffic to abate, or even for a quick lunch between meetings. It’s certainly a welcome addition to the dining scene in BKC.