Shot To Smithereens

Reviewing an establishment is not the fun and games it is often cracked up to be. Sure, if you’re lucky, you’ll chance on some hidden gems, some mind blowing dishes and even make good friends is the hospitality industry in the bargain. However, more often than not you end up tasting mediocre food tossed by what one can hope is a fluke, by a chef having a terribly bad day.

Now, every restaurant has its share of hits and misses. But what does one do when the misses outweigh the hits? While it’s fashionable these days to rip apart an eatery just because one didn’t like the food, the drinks or the server’s accent, one also has to bear in mind that many elements come together to make a restaurant what it is.

Therefore, we will break down our experience at He Said She Said (HS3) in Mumbai into these individual elements to be as judicious and neutral as possible.

AMBIENCE

Spread across 13,500 square feet on three levels, currently only the ground floor of HS3 is functional. The first floor will soon house HS3’s fine dine restaurant, while the rooftop is likely to be a place for sundowners.

Quirky, colorful, spacious and loud - this sums up al fresco area.
Quirky, colorful, spacious and loud – this sums up al fresco area.

Quirky, colorful, spacious and loud – these adjectives perfectly sum up ground floor area. There is a classic red brick wall at one of the al fresco areas, with niches for displaying liquor bottles. Another bar is set in an enclosed semicircular room, and if you want to have a conversation without yelling, we suggest you head in here.The walls around the al fresco area have pop art figures with speech bubbles where guests are welcome to chalk in their comments. There’s also a red telephone booth, which seemed a favorite spot for shutterbugs.

Kuber Sarup, Partner at HS3, said that the place was designed to give the impression of a park where people could catch up for drinks with friends in an uber-casual atmosphere. The high picket fence chairs with complementing chairs sure lend it that feeling. The music, however, can get a little loud, but then again it’s a bar, so why not?

THE SHOTS

Most people usually order shots either at the beginning or the end of their drinking session, and more often than not screw up the face because shots taste terrible. “Therefore, we decided to offer shots that would take the place of drinks at HS3 and worked with mixologist Nischal Gurung to create signature fun shots for us,” Kuber explained.

The Red Hot Chilli Peppers shots, named after the rock band, is served with a slit green chilli on the rim, and the pepper vodka is muddled with castor sugar.
The Red Hot Chilli Peppers shots

The shots menu has sections to appeal to varying tastebuds – Fruity, Chocolatey, Layered, Spicy, Balls of steel, It’s different, Ice cream shots, Mumbai Special, etc. The names of the shots are quite quirky and original, but that is where the excitement stops.

Kuber urged us to try the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (Rs 199) and follow it up immediately with the Cha Maila (Rs 150). The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, named after the rock band, is served with a slit green chilli on the rim, and the pepper vodka is muddled with castor sugar. We thought we’d do an enactment of ‘Knock Me Down’ – the popular single from this rock group – after the drink, but while it was spicy going down, it didn’t curl our toes.

Cha Maila is apparently one of the most popular shots ordered at HS3 and we have a niggling suspicion it had more to do with just telling the server something on the lines of, “Cha Maila, get me two of those”, which has attributed to its popularity. The drink with the caramel-infused whiskey shot served with a cinnamon stick, however, isn’t heady enough.

Paan lovers might like Paantini (Rs 149), a vodka shot flavored with betel leaves. We aren’t paan eaters and the drink was a tad bitter for our tastebuds. Melon Water (Rs 149) lived up to its description, as it was served with a scooped out ball of watermelon on a skewer. But this watered down drink reminded us of cough syrup shoved down our throats as kids.

With growing trepidation, we tried End Of The Road (Rs 199). There is no polite way to describe this gin-based anise and mint shot other than to say no cop will stop you for a DUI offense if you have several of these , because your breath will smell of Listerine mouthwash.

We had given up hope of coming across any decent shot, when we decided to give the ABC (Rs 349) a last shot. And this particular shot redeemed the distress that its poorer cousins had subjected us to earlier in the evening. The layered shot of Amaretto, Baileys and Cognac was potent and pleasant, and we strongly recommend it. Incidentally, we made an interesting observation – the only intoxicating shot we had was the most expensive one on the menu!

FOOD

The food menu, we were told, was crafted by an ex-Michelin star chef. We think something was lost in translation from what this chef had in mind and what finally comes out of the kitchen. The Spicy Jalapeño poppers (Rs 138) were unlike any that we have had. These are usually hollowed out Jalapeño peppers stuffed with some mixture. We got croquettes that had too much bread and potatoes and too little of the jalapeños, chopped or otherwise.

The Spicy Jalapeño Poppers were croquettes with too much bread and potatoes and too little of the jalapeños, chopped or otherwise.
The Spicy Jalapeño Poppers

Okra Kurkure (Rs 120), deep fried slices of crunchy okra, is a nice savory chakna to have with a drink, if you are tired of having peanuts and chips. The BBQ Chicken Wings (Rs 174) had a thick tangy sweet sauce, which alleviated its taste to a great extent – just the thing you’d reach out for with your glass of beer.

The Pepper & Olive Cheesy Parcels (Rs 300) was neither cheesy, nor spicy; it was rather an insipid slab of parchment thin pastry stuffed with an indescribable mixture. The Fish Taquito with Fruity Relish (Rs 195), small bite-sized pieces of fried fish served with some strawberry relish on a tortilla, was what we liked the best of what we tasted during our meal, though if you leave it too long the tortillas get too soggy.

When one is out to grab a drink or two with friends, food is hardly a priority for most folks. So we realize that there is no reason for us to be picky about the food on offer. At the same time, we liked that most dishes on the menu were reasonably priced.

OUR OBSERVATIONS

One reason why shots aren’t a regular feature in any drinking session is because of their diminutive size – people perceive that they aren’t getting the bang for their buck. HS3 is trying to break that mould by pricing its shots at an average of Rs 200 per shot, which would be a fine move, except for one glitch. The shots just aren’t potent enough. And if one is looking to get a buzz, one would need to down at least four shots to get there, which probably costs the same as any 2-3 alcoholic drinks. Though we were told that each shot had 30ml alcohol in it, what we tasted felt otherwise.

The other thing we observed was that most guests at HS3 were having drinks other than shots. Did they learn this was a better proposition or did the novelty of downing shots wear off for them?

As a regular watering hole, HS3 is a good addition to other spots that have opened up and are flourishing in Andheri, including The Little Door, Boveda and Hometown Café. HS3 has a great buzz going for it and maybe its management might consider either making its shots more potent or transform itself into another hangout where the young and not-so-young can come to drink, to good times and bad.