Let’s begin from the end. There’s something called ‘citrus’ on the dessert menu. It’s got sugar pannacotta, sugarcane gel, gondhoraj lemon curd, and sweet lime cake, and that my friends is the work of pure genius. The only word I could find to describe this one was ‘cerebral’, because ‘subtle’, ‘delicious’, and other words don’t quite do justice.
And that in a nutshell describes the menu at Toast & Tonic. It’s smart, it’s sassy, and it’s a way of telling restaurateurs that you’ve got to up your standards. The flavours are international, with a lot of local ingredients at the core of the dishes. By local, they don’t just mean onions grown in Karnataka. It’s about using young jackfruit, avarakai in salads, gobindobhog rice, and soft Bandel cheese from Kolkata, local meats, sausages made in-house, sweet potato leaves, and so on.
Inspired by East Village in Manhattan, this new bar (and restaurant) is where the original Monkey Bar once stood, and apart from the flooring, sections of a wall, and windows, the only two things common between the two places are the address, and the man behind it.
So here’s what you ought to eat: the pork tea, and not because of the delicious combo of pork broth, black fungus, and mini tortellinis. After being cooked for nearly two days, and then further reduced, it’s brilliant how the bold flavour of the ‘tea’ didn’t knock us out.
I wouldn’t be surprised if the young jackfruit and smoked goat cheese tostada has intoxicants injected into it. It’s that addictive. Picture perfect, with hints of bean puree, and guacamole playing with your taste buds, this one is a seamless composition.
And then there’s the chilli tossed tuna poke bowl — with aromatic small-grained gobindobhog rice, and a topping of seaweed, chia seeds, star fruit, mustard greens, fried onions, and lots of cubed tuna, in a pineapple and passion fruit dressing — it’s complex, and yet comes together marvellously.
Get the soft eggs and Andouille sausage on sourdough toast. With green mustard paste, cream cheese made with Bandel cheese, and gin mustard hollandaise (just a hint of it), it’s happiness on a plate. The Andouille sausages are made in house by the way. I could eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
From the mains, the two dishes that stand out are the Andouille sausage and shrimp gumbo, served with butter rice, and the udon noodles with chorizo, clams, black forest ham, coriander, and smoked bandel. The gumbo also has elephant foot yam (how delightful), crispy okra, naati coriander in it. The only thing imported in this one is the sassafras powder, a key ingredient in a gumbo.
Here’s all I have to say about these two: if you need something to comfort your soul, eat them. And as for the natty coriander and crispy okra in the gumbo — nice touch, chef!
Let’s not forget the tonics, and the cocktails. The infusions are made in house, and their take on the classic gin and tonic takes this innocuous cocktail to a different level. The East Indian Company (gin, tonic, and strawberry spice ice), the herbalist (gin, tonic, coriander orange ice), and the British Raj (gin, tonic, served with rose petal, and cucumber ice) are some you must try. Incidentally, all the tonics are numbered and are mixed according to the cocktail you order. Plus they do beautifully flavoured tonic waters, which are incidentally my current addictions.
Rs.3,000 (for two). At Wood Street. Details: toastandtonic.com
— Priyadarshini Nandy