The Chocolate Spoon Company’s venture into the realms of Asian cuisine was a bold move. And with House of Mandarin, it seems like a move well made.
While the success of The Sassy Spoon has firmly established The Chocolate Spoon Company in the patisserie and dessert space, with House of Mandarin, the group ventured in a new direction – Asian cuisine. The first restaurant, in Mumbai’s Bandra was launched in 2017, with the Powai outlet launched in 2019 and the third, at Pune’s Sheraton Hotel in 2021. Given that this was the group’s first foray into Asian cuisine, I was eager to see for myself what their interpretation of possibly one of the most popular cuisines in India was.
So, on an overcast monsoon afternoon, I found myself walking into a swanky building, aptly named Binge Central, on Powai’s posh Orchard Avenue. Bunched together with a number of other popular eateries, names that feature on the top of any foodie’s list in Mumbai, House of Mandarin is a rather large space decked in an interesting theme.
The first thing that strikes the eye as you walk in through the door is the number of varied seating options. There are four-seater tables that would work great for a working lunch, booths that can host a bunch of friends or a mid-sized Indian family, along with a private room that can host anything from a board meeting to a Christmas lunch. The bar, sadly, is a place for only mocktails for now as the license to serve alcohol is in the works.
As lunch hour drew close, a few guests started to filter in, and it was time for me to sample the menu. Menu checked through QR code on the phone, hands washed, I sat down to a serving of California Uramaki with asparagus, avocado, cucumber, and cream cheese. Unlike a lot of other sushi offerings in Mumbai, this one had a dash of a sauce that elevated the offering considerably. This was the first time I was trying vegetarian sushi, and I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Next up was Chicken Hot and Sour Soup with Trumpet Mushroom. Aside from being a riot of flavours, the spicy and sour notes playing well off each other, the many textures of the ingredients made every mouthful interesting. Appetite whetted, it was time to turn to the wok tossed chicken with dried red chillies. The chicken was juicy and tender, the sweet sauce making a great combination with the red chillies, each bite.
And while I was wolfing down the last of the chicken, in came Chicken and Chilli Oil Dumplings. Tender and yet holding its shape well, a bite of the dumpling revealed moist meat on the inside but what really made a difference was the dipping sauce. If you like spicy, this would be your go-to option at House of Mandarin. I myself am quite a spice fiend but even I was compelled to take a sip of a tall glass of lemon ice tea to console my taste buds.
We weren’t done with appetisers yet. The final offering sounded most like a dish I would have to write off – Turnip Cake with burnt garlic and scallions. In the midst of delicious chicken dishes, turnip cake sounded quite ordinary. Until it arrived at the table. I was intrigued by how it looked, the presentation was top notch, the portion size too, perfect for two. And then I took the first bite. The crispy outer layer yielded mushy insides which melted on the tongue. The crunch of the burnt garlic and scallions added an entirely new texture and flavour to the dish. I was, to put it simply, blown away. Never in my life had I imagined something called turnip cake would make such an incredible impression on me.
While I was scooping up the last of the burnt garlic off the serving dish, the main course arrived. Wok-tossed Chicken in Black Bean Sauce and Veg Hakka Noodles. While the chicken was par for the course, especially with the proportions of sauce just right, it was again the vegetarian offering which stood out. The noodles were light, delicious and paired great with the black bean sauce running off the wok tossed chicken. It’s one of those dishes which has a comfort food kind of flavour on its own, something you can indulge a big bowl of in, but if it’s a special occasion and you want to make it interesting, you could pair it with a wide variety of mains just as well.
After this elaborate meal, saving room for dessert was quite the task but when I saw the sticky Toffee Pudding with caramel sauce, vanilla ice cream and candied ginger arrive, my brain sent my stomach some secret signal and voila, suddenly, there was room. Naturally, given that House of Mandarin is part of The Chocolate Spoon Company, the expectations were high.
Well, they were met and exceeded. The warm pudding, the cold ice cream, the indescribable tangy-sweet flavour of the candied ginger, it all added up to end the meal on a delicious high.
Overall, House of Mandarin has gotten Asian cuisine exactly how Indians like it. Their proportions are reasonable, they’ve crucially gotten the sauce-to-protein/veg ratio perfect and they have a wonderful balance of flavours which will appeal to most.
Being a dedicated meat and seafood eater, I wasn’t expecting such a wonderful performance from the vegetarian offerings, be it the sushi, the turnip cakes or the hakka noodles. But it really did change my perception of Asian vegetarian offerings. It’s a lovely space to be in as well, with the ability to cater to a broad spectrum of diners.
If you’re craving an Asian meal in that part of town, House of Mandarin, Powai, makes for a great dining destination, whether solo, with friends, family or even colleagues. And if you’re not in the mood to step out, there’s always direct delivery.
In conversation with Chef Rachel Goenka