Embark on a gastronomic journey at NAVA, where a symphony of flavours and artistry intertwine to create an unparalleled dining experience. By Sunaina Basu
NAVA, नवा translates to new in Marathi, and the restaurant sure does live up to its name. Nava, the brainchild of dynamic duo, Anushka Pathak, Founder, NAVA and Chef Akash Deshpande. Pathak and Deshpande bonded over a common philosophy, “Art on Plate." Their ethos lies in, creating dishes that are not only visually appealing but are also coupled with an exquisite camaraderie of flavours. A meal here is a treat for your eyes, soul and belly. Championing the Palette meets Plate concept, for Chef Akash, "Palette meets palate’ - is a ‘housemade’ phrase that accurately defines our presentation at the restaurant which is an ode to colour that meets the sense of taste. "The detail-oriented plating of dishes across our menu, which is catalyzed by carefully crafted colour combinations that are not only visually appealing but are also coupled with an exquisite camaraderie of flavours, thereby elevating the dish to a work of art."
Nestled in Bandra, NAVA is a haven for those seeking a new culinary and unparalleled experience in the city. It goes beyond the commonplace, offering a culinary adventure that seamlessly weaves together artistry, flavours, and a thoughtful dining ambiance. In a world where many restaurants prioritise aesthetics over substance, NAVA distinguishes itself by elevating every aspect of the dining experience.
NAVA had been on my list for months, and it was mainly because of their stunning Instagram page – which resembled that of an artist. The entire experience at NAVA was one-of-a-kind, something I haven’t experienced in Bombay yet. The synergy between the flavour, the thought and the beauty of each dish left me startled (in the best way possible).
What struck me as we walked in, was how the interesting choice in art and interiors elevated the otherwise monochromatic décor. At each table, a mini-explainer in the form of a tent card unveiled the mysteries of European culinary terminology - from “Beurre Blanc” to “Soubise”. It was a thoughtful touch that added another layer to the dining experience, reminiscent of my moments watching MasterChef Australia.
Recently, NAVA launched a new ala carte food that redefines Modern European cuisine. Each dish, while technique-heavy, carries a hint of nostalgia and familiarity. Found across the new menu are ingredients like Triphala, Gondhoraj Lebu, Alu & Alu Leaf, Fennel, Suran, Sukat, Karvand, Guava, Kokum, Passionfruit/Persimmon, and Yams. Some of their signature dishes include Pork Bun Maska, Yam Canale, Duck Cones., Pappardelle and Ceramelle, Seabass Main Course & Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam. Here's what we tried!
A Culinary Conversation with Chef Akash:
I enjoy a great tale when it comes from a culinary expert, so when Chef Akash sat down with us for dinner – I was all ears. His story is different, he started his career in Canada but felt a strong longing to bring his magic back home to Mumbai. When asked about what inspires his artistic culinary skills, he said, "In terms of inspiration, I draw a lot of it from objects and what I see around me. For instance, one of the desserts on our menu is the Cacao Leaf and it’s plated in a way where it looks like the log of a tree with branches coming out from the side. I got the inspiration to plate it that way because there’s a tree that we can see through the window next to one of our tables at the restaurant". During our conversation, Chef Deshpande highlighted three key aspects that caught my attention.
Team Above Everything
Chef Akash shared the secret behind the delectable "Kokum Prawns" and "Seoul Fried Chicken" — each dish on the menu is a reflection of the diverse strengths within the kitchen team. Drawing inspiration from their backgrounds, the team members contribute their expertise to craft a menu that celebrates culinary diversity. While Chef Akash’s Maharashtrian heritage and Mum’s cooking brought the Kokum Prawns alive, it was Rakesh & Aniket’s strengths in Korean cuisine that gave rise to the super juicy Korean Fried Chicken. Even when it comes to tasting – the entire team’s tastebuds play a role.
Balance between Plating and Flavour
NAVA skillfully strikes a balance between aesthetics and taste. Each dish tells a unique story through its presentation, with highlights such as the Bak Choi Tacos plated on pebbles, transporting diners to a metaphorical pebble beach. Chef Akash's innate sense of plating, influenced by his passion for painting, can be seen in every dish. While the plating does take your breath away, NAVA does a very good job of ensuring that the flavours and taste remain the focus, and the plating steps in to enhance your dining experience Chef Akash mentioned: “Plating comes naturally to me, I paint a lot in my free time. So it’s quite simple and in the moment.”
Heroing Simple Ingredients with Incredible Technique
Deshpande's culinary philosophy emphasizes the art of elevating everyday ingredients. From onions to mushrooms, NAVA showcases the beauty of simplicity. The Soubise-infused mushroom tart and perfectly cooked Kokum Prawns exemplify the meticulous technique applied to even the most basic elements. Chef Akash is as real as it gets as he explains his refreshing approach to us “ People forget to use basic ingredients” It’s not about heroing exotic ingredients, the actual beauty is heroing simple and easily available ingredients like an onion.” The beauty of the Soubise sung through every bite of the mushroom tart. “There’s a lot of technique that goes into this,” he explained. “Even the technique of cooking the prawns for the Kokum prawns went through several trials.”
Stumbling upon a restaurant in India that recreates renowned art pieces on a plate is a rare occurrence. But at NAVA this concept is elevated to the highest level of excellence and refinement. NAVA ventures into uncharted territories by recreating iconic artworks through their desserts. The "Starry Night" dessert, a previous sensation, is complemented by a new creation inspired by Michelangelo's "Creation of Adam." We tried the Starry Night dessert, which was stunning to look at, it came on a canvas but each bite was bursting with the freshness of muskmelon. We also tried the chocolate cake, which was presented rather uniquely– a thin sliver placed gently upon a chocolatey sketch of a big tree, inspired by the tree that overlooks the restaurant.
TSL Recommends: Kokum Prawns, Bak Choi Tacos, Gallete, Seoul Fried Chicken
But, what's a meal with the right cocktail pairing? The new cocktail menu at Nava pays homage to iconic artists, poets, and authors, creating a sensory journey inspired by their lives and works. Each cocktail is a carefully crafted tribute, capturing the essence of their creativity and the historical connections between artists and alcohol.
All in all, NAVA hits the sweet spot, being a perfect culinary haven for a meal that delights all your senses. With several menu options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians, it should definitely be on your list!
In essence, NAVA is not just a restaurant; it's a canvas where culinary artistry unfolds. From the collaborative efforts of the kitchen team to the meticulous balance between presentation and flavour, every aspect of NAVA is a testament to the dedication and creativity of its culinary team. It's a dining experience that goes beyond the ordinary, inviting patrons to savour the intersection of taste and art.
Address: 2nd Floor, Suburbia Building, SV Road, Near Maruti Suzuki Showroom, Linking
Road, Bandra West, Mumbai