Arola at the JW Marriott, Juhu.
If wishful thinking was a thing, the meal at Arola would definitely be counted as a result of that. Chef Sergi Arola, a Spanish Chef has a string of restaurants around the world and he chose the Marriott in Juhu to be the perfect setting for his Indian venture. Arola, being predominantly a Catalan Cuisine based restaurant serves some great food, both visually and taste wise. Our good friends at Madison India, this time Reem Iqbal mailed us regarding an interesting concept that’s being hosted at Arola called Arola Musica. It is a Fusion Music night where local and international DJs team up with percussionists to perform every Friday and Saturday. And while the event was taking place, Reem also wanted us to check out the Spanish delights that were being dished up by Chef Manuel. This was one interesting night that we really want to share with you, as not only did we come back extremely happy with the food but also extremely satisfied with the entire experience.
Like we mentioned earlier and choose to believe, this meal was a result of wishful thinking. I have been in love with Arola food since the IFBA awards. And I remember mentioning to our Chef from the Bombay Foodies, about how I really wanted to try all the food there. It was a remarkable co-incidence that we happened to get an invitation to taste more of their food the following week! We were actually invited to check out Arola Musica, a Fusion Music event along with their extensive Spanish cuisine menu. To be honest when I’m asked to attend a musical night which includes key words such as, ‘at the bar’ ‘DJ music’ ‘fusion’ it automatically creates a very noisy scene in my head. After a long day, apart from the food I wasn’t sure how keen I was on a loud night. My fault completely because all I needed to do was read the mail, a little more attentively :).
For starters on arriving at the Marriott we were greeted by a large Christmas tree (the Christmas loving 10-year-old inside me did want a few more lights on that tree, but I wasn’t there for the tree 😉 ) We also checked out the giant ginger bread house that is made every year at JW Marriott. On arriving at the very lavish looking Arola, we realized that the place was still filling up. The night was still young and people were slowly pouring in for the evening.
We found our peaceful corner and were quite happy with our seating. We could see the window overlooking the pool from where we sat. But at night if you aren’t right next to the window it doesn’t make sense. We have been told, that dining at their outdoor sea-facing area is another experience altogether! When we finally got around to ordering, I was worried about missing out on really good dishes but our server for the night (who I think wasn’t in a good mood) made our lives easier by announcing that Chef Manual would be sending out tapas recommended by him. (Good things will happen to him for such a thoughtful gesture *chuckles*) however we did order the Spanish pizza, just out of curiosity. Anything with Chorizo has gots to be tried.
I must mention here, that the names on the menu are written in Spanish. So either you need a well-informed server by your side or you just need to read the description below. Our drinks were ordered before we were told that the menu was pre-set. I really liked my drink as the Orange juice used in it was fresh as opposed to canned juices that are usually used. Very pleasant to taste, I downed it just in time, which is when our soup arrived.
Beautifully done Patatas Bravas, is a “traditional” dish at Arola. It was one of the best that I have tasted so far. The Sea food soup, Sopa de Mariscos, had nice little dollops of cream placed over the toasted bread alongside king Prawns, Mussels and Scallops, served nice and warm. And a suquet poured over, which was delicious. The portion was just right. Very appetizing and left you wanting for more. I didn’t let go of the dish till I finished every last bit of that soup.
After watching enough of Food Planet, the Spain special, in this case, I was quite excited about trying out authentic Spanish cuisine. I had watched this episode where Padma Lakshmi learns how to make Gazpacho, a cold soup, made with tomatoes, garlic, bread, olive oil, and blended together. Originating in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia, it is eaten during summer as refreshment. I was very excited when it landed on my table along with the Naan Tumaca, which was toasted bread, served with chunks of raw garlic, tomato sauce, olive oil and rock salt. The Naan Tumaca has a way in which it is to be eaten — one needs to rub the garlic on the Naan (toasted bread), then spread some tomato paste over it, drizzle a little olive oil, sprinkle some rock salt and dig in! Naan Tumaca goes perfectly with the Gazpacho.
The Gambas Al Ajillo, which comes under the hot tapas, was the very reason why I wanted to come to Arola in the first place. For those who are health conscious polishing off that flavorsome olive oil, at the end, might get a little appalling, but it is totally worth it :P. You can find the recipe here.
Coca de Chorizo was ordered purely ordered because of the chorizo. Coca in spanish means Pastry. It is like a square-shaped pizza topped with Chorizo, Artichokes, Olives and cheese. If you are eating Spanish cuisine it is a shame to not try something with Chorizo in it. This one was nice and loaded with veggies and a slice of Chorizo. A good portion, if one likes pizzas or forms of it. Their Cocas are totally recommended.
When we were just about done, Chef sent us Cochinillo, the Suckling Pig, as the main course. I loved everything about it although I found the salt a little less for my liking. I did mention that to Chef Manuel and he explained how previously the customers complained about it being too salty. Therefore now a balance has been struck. 🙂 Great dish, and finished in no time. Also truffles shavings on-top of the sweet potato puree, I finally got to taste what they are all about. The entire dish leaned more towards the sweeter side and the truffles brought a lot of earthiness to the dish.
I was so full by the time the dessert arrived — Creama Catalana. It has caramelized eggs and cinnamon “Creama Catalane” along with mandarin sorbet which you could taste as you dig the spoon right in! If only I could appreciate as much as it deserved, after all that food I had already eaten.
What we tasted was just a small part of this vast menu. Arola’s menu is split into various parts. Traditional dishes that are highly recommended by the customers include Lamb and Portobello Ravioli that is served with a chilli garlic mix , Filet Mignon (Knife cut, Steak Tartar with Soy Sauce and Wasabi infusion and crunchy onions), White asparagus with a light mayonnaise and Chicken wings.
As you readers have read our earlier posts, we love the Marriott group of Hotels, for their hospitality and good food. When Reem contacted us regarding the music event at Arola we immediately agreed. Yup, The Bombay Foodies are known for their close relation with food and music, be it events, gigs, or even band nights. Therefore we without hesitation accepted the invite and made our way to Arola. Arola is at the Lobby level of the Marriott, with beautifully decorated interiors, a bar with wide variety of liquor (Gin being the most popular) and was nicely lit up unlike a lot of places that are popping up nowadays. We were seated in a nice corner of the restaurant that was pretty packed and DJ Mikhail and Sandeep Shrivastava on vocals were just about to begin their set. All the ordering is done on IPads, but were later told that we would be tasting tapas recommended by Chef Manual, himself! This absolutely delicious choice of dishes included Gazpacho (a Spanish cold soup), Sopa di Mariscos (Seafood Soup), their famous Patatas Bravas, Gambas al Ajillo, a small version of the Coca di Chorizo (Spansish flat bread with Chorizo), Cochinillo (Suckling Pig) and ended it with a Crema Catalana and Mandarin Sorbet.
Yes, not only do the dishes sound fancy, they looked and tasted fancy as well. We also called for 2 Gin based cocktails, one with Orange juice and Rosemary for the Foodie and a Gin based drink with Olives and Spanish bitters. The Orange juice with Rosemary took the cake when it came to the cocktails as the other one was too strong, even for the Chef (A bevdoo that he is.) It started with some Pan Con Tomate (Naan Tumaca), which is a complimentary dish and is like the national bar snack of Spain, where toasted pieces of bread are served along with Olive oil, Sea Salt, raw Garlic and a Con Tomate sauce. A simple dish in today’s complicated food scene, Pan Con Tomate is just what we needed to get started with our meal.
In the background, the music set had begun where Sandeeps melodic voice was merging very well with Mikhails deep beats. This is exactly the kind of music that is required to enjoy a good meal at a classy place like Arola, wasn’t too loud or fast. Then arrived our soup, the Gazpacho which is the national soup of Spain. It consisted of blended tomatoes, green bell pepper and cucumber with a drizzle of olive oil and served chilled. The other was a high end, gourmet seafood soup (Sopa di Mariscos) with scallop, prawn and Mussels. These were placed in the most delicate manner on top of a crunchy fried bread and then the soup was poured around it. It looked so ‘pwetty’ that the Foodie did not want to eat it!! Getting back to the soup, the scallop was perfectly seared-the mussel was nicely poached and the prawn was cooked spot on. The soup itself was like a bisque with strong flavor of prawn head and the fried bread added great texture to the dish.
The next three dishes were the Bravas, Prawns and Coca de Chorizo – this is where the terms Foodgasm, Foodporn, S*x on Toast etc. are going to be thrown about a lot by me. The Patatas Bravas is the national dish of the Catalunya region of Spain, this one done a little differently. Cylinders of boiled potatoes, deep-fried and tossed with sea salt were plated and were topped off with a smooth garlic aioli. This dish was the definition of the concept that some of the simplest of food items when prepared perfectly taste the best. Gambas al Ajillo at Arola again, is a stellar example of ‘less is more’. All that the dish contained, was Spanish Olive oil, Parsley, Garlic flakes, red chilies chopped and the Prawn (Gambas.) Fresh prawns, clean flavors and the Olive oil made for a great sauce that one could just gulp down at the end of everything (a little scary that I had oil like that but yea). Coca is a Catalun flat bread, and in this case was with Chorizo, grilled peppers, Artichoke and olives. The bread itself was nice, crisp and buttery; not a lot of cheese was put as they wanted to give most of the attention to the roasted vegetables and the Chorizo.
Next on the table was the Cochinillo, or Suckling Pig. Don’t worry guys, the entire pig with an apple in its mouth wasn’t brought to us. And on asking the Chef we were told how it is cooked. They make the pork at Arola. They roast the pork, take out all the meat, roll it out in cling-film and cook it again thus giving it an appearance of a rolled cylinder. This is served with a side of sweet potato mash, black truffle and truffle oil. The sauce was pan jus collected from roasting the pig. F*ck me because I died and went to Heaven. This dish was presented in a pretty manner and flavors were very clean and earthy. The earthiness of the black truffle, sweetness of the potatoes and the umame from the pork just made this dish check every box in my list.
We were full after all the dishes that were sent out by chef Manuel, but he had one last trick in his hat. As Dj Mikhail took over from Sandeep the music started to gain beats but had not gone to a decibel level that we couldn’t handle; The Crema Catalana, yes it is a version of Creme Brulee, with an Arola touch to it, was sent to our table. Whipped eggs with cinnamon, was put on top of a Mandarin sorbet and was blow-torched to give it a caramel, Creme Brulee feel. Great way to end our meal, after everything was wiped clean off our plates, Chef Manuel came out to meet us. He’s a simple guy making the food he loves from the region of Spain where he is born. Arola certainly has some of the best food I’ve ever had, yes it does come at a price but then all good things deserve a price!!
We loved our meal at Arola and really want to be rich enough to be able to afford it on a regular basis. All I could hear The Chef say next to me was this is, “HANDS DOWN ! Best Spanish Food in Mumbai!” Ever since that night I may have recommended Arola to atleast 5 friends in like a week. And I hope it does well and standards never drop! Innovation has been taken to the next level at Arola. Agreed, a lot of the dishes sound simple and indeed were, but they tasted to so f*cking good. We hope they continue to dish out these beauties for a long time.
Value For Money: -NA-
(The Bombay Foodies had been invited to check out Arola Musica and with it a few Tapas. The staff and Chef knew of us coming but honest reviews have been given by the reviewers.)
A few recommended dishes at Arola
Cold Tapas are Ceps, a Porcini confit served as Carpaccio with Iberian ham and Pine nut vinaigrette and Berenjenas, Charred served with balsamic reduction . It also includes Anchovies, Gazpacho, Foie Gras.
Hot Tapas that has Crispy Calamari, Asparagus deep-fried in crispy tempura and served with Romesco sauce. The menu also has a section with Chef’s Manuel’s own creations such a Lobster Rice, and Angel Hair Pasta with squid, prawn and sea bass. Perhaps one day will go back and try some of that 🙂
Main course has a wide variety, that includes Escalivada: Roasted veggies salad along with anchovy,Terrina de Pollo y Boletus: Chicken and Porcini Terrine served with Jerusalem Artichokes Cream. Mero Negro Con Curry *giggles* which is a Sea Bass, Potato-Onion Confit, coconut soup.
Dessert you have an option to choose Torrija which is fragmented bread and cinnamon sugar, Pina Brava, pineapple, spicy berry sauce and coconut mousse, Chocolate soufflé and Egg Flan with Yogurt ice cream.
You can also go for the Sergi Arola’s Menu which includes Gazpacho, Naan Tumaca, 2 Cold and Hot Tapas, Rice or Pasta, Main course and Dessert. This can cost you upto Rs.2595++. They also have Happy Hours: Buy one get one free, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm.