Helmed by ex-Nobu chef Thomas Pongsak Catley and backed by the mastermind behind the famous Grandmama's café, Abhayraj Singh Kohli – Tori brings flavours from around the world with dishes influenced by Chef Tom's travels across Asia and Latin America.
By: Nikita Vivek Pawar
Posted on: November 24, 2021
LF Says: ★★★★
Beyond the bright red door lies a culinary experience that would spin a sensory indulgence of surprise and wonder. Tori, a Latin Asian restaurant located in the plush Pali Hill, has some fantastic murals and an elaborate décor, making this restaurant the ‘it’ place for those who love adventure. Offering a sophisticated yet young vibe, Tori was launched by experienced (expat) Chef Thomas Catley and an astute entrepreneur and visionary, Abhayraj Singh Kohli. The murals on the alfresco section of the restaurant bring forth a young flamboyance while the indoors are elegant. Like the interiors merge two different aspects, the menu – which varies for lunch and dinner – also brings together the best of Asian and Latin American cuisine.
Chef Catley's travels across South America and South-East Asia influence the menu by marrying the two divergently opposite food cultures and ushering in a new era of gastronomy and mixology in the city. Built on the Chef’s memories, travels, experiences and encouraging a unique eating style, Chef Catley shares his expert knowledge and understanding of the cuisine.
The restaurant sources its ingredients from local producers and vendors to save the wait for shipments of certain elements. They have also introduced Bento boxes so that guests who want to dine in for lunch can sample some signature dishes all at once.
Chef Catley previously headed the team at Nobu, London. He worked in Peru before he founded Pachamama – one of London's coolest Peruvian restaurant chains. He now, along with Mr. Kohli, launched Tori for the people of Mumbai. "When Abi approached me, initially we discussed the growing popularity of Latin/Japanese/Asian cuisine which is booming right now with a large number of hugely successful openings all over the U.K/ U.S and mainland Europe. For example, Nobu, Zuma, Sushi Samba and Coya just to name a few," said Chef Catley. "The locals in that area already knew and had the taste for Latin cuisine. We then decided we want to build on that and introduce not just Mexican but also Peruvian, Brazilian and Caribbean cuisine. We didn't want to just do Japanese as well. Asia is such a huge continent so why not also introduce Thai, Korean, Chinese…the list goes on, so many different influences we could draw from, so for me it was a super exciting project from a chef's prespective!" he further continued.
Indian Audience & Cuisines
The Indian palette for niche cuisines has seen an upward trend in the last few years. People want to go somewhere fancy, enjoy the attention one gets at a fine dining restaurant, the intimacy, the level of detail and the labour-intensive dishes they eat. These are, to most, a special occasion destination and go there to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries or just to treat a loved one or themselves. The Chef believes that there is a need for chefs to be creative with readily available ingredients. With the success of restaurants like Tori, it's evident that the Indian audience is ready for experimental cuisines and inventions. The restaurant sources its ingredients from local producers and vendors to save the wait for shipments of certain elements. They have also introduced Bento boxes so that guests who want to dine in for lunch can sample some signature dishes all at once.
The East Asian cuisine is more than just Chinese, Japanese and Thai. The restaurant believes in bringing the more refined tastes and flavours used in lesser-known preparations. "If you look at Peruvian food for example, there's already Asian fusion dishes which are considered as part of their national cuisine. Peruvian-Japanese is Nekkei and Peruvian-Chinese is Chifa cuisine," explains the Chef.
Tori a term used in Japanese martial arts to refer to skills or technique – and the restaurant checks off every box. The team delves deep and highlights some of the unique techniques ingrained in South American and South East Asian cultures. The restaurant has an exhaustive drinks menu with a mix of Asian and Latin American influences. With over 14-15 types of sake, umeshu (plum wine), and shochu (a Japanese beverage made of rice, barley and sweet potatoes), the menu contains characteristic nuances from East Asia and South America. The spread has something for everyone and is segregated by Cold Bar, Signature Tacos (served by the piece), Home-made Baos, From the Earth, From the Sea and the Land. With over 61 homemade oils and sauces, Tori serves you the freshest ingredients in your cocktails and on your plate.
The restaurant has aced the art of simple yet extremely elegant plating that makes you want to dig in as soon as possible.
Tori brings lesser-known ingredients from Mexico, Brazil, Japan and Thailand in cocktails and food. I was served an ambrosial cocktail called "Single & Happy" - the creation of bartender Mohan Barkola for the Diageo World Class Competition. The cocktail had the Singleton of Glendullan 12 years with Grapefruit Sacctrum, Juice, and Tunture. I have always found cocktail-bartending a theatrical insight into how and why the drink contains what it does, and this one was no different! Served with a clear block of rice stamped with the Tori logo, the cocktail has a strong grapefruit flavour which sits perfectly with the Single Malt's light, fruity and creamy notes. Tori's bar menu is exciting, with Pisco classics customised with the in-house Pisco flavours such as the orange and cumin, cucumber and coriander or litchi and lemongrass.
For those who are looking for something non-alcoholic but as adventurous, I was recommended the house-made Horchata, a delicious rice-based Mexican drink. Ours was made with almond milk, rice milk and served over ice. The Chicha Morada, made from purple corn, along with fruit and spices, is prevalent throughout Peru. And lastly, a refreshing fermented drink made from fresh pineapple peel and the core with some brown sugar, named Tepache, is an all-time favourite for me now. Tori has also collaborated with local brands such as the Bombay Duck Brewing to create two styles of beers, marking either end of the Pacific Ocean. Tori offers a rice beer to highlight the importance of the staple in the East and a stout to underscore the importance of coffee in South America. Along with working with a local brewer, the establishment also works with Dope coffee and Chado tea, offering guests Japanese teas and coffees.
Tori a term used in Japanese martial arts to refer to skills or technique – and the restaurant checks off every box.
I was first served the Parmesan Churros garnished with some spring onions and Tofu Truffle Dip Mayo. The plain cinnamon churros with grated parmesan on top looked rather basic, but when paired with the Tofu Truffle Dip, it started a flavourful carnival in my mouth. The sweetness of the churros, the slight hotness of the cinnamon, the parmesan and the tanginess of the tofu truffle dip balanced perfectly - and set the bar high for the following dishes to come!
From the Cold Bar, one can expect lesser-known ingredients, a delectable range of ceviches, carpaccios, tatakis, sushi rolls, sashimi, and nigiri. I had a difficult choice between Watermelon Carpaccio that is aged in soy-balsamic, with truffle tofu cream, pine nuts and lemon oil and Hamachi Carpaccio, with lychee ponzu coriander and red banana chillies. As delectable as they both sounded, I opted for the latter, and I cannot say I regret it. They say you first eat with your eyes and then with your mouth. That’s true at Tori. The restaurant has aced the art of simple yet extremely elegant plating that makes you want to dig in as soon as possible. The Hamachi Carpaccio arrived in a beige plate with the dish forming a beautiful flower with the chillies in the center.
If you want to lean more towards the tacos and meat – the Pork Carnita Tacos and Chipotle Pulled Jackfruit are great options to try. T.F.C. Bao (Tori Fried Chicken) will completely bowl you over with its freshness!
The restaurant has successfully transformed accessible dishes into gourmet without disturbing the aesthetic and authenticity of the delicacy. Shrimp tacos followed the delicious Carpaccio, and the refreshing yet familiar burst of flavour took me to Mexico. Habanero sauce and Pico de gallo – the most important accompaniments in Mexican cuisine – will add that extra zing to your plate. "A lot of the Latin dishes already use soy sauce, chillies, limes, coriander – thus offering a very similar flavour profiles as Asian cuisines. Mexican tacos are very similar to Thai cuisine with barbequed meats served with something fresh, spicy and punchy," explained Chef Catley.
The climax of my culinary journey at Tori was the Five Texture Chocolate Cake. Like its name, the dessert had a beautiful combination of chocolates of different textures and intensity to create delectable gooey goodness in the mouth. A perfect way to end your meal, the dessert was well-balanced yet elevating.
Tori's principle is simple - the strength of a dish is attributed to its core ingredients. Striving to ensure that most of their ingredients are sourced locally, with imports only accounting for those that cannot be found in India, they serve delicious and delightful Latin Asian food and cocktails. Enhanced by an elegant presentation, flavours take the front seat, mesmerizing you with simple complexity from the first bite. The fusion of flavours does not feel forced but rather flow in a symphony that makes you want to be back to the restaurant again and again.
LF Says: ★★★★
Coordinates: 21, Pali Hill Rd, Union Park, Khar West, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India