I love the restaurant scene in India and the fact that they can take any type of cuisine and give it an Indian twist! Our Indian-Chinese being the most famous example of the lot… or tandoori chicken topped pastas, or the McAloo Tikki at McDonald’s. The list is endless!
Yet, there are times, when I do prefer to go and enjoy some authentic cuisines, or restaurants that try to be as close to the true cuisine as possible. And one such restaurant I often frequent is “Café Mangii” in Mumbai. Situated in the Khar and Powai suburbs of Mumbai, Café Mangii is my favourite restaurant when it comes to satisfying my palate for Italian cuisine.
Before I go to the actual restaurants and cuisine, here are a few interesting facts about Café Mangii. Café Mangii is a more concise model of the fine dining restaurant Mangii Fera. Quiz the managing Director Prashant Chaudhury of the Mangii Fera Café’s Pvt Ltd, the group that promotes Café Mangii about the name and he will tell you, it all started with a mango, or rather a mango tree and the names just popped out of that one mango tree in the front patio. Today Café Mangii is a part of the Mirah Hospitality Group, with 4 outlets in Mumbai, 2 in Pune and 1 in Goa.
Coming back to the actual restaurant, I have been to 4 Café Mangii outlets… 3 in Mumbai and 1 in Goa and the first thing you notice about the restaurant is their signature white washed walls that adorn the exteriors of the restaurant, giving it a serene look, even in the chaos of the crowded Khar lane or the chaos of Powai. What’s more, each outlet has a distinct, elegant look, with extremely tasteful interiors lit in welcoming and romantic yellow lights. Another endearing thing you notice about Café Mangii is the fact that they have wood fired oven, which is always ready to serve hot pizza’s. It almost takes you back to the smaller Pizza joints in the by-lanes of Rome where you are often welcomed in to the smell of burning wood and a pleasant “Mio Caro… benvenuto alla pizzeria!”
However, Café Mangii’s pizza’s are not their only specialty. In fact, during my last visit to Café Mangii Powai, I completely skipped the pizza’s and tried their other exotic delicacies. Here’s what we picked:
 Cream of Exotic Mushrooms: After living in South East Asia for more than 2 years, I have realized that mushroom’s are a vegetarian’s savior a lot of times, especially when you are eating at these off-beat, local restaurants. And since then, I have a new found respect for the umbrella like structures that I often considered quite unpalatable. This time, I actually ordered a cream of mushroom at Mangii, and I was extremely happy with the choice! The soup was well-flavoured, savory and extremely tasty. A perfect start… especially for my mom, recently converted non-veggie, who still prefers the veggie stuff!
 Lobster bisque: Of all the dishes we ordered, this was a total let down. While beautifully presented, the lobster bisque was just too out there. The flavours were so strong that after about two spoons, the smell got to you. Earlier, dad pushed away the soup saying he didn’t like the way it smelled, I smiled. After having tried some really “strongly flavoured” food across the Asian continent, my tolerance to strong smells has greatly increased. But he was absolutely right… and it wasn’t spoilt lobster… just too strongly flavoured. The last time I had ordered lobster bisque was at Conrad Bangkok, and I thought it was strong in flavour, but this one at Café Mangii was just too much. A total avoid, even if it looks appetizing enough.
 Red Wine Poached Pears crumbled feta arugula and walnuts in balsamic dressing: From the worst dish of the evening to the best! This is a total thumbs up to the executive chef of Café Mangii Krishna Khetle. The beautiful, savory pears were perfectly poached in a slightly fruity red wine. The balsamic dressing was just right, not too tangy, not too sweet… and the off beat taste of feta and crunch of walnuts just made for a perfect dish. I could have eaten the whole thing… had we not ordered some other really interesting dishes!
Other suggestions: I have tried these in the past – Their choice of fondues, caprese salad (quite authentic), Patata Gnocchi & Calamari Fritti.
 Woodfire Oven Baked Lasagna with Veg ragout: I may have opted not to go for the woodfire pizza’s, but I wasn’t ready to let go of the woodfire itself… the first dish was a veggie delight, for me and mom. Having a veggie husband kind of converts you to appreciating good veggie food, I have realized. Beautifully blended vegetables, cooked just right… stuffed inside the woodfire oven based lasagna was a delight. The veggies were moist enough, even after the baking! Also, it was a pleasant change from the spinach lasagna so commonly available.
 Risotto Carneltini: This is a killer, if you are a sausage, ham and bacon fan. Very selected restaurants in Mumbai actually serve bacon and ham… for obvious reasons. Chicken and goat meat are much more common. This risotto, beautifully mixed with savoury, lightly flavoured white sauce cooked in beer, allowed the flavours of the meet and light flavour of the beer to come out delightfully. Where in most cases the sauce overwhelms the dish, here the balance was almost perfect. A must try!
 Chargrilled Rawas Steak: I think the only reason why my brother initially picked the chargrilled rawas was because the word steak was attached to it! But, this dish was just so much more. The mixture of flavours of the harrissa paste (a mixture created out of red hot chilli’s, garlic and usually used for marination) and lemon caper sauce should have been delightful. And it was, for 2 of the 3 pieces. Soft and fresh. However, one of the three pieces looked older, frozen, almost on the verge of being spoilt. There was a different stink to it, which a fish lover will immediately recognize as fish starting to go bad. That was quite a mood spoiler for an otherwise delectable dish.
 Brazilian Tenderloin Steak: Having had to face some disappointment with the rawas steak, my brother decided to stick with the tried and tested, Brazilian tenderloin steak. What’s special about this steak is the cognac pearl onion sauce they serve it with. It’s quite savoury and quite unique. I enjoyed the sauce the most, as the beef was rare, something I do not personally prefer but my brother does. “Meat has to be rare… why destroy the moist flavours by cooking it!” he says. I of course do not get it!
 Chilean Seabass: Though the rawas was kind of a let down, the chiliean seabass was good. Served on bed of greens, the fish was amazingly crispy on the outside and perfectly cooked on the inside. Further, the fish was absolutely fresh, which came as a surprise, for I was unaware that seabass was so easily available on the west coast of india. Light flavoured and delicious, it was a different sort of dish.
Other suggestions: Ravioli del salmone, stuffed chicken (must try), Pizza’s which can also be ordered in whole wheat base!
 Chocolate Fondue: Probably the only place in Mumbai I know that serves the chocolate fondue… I have not seen it in too many other menu’s! Rich Belgian chocolate fondue served with colourful marshmallows and fresh fruits was a perfect way to end the delightful meal.
Other suggestions: Mocha Fudge Cake & Apple crumble
How much does it cost me: Here comes the tricky part. The restaurant is slightly on the expensive side. We opted for 9 dishes in all, no drinks of any kinds, not even juices, water or mocktails, and the total bill came up to Rs. 5,000 (approximately S$ 100) for four people. However, the kind of choice of menu they offer, the ambiance and the overall experience, I feel it is a good deal!
The Verdict: Café Mangii, is by far, my most favourite restaurant in Mumbai. The choice of dishes they offer, almost always amazes me. It caters equally to meat and non-meat eaters, which is a huge plus! It’s a total thumbs up to the chef. The menu is creative and unique, and I can bet you, that you will not find such similar choice at too many other places, if at all, at this price range. Having said that, I was extremely disappointed with the lobster and the rawas… there’s no justification for serving a fish that’s almost turned bad. However, of my multiple visits to Café Mangii, this is the first time, I have faced something like this. A suggestion, therefore, enquire about the freshness of the fish with a caveat that you do not want frozen fish. That might save you from the disappointment. But all in all, a must try place, if not for the choice of menu, taste and unique dishes… then for the ambiance too. It’s a cozy place, romantic, and perfect for special occasions.
Address: Mumbai Outlets:
Powai: 3, Transocean House, Lake Boulevard Road, Hiranandani Business Park
Khar: Shop No 3/4, Mangal Bhavan Society Junction Of Khar Pali, 14th Road, Off Linking Road
Versova: 28, Aram Nagar 1, Versova, Andheri West
Ghatkopar: R City Mall, LBS Marg, Ghatkopar West
P.S: For those interested in celebrity spotting, this is one place where you would often find celebrities enjoying quiet meals! As for the lazy eater, Cafe Mangii home delivers too!