The easygoing eatery embodies the ace cricketer’s personality — intense and delivering beyond expectations on the field, and everything stylish and delish outside.
The large gate opens, and we sashay into a cavernous space, replete with faux rocks. This isn’t Aladdin’s cave we’ve stepped into on a sunshiney Saturday afternoon, but, as the latest outpost of One8 Commune (after Delhi, Kolkata, and Pune) it does turn out to have some rare gems.
One8 bears celebrated cricketer Virat Kohli’s name along with co-founders Vartik Tihara, Anshul Goel and Ankit Tayal of True Palate Private Limited. When a restaurant has a celebrity name attached to it, that’s often the biggest (and sometimes the only!) draw. Remember Tendulkar’s? We try not to! Fortunately, we find that, in this case, the association has only served to propel what already has the makings of a great place into the spotlight.
Each One8 Commune is said to be firmly rooted in the neighbourhood it is located in and this one in Juhu does that remarkably well. It combines the lively eccentricity of the late Kishore Kumar (whose bungalow it partially occupies) and the free-flowing feel of an area that wears its stardom and affluence lightly.
Once we’re past the rocky start (yes, we are not fans of those back-lit boulders!), it gets much better. One room flows into another, the mood shifting effortlessly from warm and cosy to bright and peppy to glamorously amorous.
We are soon seated in a cheerful area that offers the expansiveness of a blue sky and swishing leaves above as well as the refreshing reliability of air-conditioned comfort. Now, this is a glass ceiling that I can live with, creating a delightful outdoorsy opulence indoors. It’s just what Mumbai craves, especially when winter is around the corner and Delhi and Bengaluru are starting to break out their Burberry trench coats.
We turn our attention to the very vegetarian-friendly menu by True Palate’s Corporate Chef Pawan Bisht, which looks promising, but we jump straight into our order — sparkling water and that Avocado Tartar everyone’s been talking about. The manager laughs that it not only is Kohli’s top choice on the menu, but now it’s Mumbai’s too!
The dish arrives and we dig in. The sliced avocado’s creamy umaminess is perfectly set off by the crunch and pickly-savouriness of the tempura avo and sweet corn in sriracha mayo and a ponzu-soy dressing. A seemingly simple dish with a lacing of complexity and one that starts to define for us what Kohli’s palate is all about.
We order the Mushroom Googly Dim Sums, also in the ‘Virat’s Favourites’ section of the menu, and are floored by the combination of wild mushroom and cream cheese with a dash of heady truffle oil. Another umami hit. This one is definitely on my must-order list for future visits.
We linger over the Phyllo baskets filled with a green mousse of avocado and edamame and a hot dish of Gambas Caliente, which has luscious tiger prawns, olives, and cherry tomatoes, in a star anise-scented sauce and a slice of sourdough toast.
Our drinks take a little time to arrive and we wonder aloud about them. But when they do make an appearance at the table, it’s so sensational, that we realise it was worth the wait. The cocktails are not as elaborate as they tend to be these days, and we find their simplicity refreshing, minus any of the fat-washing, clarification and complicated processes that one has to drink in before taking the first sip!
Beverage Manager Saurav Samanta, true to the ethos of One8 Commune, focuses on giving us something that looks and tastes fabulous but is, at the same time, comforting and chic. The ice is pure art, with interesting things embedded at the centre through a painstaking process that takes several hours to execute! My Lavender Gimlet (gin, lavender cordial, pea bitters), with a butterfly perched on the rim, has a little marigold inside the ice cube, while the Jalapeño Picanté (tequila, coriander, jalapeño) has a slice of the piquant pepper frozen into the ice.
The Saturday afternoon crush has started to thin a little and we are ready for our mains. There’s plenty of variety on offer and it takes a while to pick from the range of Indian, Italian, Continental, Asian, and Middle Eastern large plates, as well as a tempting selection of poké bowls.
The cottage cheese steak with a fennel stew that we choose is a vegetarian’s dream come true. It too has the trademark textures and tastes (umami + tart) with the steak firm yet giving and the chunks of sharp-flavoured fennel counterbalancing the cheesy mouthfeel.
The big bowl of Crab Thermidor attempts the same balance but doesn’t quite get it. I love the creamy texture but the sriracha overpowers the sweetness of the crab and the béchamel sauce is too salty to come to the rescue. I turn to the icy comfort of my companion’s Rum Julep Punch, served in a Mule mug, while I decide on dessert.
The tongue steers me towards the Burnt Basque Cheesecake, but it isn’t available, so we are served a Mascarpone Set Chresecake instead. The tastebuds do a little dance when they encounter the salted caramel and pecan praline that accompany this creamy and deliciously dense confection.
Like most of the other diners, we too pose for pictures with that larger-than-life Virat Kohli signature sprawled across one wall in neon, and walk around to take in all the quirky décor elements. While we wish that the books on the shelves were real, it’s a Barnum and Bailey world that we enjoy being bamboozled by.
In fact, it’s exactly this light-hearted, whimsical vibe coupled with reliably good food and drink that would keep us coming back to One8 Commune again and again.
One8 Commune Juhu
Overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ (Max: 5 stars)
Food: 8.5/10 | Drinks: 8/10 | Service: 8/10 | Décor: 9/10 | Vibe: 9/10 | One dish we loved: Mushroom Googly Dim Sums | One dish that didn’t work for us: Crab Thermidor.
Timing: Between 12.30 pm and 1.30 am | Address: Ground Floor, Kishore Kumar Bungalow, 18/B, Juhu Tara Rd, behind Little Italy, Shivaji Nagar, Juhu, Mumbai | Contact: +918108401818/+918108411818 | Instagram: One8 Commune Juhu.