When India finally let its hair down after the financial liberalization of the '90s, local chefs had to radically reconsider their chutneys. Palates became younger, adventurous and erudite. The first bloke to do Indian nouvelle really well was Rahul Akerkar at Mumbai's now iconic Indigo, foodindigo.com. Then Vineet Bhatia flew back from England, two Michelin stars in his carry-on, and set up Ziya at the local Oberoi, oberoihotels.com. But Aurus (a derivation of the Latin word for gold), based in north Mumbai's chicster enclave Juhu, is currently having the most fun with food.
On the night we showed up, chef Vicky Ratnani sent out textured organic-broccoli soup with a starburst of flavors basil, pepper and something oaky. The king prawns arrived with red-pepper hummus and vanished rapidly off the plate. Baby vegetables and Brie potli were little purses of pleasure, tied with scallion and stuffed with a vegetable fricassee. Stuffed button mushroom was entirely forgettable, a menu aberration, but the Arabian Sea crab and baby-lobster ragout was a dazzling, inventive liaison, its Kashmiri red chilies as fierce as the accompanying fennel was sober.
Clientelewise, Aurus is freaky cool. On any Friday night, it ratifies the nation's obsession with celebrity (restaurateur Raman Macker told us Salman Rushdie and Madonna have air-kissed Bollywood royalty there) and excess (outside the restaurant we noticed Rolls-Royces abutting Jags, right where the paparazzi were waiting). But for all its electric glamour Aurus takes nosh seriously, which we noticed even in the afters of a honey-ginger ice cream teamed with a sublime strawberry-and-white-chocolate panna cotta.
Reservations can be made on (91-22) 6710 6667. For more information, see dishhospitality.com.