While in Bombay, my mom and I made a trip to Phoenix Mills to try the much-recommended Southeast Asian restaurant Lemon Grass. When walking upstairs to the restaurant from the shopping complex we observed (fake) palm trees, sand, and an empty beach chair all arranged below the stairs. My mom explained to me that Lemon Grass was probably trying to create an atmospheric tropical entrance, but I felt like I was in Disney World. Upon entering Lemon Grass, the ambiance shifted to a different tropical zone- more Safari-esque, with wooden tables and napkin holders, paper lamps, and etching in the wood panels on the walls. Around 8:30, when we were seated, the restaurant was empty save for a couple tables. We thought this was odd, but we forgot that Bombay folks eat late: around 9:30, people started trickling in; at 10 pm, the restaurant was bustling.
Our appetizers included paneer satay, chile potatoes, and Indonesian potato-mushroom satay, all spooned onto a plate along with a too-gingery cabbage slaw. These were mediocre- each of the first three appetizers was cooked in or covered with the same, gluey brown sauce. While not great, the sauce was tasty- sweet and spicy- but made the difference in flavor between the various appetizers minimal.
Finally, our entrees arrived. We decided on a Chinese watercress and zucchini dish, but I didn’t expect it to be doused in the SAME sauce as the appetizers. At that point in the meal, the taste of that sauce was becoming pretty irritating. It wasn’t even a great sauce, just a tolerable adaptation of a Chinese/Thai sweet-spicy sauce. And pouring it over four dishes displayed laziness on the part of the cooks.
The pad thai was slightly moister than a regular pad thai; the noodles tasted like they had been soaked in coconut milk. Although this was not a “traditional” preparation of pad thai, I actually enjoyed the milky taste and sticky texture- it was something new. But I was full from all the thick, oily sauces and fried foods earlier in the meal, so I only managed a few bites.
By the time our entrees arrived, the restaurant had filled up, and the people on either side of us started smoking cigarettes. I had basically forgotten what it used to be like when American restaurants allowed smoking…though sitting at Lemon Grass, trying to enjoy my food while inhaling smoke provided a flashback of sorts. When I was younger and American restaurants allowed smoking, I remember we’d always be asked, smoking or non smoking, and then led to our (non smoking) section. However, more than once while in Bombay, my parents/friends and I found it difficult to concentrate on our food because the people sitting right next to us were enjoying a mid meal cigarette. I don’t care if people want to smoke during dinner, but I think that restaurants should at least provide smoking and non smoking sections, so those of us who want to smell our food instead of smoke can do so when we’re paying the money for that experience. After all, inhaling delicious aromas is half the fun of eating.