Kari Apla Review: Creativity And Comfort Converge At This Restaurant In Bandra

Do the cosiest spaces have the best food? When asked about the must-visit spots in the city, many will name a hole-in-the-wall joint that has been around for decades. Others may have a soft spot for a more recent discovery. Indeed, there can be something incredibly satisfying about finding a new foodie nook in a bustling part of the city. We felt the same after a recent dining experience. In Mumbai, few other neighbourhoods are as abuzz as the Khar-Bandra west stretch. In the past few years, the localities around Pali Hill have become ground zero for a variety of culinary ventures. One of them is Kari Apla, which opened towards the end of 2023.

Kari Apla is helmed by Chefs Ebaani Tewari and Mathew Varghese. The duo have drawn from the richness of their homes and history to conceptualise their jointly owned restaurant. Apart from her experience in the kitchens of Taj Lands End and Bastian, Chef Ebaani brings influences from Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, and Andhra Pradesh to the table. Chef Mathew, a Keralite, channels his passion for the traditional ingredients and techniques of the region. He has worked at several Taj hotel restaurants across the country and was also part of the opening team at Comorin in Gurgaon. The food at Kari Apla traces the tangent of their childhood and professional journeys. The two words in the name are also a nod to their heritage: “Kari” is derived from “Kariveppila” (or curry leaves in Malayalam) and “Apla” translates to “our” in Marathi. 

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Photo Credit: Kari Apla

The 20-seater space manages to balance its practicalities and charm effectively. The restaurant is cosy but doesn’t feel cramped. The open kitchen setting exudes warmth, but not literally. As we take our seats at the counter inside, Chef Mathew explains that the kitchen has been purposefully designed to keep the heat, smell and smoke away from the diners. “Having such a setting allows us to make the most of the space and also allows us to interact with guests more,” he adds. Every member of the staff, including the chef-owners, is involved in all service activities. While getting to watch chefs at work is not exactly a novelty, the nature of the experience at Kari Apla is almost homely.

Like the space, the menu is an artful curation rather than an expansive imposition. We dig into the Avocado Thecha first, scooping it up with crisp Sindhi-inspired Batata Papad. The creamy avocado combats the more fiery aspect of the thecha. But we would describe it as a fusion rather than a compromise. After all, who knew Maharashtrian-style guac and chips could actually taste so good?

Kadala Curry Hummus

Kadala Curry Hummus. Photo Credit: Kari Apla

There’s another chip-and-dip-combo on the menu, which takes the experimentation up a notch. The Kadala Curry Hummus with Chilli Crisp, Fennel and Coriander Seed Lavash is quite a mouthful – and we’re not just talking about the name. Turning a beloved curry into hummus was a daring step, but we were more than convinced. The smooth yet spicy spread was appropriately aromatic. We enjoyed the added crunch provided by the chana jhor. Among the vegetarian appetisers, we also liked the Jackfruit and Peanut Cutlets, served with coconut chutney.

Suriani Prawns

Suriani Prawns. Photo Credit: Kari Apla

The chefs continued to draw us in with comforting home-style dishes, such as the Suriani Prawns. This dish has been inspired by Chef Mathew’s Syrian Christian family recipes. We also recommend the Mangalorean Kori Sukka, served with mini rice flour and coconut bhakris. We’ve tasted (and loved) spicier sukka dishes. While this one was not as pungent, it still did justice to the layers of flavours. We also liked the Hyderabadi Mutton Haleem and homemade pav. The bread was toasted in a special mint and lemon-flavoured butter.

There is no alcohol served at Kari Apla. We paired our food with rejuvenating House Sodas. The kokum one complemented the non-veg dishes especially well. The Chilli Jackfruit soda was beautifully balanced, with just a small hint of heat hitting your palette at the end. Hot and cold chocolate and coffee-based drinks are available too.

Kerala Fried Chicken

Kerala Fried Chicken. Photo Credit: Kari Apla

As we ate, we heard the staff calling to each other for another serving of “KFC”. As we watched them prepare fresh pieces of Kerala Fried Chicken, we had to ask to taste some. After all, the dish was (literally) just within reach and looked too crisp to resist. Diners choosing the indoor seating, beware – similar temptations may befall you.

Chennai Omelette Moilee

Chennai Omelette Moilee. Photo Credit: Kari Apla

The main course options are limited but delicious. There are five “bowls”, of which three feature curry and rice. The one rice exception is Moilee served with Vattayappam. For the uninitiated, this is a lightly sweet, spongy accompaniment made by steaming appam batter. The Moilee at Kari Apla doesn’t have only the usual vegetable or fish (prawn) versions. There’s also the Chennai Omelette. The chefs tell us that they had fallen in love with this egg variation of the Moilee at an iconic restaurant in the southern city. Two bites were all we needed to understand their adoration. The fluffy omelette was bursting with the moilee sauce, as the egg is more absorbent than fish. If the slight sweetness of the vattayappam is not to your taste, scoop up the moilee with the scallion chilli parotta.

If you are craving some good old fish curry rice, don’t hesitate to select the Karwari Prawn Curry with steamed Ambemohar Rice. The tangy, coconut-milk-based curry was slightly similar to Goan sorak. Again, the chefs delighted us with their subtle refinement of a home-style delicacy.

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Tender Coconut Pudding. Photo Credit: Kari Apla

The impressive streak continued till the end. The Tender Coconut Pudding here redefines what a minimalistic dessert could be. It combines coconut milk and flesh (malai) to make a naturally sweet dish that is also lactose-free. If you have the inclination (and tummy space) for something more indulgent, don’t miss the Warm Banana Bread with Filter Coffee Ice Cream. The combination is inspired by Chef Mathew’s memories of hawkers selling banana fritters and filter coffee on train rides in Kerala. The ice cream retains some of the hallmark grittiness of the coffee and the bitter undertones. It is a worthy treat on its own. But the banana bread ingeniously adds texture and warmth. This is a dessert worth returning for.

Warm Banana Bread with Filter Coffee Ice Cream

Warm Banana Bread with Filter Coffee Ice Cream. Photo Credit: Kari Apla

As we wrapped up our meal, other orders continued to take shape before our eyes. On one dessert plate, we observed Chef Ebaani use icing to write, “You’re Dead To Us”. Noticing our startled looks, she quickly provided context. “It’s the farewell dinner for one of the members of the team seated outside,” she clarified. As we joined her in laughing at the caption, she admitted, “I’ve never had such a request before!” The incident epitomised our experience of dining at Kari Apla. Here, you can enjoy laughs with the chefs and the lip-smacking comfort food they craft in front of you. Like the many dichotomies that characterise this restaurant, it is a winning combination. 


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