Ostaad: Master of Central Asia

Ostaad is serving cuisines from Balochistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan.

Shraddha Varma

Mumbai’s casual dining scene saw an interesting new addition recently. Ostaad, at Kamala Mills Compound in Lower Parel area, is putting the culinary traditions of Central Asia on the radar.

The 100-seater casual-dining restaurant takes inspiration from the ancient silk route trail, from countries such as Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, Ostaad’s décor features statement chandeliers, geometric tiles, and arched mirrors with gold embellishments.

The traditional look and feel of the space is balanced out by a sleek, contemporary bar. The tableware is chic, again with gold embellishments to complement the décor. You can even be privy to live Sufi nights on special occasions for a complete experience.

On offer are appetising vegetarian and non-vegetarian platters laden with shashliks (skewered meats and veggies), stuffed vegetables, and fresh cheese. All these accompanied by dollops of colourful dips. For those, not in the mood for extensive platters, there are shurpas (soups) and salads too. For the mains, they’ve got a variety of mildly spiced kofta (meatballs) curries, polov (rice preparations), lentils, and a basket full of flatbreads, fresh out of the tandoor (clay oven). Traditional desserts such as umali (puff pastry with condensed milk and nuts), baklava (layered filo sheets with chopped pistachios and honey), and gilya firdaus (slow cooked broken rice with milk and nuts).

Must try: Umali recipe by chef Ranveer Brar

The non-vegetarian fare at Ostaad

When asked what motivated her to launch Ostaad, the restaurant’s owner, Neeti Goel says, “The food from Central Asia has quite a few similarities to Mughlai food, which is one of the most popular cuisines in the country—look at the kebabs, rice dishes, and even the desserts. However, it’s not as spicy or fiery, they strike balance between herbs, dairy products, legumes and lentils, and spices. Also, in India, frying is a popular technique, but in Central Asia, they prefer roasting and grilling more. We wanted to bring the two worlds together and provide our guests a culinary experience that they are familiar and not-so-familiar to, at the same time.”

Chef Vikram Negi, who helms Ostaad’s kitchen along with chefs Rahm Ali Issa and Shahid, adds “Our menu isn’t focused on a particular place, but reflects the culinary diversity of Central Asia as a whole.” He further explains, “These cuisines are packed with aromatic and flavourful spices such as cinnamon, saffron, and turmeric, which is a good fit for the Indian palate. You will also notice the use of herbs with dry fruits and nuts such as pine nuts, berries, pistachios, apricots, and raisins.

The vegetarian spread at the restaurant

Ostaad has opened at a time when awareness and interest in cuisines from Central and West Asia is gaining momentum. Also, when innovative new restaurants with extensively-researched menus have become the order of the day. So, what sets Ostaad apart? “Well, our vegetarian menu is as extensive as the non-veg one, considering Mumbai has an equal number of vegetarians. While there’s chicken and lamb for meat lovers, for vegetarians, we took veggies such as pumpkin, raw banana, jackfruit, and beetroot; marinated them in similar spices and cooked them on swords to offer a great experience,” says chef Shahid. Goel adds, “To ensure authenticity in flavours, we source our ingredients from Iran. The spices required in the kitchen come from Bandrabaaz and Esfahan in Iran.”

It is noteworthy that the menu promotes the idea of people coming together, sharing a meal, and making memories. So, what do you say?

Photo credits: Ostaad


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