Ask anyone in the Food and Hospitality industry and they will tell you that there hasn’t been a more exciting and vibrant time to be in this industry than now. With a bevy of restaurants cropping up and closing at an equally rapid pace, there are a few that stand the test of time and celebrate a milestone silver jubilee.
Enter Thai Pavilion—which has not just survived, but also evolved over the last 25 years. One of India’s earliest premium Thai restaurants, Thai Pavilion, celebrates 25 years this year. The legacy of this restaurant dates to the early 90s, when the then-president of Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, Ajit Kerkar, handpicked Chef Ananda Solomon to spearhead the launch and chart the success story of Thai Pavilion. The legendary chef travelled to Thailand and spent time understanding the nuances of Thai cooking.
For almost 15 years, before Thai Pavilion was revamped, the restaurant was synonymous to authentic Thai cuisine and culture in Mumbai. In 2007, the restaurant went through an overhaul, refurbishing it’s look and feel, as well as the menu. This time around, Chef Uddipan Chakravarthy was roped in as the executive sous chef of Thai Pavilion to assist chef Solomon. Taking over the reins from chef Solomon in 2015, chef Chakravarthy, now as the executive chef for the hotel, has steered Thai Pavilion to become a name that serves signature Thai cuisine and experiences to gourmands in Mumbai.
For the landmark silver jubilee celebrations, Vivanta President got famous Master Chef and Founder of the popular Blue Elephant Group of restaurants, chef Nooror Somany Steppe to host a two-day pop-up at the Thai Pavilion. “Chef Somany Steppe, a stalwart of Thai cuisine, was visiting us and was very impressed with the food at the Thai Pavilion and wanted to take back a few of our recipes. We struck a bargain with her—where she would conduct a pop-up at Thai Pavilion for our milestone year,” says Chef Chakravarthy.
Anything for Authenticity
With several Thai restaurants mushrooming in Mumbai by 2009, it became imperative for the restaurant to put the focus solely on the quality of ingredients and the food served to stay ahead of the game. According to chef Chakravarthy, shares that to bring in the authenticity of Thai flavours and taste, they began importing the entire selection of meat and vegetables from Bangkok in 2007. Add to that, well-travelled consumers, who are more aware and informed about food and global cuisines. “Consumers, today, are well-travelled and often know more than us, so there is no way we can cheat them by compromising on the quality of food,” says, chef Chakravarthy about the decision to continue importing most of Thai Pavilion’s produce.
Till date, almost 70-80 per cent of Thai Pavilion’s ingredients are imported, where the hotel bypasses the middlemen and sources directly from Thai producers. It is a relationship that has been carefully cultivated and nurtured over the years.
Apart from dishing up authentic Thai fare such as Thai Green Curry, Som Tum salad and Crispy Lambb that has been loved by epicureans, Chef Chakravarthy says that one of the reasons why Thai Pavilion enjoy such a strong following is because of the experience and the value that the fine dining restaurant offers. With fine dining restaurants losing out to the trendy casual dining restaurants in the modern F&B space, the ability to serve high quality food at competitive pricing lies at the core of the success of Thai Pavilion. It is a matter of pride for the team at Thai Pavilion that they receive repeat business on an average twice a month and has always been consistent since the very beginning. “Our Average Price per Customer is approximately Rs 2000 which is very economically,” he informs.
Without getting swayed by current food trends, Thai Pavilion has never made a big hue and cry about introducing changes to their menu. Chef Chakravarthy explains that it isn’t part of their food philosophy, “I choose to go for subtle changes, not drastic ones. Our regular patrons don’t see too many changes every year, but they also never get bored with the food.” Menu changes are an annual affair and are done gradually. The success of the Steamed John Dory with Lemon Garlic sauce and Foie Gras with Sea Asparagus and Mango Sauce, which have now become Thai Pavilion classics, are case in point.
“Last year, we introduced coconut shoots, this year we will be introducing frog legs,” he says adding that he refuses to make frequent menu changes. His reason: When a new dish is introduced, the chefs start working with it a month in advance. By the time the menu rolls out, the chef has mastered the dish and in a year’s time he has perfected the dish. “From what I have observed, a new dish introduced on the menu does not move for the first three-four months. By the time it finishes a year on the menu, it picks up, and when it is time for the new menu change, that is when the dish starts to rock,” explains Chef Chakravarty.
As Chef Chakravarthy and the team settle down after the celebrations, they do not want to rest on their laurels. After the successful collaboration with master chef Nooror Somany Steppe, he wants to start preparing for a successful 26th year of Thai Pavilion.
Images courtesy: Vivanta President, Mumbai
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