As a Malayali who is constantly online, there are many experiments with Kerala cuisine that have surprised me in the past. But none perhaps have confused and excited me, like Mumbai restaurant ‘Kari Apla’, that serves up a spiced Kadala Curry Hummus topped with a tempering of curry leaves and coconut pieces, drizzled with chilli crisp and served with fennel and coriander lavash. Founded by chefs Mathew Varghese and Ebaani Tewari, this restaurant is an ode to the Deccan Coast that they grew up along and the varying influences that have come to together to create a diverse landscape.
While Mathew Varghese is from a Syrian Christian family in Kerala and was born in Chengannur, Ebaani Tewari is a Maharashtrian who grew up in Mumbai, but with Goan roots which could even be traced back to further roots in Andhra Pradesh, according to an interview given by the chef/founder duo to Condé Nast Traveller. From her multicultural background to time spent with loved ones in places like Chennai familiarised Ebaani with flavours down south, such as te Madurai Mutton Cutlet that she’d enjoyed during her summer visits. The same dish finds presence in Kari Apla’s curated menu but here, the meat is cooked with rapt attention, and with all the finesse that the trained chefs bring to the table. It is also paired with Mathew’s Malayali pachadi as a signature addition to the plate.
Both Mathew Varghese and Ebaani Tewari are proficient chefs who’ve picked up on international culinary techniques and the classic European epicurean perspective towards gastronomy that they have tapped into while building Kari Apla. With both of them having worked at Taj Lands End, paired with Ebaani’s experience at Bastian and Mathew’s experience as part of the opening team at Comorin, their combined culinary skills need no further elucidation.
From dishes on the menu that each have stories and thoughts behind them, to lining the entryway to the restaurant with images taken across the Deccan Coast by a family friend, to even having the space and brand design done by a friend of Ebaani’s, Sneha Dasgupta, Kari Apla is a restaurant that stays true to the spirit of innovation that is rooted in community, nostalgia, and collaboration. In fact, even the restaurant’s name is a way to bridge the Deccan Coast; connecting the cuisine, the people and their language. While ‘Karivepila’ means curry leaves in Malayalam, a slight distinction between the words ‘Kari’ and ‘Apla’ in Marathi means ‘our curry’; a word that evokes a sense of community and family and family style meals.
While the space may only be able to seat 20, there is close attention paid to every plate, with the chef-owners trying to create the magic of their favourite childhood memories for their patrons. This includes the Filter Coffee Ice Cream paired with a banana bread for dessert, that is reminiscent of pazhampori (Kerala banana fritters) that Mathew grew up eating. But the restaurant is also constantly playing around with adding more of their flavourful experiments as ‘Apla Specials’ to their evolving menu.
The latest additions include Rice Bowls as Sunday Specials which includes Angamaly Pork Pepper Roast (or Jackfruit Pepper Roast for Vegetarians) with Ghee Rice with strong Kerala influences, but there is also a spicy Karwari Prawn Curry Bowl with steamed rice. Another recent addition to their weekend special menu is their unique take on the thecha, the classic Maharashtrian rustic dry peanut chutney with added green chillies and garlic. At Kari Apla, they’ve added an Avocado Thecha built on a creamy base of avocado mash and topped with spring onions, red radishes, and cherry tomatoes and packs a spicy punch in every mouthful and is served with batata papad for extra crunch.
Whether you’re a Malayali who wants to try out the banana bread and filter coffee combination or a Maharashtrian whose interest has been piqued by the Avocado Techa, or even you’re simply a lover of good food and love culinary adventures, Kari Apla in Khar West, Mumbai is a worthwhile restaurant to check out.
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