Talking Baos & Mixology With The Creators Of Panacea, A Much Anticipated Pop Up Event In Mumbai
A couple of months ago, we had ventured into Colaba market to try the baos from the (at the time) newly opened ‘The Bao Haus Co’, which was arguably Mumbai’s first bao delivery service. We met with chef and owner Siddharth Somaiya, watched him juggle a never-ending stream of orders and some impressive culinary techniques simultaneously, and then proceeded to be bowled over by the baos he served us – read more about that experience here.
We weren’t the only ones impressed with Somaiya’s venture; The Bao Haus Co was soon the talk of the town among Mumbai’s food crowd. Now, a couple of months on, Somaiya, in partnership with a close friend of his – Mariki Sayles – is kicking things up a notch with Panacea, a pop up event that will pair innovative cocktails with small bites from The Bao Haus Co this weekend.
Panacea: The Solution For All Problems
The event, which will take place at The House Of Tales in Kala Ghoda is a venture by Hauslandish Hospitality, the parent company of The Bao Haus Co. Panacea will be an exclusive experience, which gives guests the change to enjoy a six course fixe price menu paired with specially crafted cocktails. While Somaiya has curated a special menu from The Bao Haus Co, including chilled carrot soup and bao burgers, Sayles, who is a mixologist at the 3 Michelin star restaurant & bar but Le Bernardin in New York has created and will be mixing the cocktails at the event.
We could go on talking about Panacea ourselves, or we could give you an insight straight from the creator’s mouth. In a chat with us, here’s what Somaiya had to say about the event:
“After a long day at work, one wants to go to a quiet place and grab a quick drink. I feel that Mumbai has quite a few bars and pubs, but none that you can go to, to enjoy some peace and quiet. Keeping this in mind, we decided to host ‘Panacea’ which is meant for a more intimate gathering of people. This pop up is taking one step closer to setting up a bar, which only serves cocktails and not the regular beer, rum & coke or other spirits. The exclusivity of the menu itself will ensure the right kind of audience at the event. The whole idea is to create a cocktail bar set up with ambient music which enables conversation and is the ideal place for a first or second date.
The name Panacea quite literally means to fix all your problems, a solution to any problem and that’s exactly the purpose of our event. The experience we want to give our guests is to have fun with new flavors, textures and combinations of both. We also would like to take our guests on a bit of a journey, so the night will be guided by a progression of cocktails and small plates that really tease and entice the senses. The cocktails created and served at Panacea will be elevating. We’re taking flavors, which are very South East Asian for our cocktails with a few western influences which would go perfectly with Baos. ”
Of course, our chat didn’t end there; we continued our conversation with both Somaiya and Sayles to give you an in depth idea of what you can expect from the pop up. But first, we got ourselves a little intel about Sayles – after how often to you get to chat with a mixologist from a Michelin starred bar? Take a look:
Briefly tell us about the experience of working in a Michelin bar.
“I love my job and the creative freedom that I have. The menu at Le Bernardin comprises of a lot of classic cocktails and really archaic things. All their bartenders are on their toes creating exciting and seasonal cocktails but Le Bernardin is a classic institution of New York where you need to get the classic right. We have a mix of older and younger clientele. Our younger lot is very inspired by the craft cocktail movement, so it’s all about creating a drink which surprises and delights them. Playing off the flavors of the food is what I do, I always pair my cocktails in a way where it compliments the flavors of the dish.”
What is your take on the molecular cocktail trend?
“As the trend started with molecular gastronomy in the kitchen, it is very natural for a bar to follow suit as well. What makes it different is the fact that we’re working with liquids at the end of the day, whereas in the kitchen chefs work with solids, liquids and various other textures and flavours. Having said so, there is scope for a lot of experimentation in terms of flavours and combinations. An example that I can give are fruit caviars paired with a simple sparkling wine which makes for a great cocktail while involving the use of molecular mixology techniques.”
Three non-traditional ingredients you’d love to try in a cocktail.
“Yuzu, green papaya and sesame. These ingredients are not normally thought of or used when creating a cocktail and that’s a challenge in itself. However, I love the flavours that they impart to other preparations and according to me, would definitely work in a cocktail.”
Three ingredients that don’t belong anywhere near cocktails.
“Anything that is not freshly made. I feel that a great cocktail needs fresh ingredients. So any kind of pre-made sour mixes, canned juices or margaritas in a bottle are an absolute no-no.”
Share one of the craziest cocktails you’ve come up with.
“I recall the craziest cocktail that I’ve created called Turkey and Dressing. It was our version of Thanksgiving Dinner in a cocktail where we recreated the flavour of stuffed turkey with an herb dressing & cranberries. I wouldn’t say that it really worked in our favour but it was definitely the craziest drink I’ve come up with!”
How would you go about designing cocktails to complement Indian cuisine?
“I usually pair my cocktails with regard to the kind of wine that would work with a certain dish. I would pair Indian cuisine with robust cocktails, which are less acidic.”
Suitably floored by Sayles’ knowledge of mixology we moved on to quiz Somaiya about the journey of The Bao Haus Co and his vision for Panacea.
Since we last met you, The Bao Haus Co has come a long way; Panacea is evidence of that. How do you feel about Mumbai’s response to The Bao Haus Co?
“I feel ecstatic about the response that we’ve received for The Bao Haus Co. This started off as an experiment to gauge customer interest and I’m happy to say that the response has been phenomenal. Panacea is our next step to understanding the customer’s response in terms of having a cocktail only bar.”
How do you know Mariki?
“Mariki and I worked together at a one Michelin star restaurant in New York called Lincoln. This was where we struck a close friendship and after various stints, we finally decided to put our dream of starting a cocktail only bar into action through Panacea.”
Collaborating With Cocktails And Baos
Somaiya and Sayles then went on to describe, in detail, what a customer can look forward to at Panacea.
Describe some of the items on the Panacea menu
Somaiya: “The idea is to have a pairing menu where each dish compliments the drink and vice versa. We have some of our signature items on the menu and want to keep striving to step up the game, inspire and shock and awe through Panacea.
We will be introducing a new pork belly bao comprising crispy pork belly with a watermelon salad, served with a scallion, chilli and feta emulsion. We will also be doing our version of Crispiest Fish and Chips. We have also created Banh Mi Bruschettas in veg & non-veg options. For our vegetarian guests, we are also doing Burrata with basil foam & cranberry puree and our signature quinoa bao served with arugula pudding instead of a salad.”
How will the cocktails served complement the chiefly Asian flavors that The Bao Haus Co serves?
Sayles: “When I’m pairing a dish with a drink, I think about the main protein in the dish and then I think about the kind of wine that would go best with it-mineral, fruity, tart, sugary. At Panacea, you’re going to see a whole lot of Fruity drinks. I’m also using locally made alcohol like Amrut Whisky which is very exclusive. At Panacea we want to highlight everything that is local. The cocktails created and served at Panacea will be elevating. We’re taking flavors, which are very South East Asian for our cocktails with a few western influences, which would go perfectly with Baos. What I’m doing is infusing my experiences into these cocktails. The cocktail list is a story of my life and my personal experiences with drinks that I would want to drink. I’m sure that our guests will definitely enjoy this unique combination.”
Soimaya: “Planning out the cocktail menu was a fantastic experience, especially because of the brilliant ideas that we get to exchange with each other. We’ve already discussed most of the pairings since its very important to be able to understand how she will be pairing specific cocktails with certain dishes to enhance the flavor of both. The cocktails that pair the best with Asian flavors are ones which are less acidic yet intense and robust. The challenge is to strike a balance between the cocktail and the dish in a way where it compliments each other.”
What challenges do you think you’ll face working away from your kitchen for the event?
Somaiya: “We’re keeping an open mind about working away from our comfort zone. Challenge is what we embrace at The Bao Haus Co and I’m confident that this will be a successful event.”
After having spoken in depth with Somaiya and Sayles, we have to say we agree with that sentiment; we predict it’ll be both sucessful and mindblowingly delicious. Want to get a taste? Here are the details:
Dates: 25th & 26th March 2016
Timings: Two seatings per day (8 pm – 10 pm & 10:30 pm – 12:30 am)
Price: INR 3000/-‐ per head for a set menu of 6 cocntails ad 6 veg/non veg items
Where: House of Tales, Kala Ghoda