Chef Irfan Pabaney’s Travels Shaped The Menu At This Bandra Spot

Japanese dining in Mumbai is a star that’s constantly on the rise. Since the first whiff of sushi, the city’s been hooked and new places keep popping up all over the place. But there are a few stalwarts that have been around to see the times change and have been constantly dishing up delights for so long that they’ve become part of the city’s scenery. The Fatty Bao in Bandra is definitely one such place. 

When they arrived in Mumbai from Bangalore in 2015, this modern Asian eatery backed by Olive Bar & Kitchen didn’t necessarily break new ground, but they stood out for their vibrant ambience and innovative food. Now, 8 years on, they’ve undergone another transformation with a new vibe, new cocktails and an updated menu inspired by Corporate Chef Chef Irfan Pabaney’s recent trip to Japan. 

The decor, though updated has the same kitschy, pop-art feel that makes your mind wander to the frenetic energy of buzzing Harajuku. It’s high energy from the moment you sit down with a new set of dishes designed to engage all the senses. Their new tabletop grills invite diners to share in some to-die-for Pork Belly or get creative in building their own signature Poke Bowls. The old favourites like ramen, sushi (and of course the eponymous baos!) are all present and correct but with some new friends like the Mamenori Rolls, the Salmon Sushi Bake and the Braised Lamb in Casserole. Mixologist, Nishant Gaurav has worked his magic on the bar and introduced a line of cocktails with Japanese-inspired infusion syrups such as the grapefruit, shochu, and gin blend, the ‘Lemon Ninja’, a tart, but addictive sip. 

They have always had a loyal following and are sure to gain even more with their upcoming Ramen Festival, but the care that’s gone into creating this revamped experience is evident in every aspect of dining at The Fatty Bao. As Chef Pabaney puts it, “Our ethos at the Olive group is to ensure we put out great food with the biggest compliment being a happy customer! We want people to leave our restaurants satisfied, with big smiles and full bellies!” For a late lunch, early cocktails or a hearty dinner, this spot is back to prove why people keep coming back.

We caught up with Chef Irfan Pabaney to find out a little more about what shaped the new menu.

How would you describe your relationship with Japanese cuisine and what is your earliest memory of it?

Having grown up in the Philippines, my earliest memory of Japanese cuisine was at a teppanyaki restaurant. From the moment we all sat around the table and the chef began tossing ingredients onto the hot plate with a unique style and flair, I was hooked.

What is your process of translating your experiences into a new menu?

As a chef, I’m always looking for inspiration through all of life’s experiences. So naturally, when creating a new dish I make ensure to make it uniquely my own. 

How has this visit to Japan changed your perspective of the cuisine? Was there anything new you encountered?

My perspective of Japanese food has changed tremendously! While we do have good options here in India, when you go to the source and visit the country, it's just another level entirely! You’re immersed in the culture, there’s so much to see, the techniques and ingredients they use and the flavours they produce. It's just incredible!

What are some of your favourite Japanese ingredients to work with and how have they made it onto the new menu?

Miso is such an underrated ingredient. It is so umami-packed and lends a depth of flavour to many of our ramen broths and curries. Togarashi spice powder does the same but in a completely different way. Made from red chilli peppers, sesame seeds, and citrus- it is a trifecta of flavour. 

What are some things from the new menu you'd recommend people try first?

There are too many dishes to count if I’m being honest, but one of the concepts that we’ve recreated at The Fatty Bao is live tabletop grills. It's such a fun and engaging experience where guests can enjoy grilling their choice of protein and vegetables sip on cocktails and catch up while their meal is being prepared. (We recommend the Miso Cod).