Qualia: Rahul and Malini Akerkar's new venture opens its doors

Situated within the podium of the Lodha World One Towers, this 100-seater eatery serves a modern, cuisine-agnostic menu

  • Qualia: Rahul and Malini Akerkar's new venture opens its doors
  • Qualia: Rahul and Malini Akerkar's new venture opens its doors
  • Qualia: Rahul and Malini Akerkar's new venture opens its doors

Qualia, Rahul and Malini Akerkar’s highly-anticipated new restaurant, is now open. Situated within the podium of the Lodha World One Towers, this 100-seater eatery serves a modern, cuisine-agnostic menu, made with unexpected combinations of locally-sourced ingredients, perfectly balanced sweet and sour flavour profiles, and a lot of heart.

The Akerkar’s vision is brought to life by a talented, tightly-knit, kitchen and bar team, supported by an attentive and superlative service team on the floor.

Says Akerkar,

Qualia means, ‘the quality of a sensory experience.’ It's the quality of the essence of something. It perfectly encapsulates what we are trying to achieve with our restaurant. A lot of thought, detail and love has gone into this project - we want to offer a wholesome, sensory experience via the food and beverage, the visuals, the touch and feel, the service...the name really summed up for us what we want Qualia to be all about.

The menu boasts of an abundance of flavours, each alighting on the palate with a lightness and brightness that will intrigue the mind and excite diners’ appetites. An emphasis on fermenting and pickling lays the foundation for each dish and is even seen in the dessert and beverage menus. The resulting flavor profiles are beautifully augmented and layered thanks to the almost year-long pickling process the ingredients have undergone. Ingredients have been sourced from across the country, with cheese coming from Gujarat, rice from Assam and Jharkhand, fish from Cochin and Chennai, artichokes from Hyderabad, and much more.

The well-curated menu is divided up into several sections. From the Vegetable section, diners can enjoy dishes made with delightful, local produce such as the Yellow Gazpacho, made with sweet yellow tomatoes, further enlivened by pickled melon, jasmine, feta and tarragon oil; Charred Pumpkin, with ricotta, Bhavnagri chili, preserved lemon and white bean puree; Spinach Cavatelli, inspired by the fresh, green produce of spring, with snap peas and their tendrils, Parmesan and white truffle; and Charred Cabbage, with a leek soubise, pickled celery and apple mostarda, which contributes to the sweet-sour flavor profile of the dish.

The menu’s Seafood section offers dishes that benefit greatly from the pickled and fermented elements that are present within each. These include Yellowfin Tuna Loin, a dish that is reminiscent of the beautiful flavours of a Kerala home-cooked meal, made with curry leaf and sesame rub, avocado pachadi and pickled beets; Grilled Octopus, with Goan chorizo, black-eyed beans and pickled okra; Smoked Lady Fish, a delicate, local estuary fish, served with potato salad, pickled quail eggs and radish; and Mackerel, with horseradish clotted cream, pickled vegetables and bean salad.

Poultry offerings include the umami-rich Duck Neck Sausage with gorgonzola and caramelized onion polenta with pickled plums that add a required dash of understated sweetness to balance out the dish; Barbecued Quail with cauliflower almond puree, Bhavnagri chili for heat and sumac for tartness; and Chicken Cacciatore, pure comfort food, made in a rich, flavourful, tomato and Kalamata olive gravy and served with smoked potato bread.

Meat lovers will enjoy options such as Steak Tartare, the clean, fresh flavours of which shine through thanks to the addition of pickled mushrooms and cured egg yolk, all waiting to be mopped up with freshly-baked sourdough bread; Coimbatore Pork Chops, with cider cumin glaze, white beans and candied tomatoes that add just the right amount of unexpected sweetness and light; and Lamb Leg Presse, with onion puree, walnut tortellini, pickled walnuts and pickled eggplant.

A Pizza section has been approached differently, offering unusual options like Brussels Sprouts, topped with the freshness of preserved lemon and the richness of Gruyere; Steak and Eggs, a hearty dish, made with mushroom, tomato, aged cheddar and mozzarella; Charred Artichoke, which adds just the right touch of smokiness to the other toppings of burnt scallion, ricotta and Pecorino; and Clams and Mussels, where the sweetness of black garlic marries perfectly with the richness of guanciale, confit potato, arugula, and Emmenthal.

Sides like white-wine braised Farmhouse Onions with grain mustard (an addition of bratwurst is optional); Stewed Tomatoes with capers, Kalamata olives, confit garlic and basil; and Wood-Roasted Mushrooms (an addition of a slow-cooked egg is optional) add a perfect finishing touch to the meal.

An elegant Dessert menu offers light yet fulfilling options that feature unusual yet palate-pleasing additions of pickled ingredients, that cut through the otherwise dense ingredients to add an airiness to each dish. These include Rice and Pickled Berries, roasted rice ice cream, rice pudding, and puffed rice; Textures of Bitter Chocolate, with chocolate sorbet, ganache, soil and wafer; Charred Chocolate Cake, with sesame ganache, sesame brittle and vanilla ice cream; and the Cucumber and Lime, crème fraîche, sorbet, fennel meringue, pickles and mint oil. A selection of house-made sorbets and ice creams is also available.

A 20-foot long bar is lit just so, to reveal the garnishes, Ayurvedic herbs and other ingredients used in the drinks, nestled in jars above it. The bar occupies one bay in the restaurant, complete with several high-top tables, and alcove seating that can easily accommodate a larger group. Bar Manager Ranjeet Shirke has created a menu of unusual and potent cocktails, as seen in both the bar menu’s selection of Qualia House Cocktails and Vintage Cocktails. The beverage menu follows the philosophy of the food menu – light, bright, palate-pleasing libations that feature both familiar, comforting ingredients, complete with garnishes and other elements that have undergone treatments like fermenting, pickling, and smoking.

The House Cocktails section offers the Q-Mary, with Ketel One, fermented tomatoes, honeydew melon and strawberry; Citrus Cubed, Gordon’s, house-made Campari, grapefruit, orange and lemon; Over the Wall, tequila, Bhavnagri chili, agave and smoked pineapple; and Allo Boys!!, Captain Morgan, blood orange, aloe and mint. A rummage through the archives has resulted in a series of vintage cocktails such as Moonwalk (1969), sparkling wine, Curacao and grapefruit bitters; Mamie Taylor (1898), J&B Rare, house-made ginger beer and lemon; and Scofflaw (1924), Jim Beam, Martini Dry and house-made grenadine. A range of classic cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages is also available, as is an after-dinner selection of dessert wines, ports, grappa and liqueurs.

A menu of whimsical bar snacks offers hearty small bites that are designed to pair well with the drinks and whet the appetite for the meal ahead.

Qualia also boasts a full-service bakery, helmed by Pastry Chef & Head Baker Rachelle Andrade. Viennoiserie offerings include light-as-air Croissants; Pain au Chocolat; Cinnamon Rolls; Cruffins; and a divine Kouign Amman; as well as a variety of freshly-baked breads, ranging from Rustic Loaves like sourdough and ciabatta; Table Bread like black sesame and green olive epi bread and focaccia; and brioche and milk Pullman Loaves.

Designed by Chris Lee and Kapil Gupta of Serie Architects, Qualia is conceived as a stage for the art of cooking. Situated on the ground floor along a private road and with a generous pavement, the restaurant offers up a hundred-foot-long glass façade to the street, which ensures a space filled with natural light. 

The restaurant is designed to heighten the sensual qualities of the dining experience, from the tastes and aromas of the food to the choreography of cooking as the chefs create each dish. The kitchen is open to the main seating area, allowing diners to witness all stages of food preparation. Each section of the kitchen is framed, like a proscenium in a theatre, drawing the eye through a series of preparatory layers. There are three such sections: the main cooking area which includes the wood-burning hearth grill and pizza oven; the dessert and bakery area; and the bar, which each comprise three distinct expressions of Qualia's menu. 

Location:  World Crest, Ground Floor, Lodha, 402, Tulsi Pipe Rd, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400013

Average Cost: ₹2,700 for two people (approx.)