Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dinner at the Zodiac Grill last night

Nearly two decades ago, I came to know of this fancy restaurant where the dishes listed on the menu had no price. Where, for one full year, people paid whatever they deemed fit. My father would take me to his office at Nariman Point and would sometimes go to the Taj Mahal hotel for business meetings. I'd hear about  power lunches and important discussions and all that. From the very first time I started a job and had some money, I had always dreamed of taking my parents to this ultra-plush place where the service was considered to be the last bastion of perfection by the French and the cheese souffle so sublime that it had won awards and all that. But mainly, I have always wanted to go there because even though I've been to five stars since and dined at other luxe places, nothing had ever captivated my imagination the way Zodiac Grill had. And last night, I dined there with my folks. It's not that I couldn't afford the place earlier...I guess I never before believed that I could ever afford the place. It was a dream like flying over the moon and I liked having a dream like that.

Yet last night was magic. Zodiac Grill is a small, cozy place, with a dome on which the Zodiac is studded. The plates are white and gold and teeny, delectable amouse bouches come in pretty white china. They serve you sorbet between courses to cleanse your palate and the cheese souffle is very worthy its recommendation. It's been on the menu for 24 years, we were told. To me, it was more than a meal. It was just this love that I have always felt for Bombay and its glittering harbour. For the loving freedom that my parents have poured into me. For the slow, stoking of aspiration I have felt with dining here - a wish I have nursed for so long without getting hasty or impatient about it. (Very uncharacteristic of me.) For all the burn that a Salman Rushdie novel about the city gives me. For the Arabian Sea beyond. For the recent rampage that happened there. For the gentle lessons of my father, "Your business is to carry on." For the constant reminders of my mother, "You will always afford whatever you think you are worthy of."

When I made the reservations at Zodiac Grill, they asked me, "Are you celebrating something important?" I'd said no. But the meal was beautiful, my bonding with my parents excellent, the experience so memorable, and all of us so happy.

At Zodiac Grill last night, I think something important was celebrating us.