Pics/ Ashish Raje

SoBo's new 'so-so' spot

By Raul Dias | Mumbai

Updated: Oct 15, 2019, 13:07 IST

With conceptually interesting food, drinks that just pass the test and service that leaves a lot to be desired, a South Mumbai restobar treads the fine line between hit and miss


Replacing a popular hot spot is always a perilous proposition, exacerbated by soaring expectations and inevitable comparisons. And while the new Tote Talli at Tote on the Turf at the Mahalaxmi Race Course seems to live up to some of the standards set by its predecessor — the much-loved Tote Bar that shut down exactly a year ago — we soon realise that it still has a long way to go in several aspects.
But full marks for the chic, dark burgundy upholstery and wood-panelled décor that retains the original bar’s famous, angular wooden branch-like beams and buttresses. The split-level restobar still has the same quirky square, porthole-esque windows and looming wrought -iron staircase leading to the mezzanine level. These are remnants that we are happy to find in the restobar that’s otherwise devoid of the charm displayed by its earlier avatar.

Tote punch

We feel a bit like Goldilocks when we request for the freezing ambient temperature to be turned up. This, after we had made a similar plea for the music volume to be turned down a few decibels. And while our disinterested server reluctantly addresses the former with the flick of a button, we still find ourselves desperately trying to read our companion’s lips in lieu of spoken words. All this amidst the high-octaves of a badly played live electric violin.
Our anxiety is almost assuaged by the reasonably priced and super-potent monk’s tea punch (Rs 335). The cocktail comes to our table with a heavy-handed pour of Old Monk rum that almost eclipses the promised splash of lemongrass tea and cranberry juice. Though neither the menu, nor our server give us a clue as to its components, we soon discover that our non-alcoholic Tote punch (Rs 250) is a refreshing blend of litchi, orange and mango juices with a fresh cream finish to it.
Excited to spot one of our favourite Canadian snacks aka poutine on the menu, that too, with the option of having it served with the very au courant sweet potato fries, we call for one that has a desi twist in the form of a Mumbai mutton kheema (Rs 275) topping. The first iteration we are served comes to us with regular potato fries. We point this out and it is replaced 20 minutes later with another version with banana chips! We once again point this out to our server who grudgingly takes it back to the kitchen, eye rolls pat in place.

Ghee roast chicken sloppy joe duo

The table next to us, too, seems to be grappling with First World problems. It seems, their server has mixed up the orders and served the vegetarians, chicken, and the carnivores — mushroom! Ignoring the commotion, we dig into the latest poutine that we hope will be “third time’s the charm” for us. It is. Doused in a silky cheese sauce with a spicy, super-savoury mutton mince gravy ladled over them, the crisp sweet potato fries (finally!) are worth the stress.
Keeping our spirits buoyant is the delicious quartet of flat bread squares topped with parsley and hazelnut pesto, roasted garlic, caramelised onions and funky-tasting (in a good way) goat cheese blobs (Rs 325). The ghee roast chicken sloppy joe duo (Rs 325), too, is another winner with
its perfectly spiced, coconut-ey chicken centred toasted mini buns.
However, disappointment once again creeps up on us in the form of the criminally salty shrimp everybody loves ramen Tote bowl (Rs 375). Now, if only the bowl of Japanese soba noodles was as inspired as its name! Not even a dash of the requested-for sweet plum sauce can save this dish.
Warm, gooey and sinful- tasting with just a hint of spicy chilly, the rich chocolate jalapeño fudge (Rs 285) is all a good finale should be. We are later told that we haven’t been charged for the dessert as a peace offering from the chef. While we thoroughly appreciate the gesture, we wish the same sincerity would have been displayed from the kitchen throughout the meal.

Poutine fry

At Tote Talli, Level One, gate 5 and 6, Mahalaxmi Race Course, Mahalaxmi West.
Time 6 pm to 1.30 am (Monday to Saturday), 12 pm to 4 pm (Sundays)
Call 61577777

4/4 Exceptional, 3/4 Excellent, 2/4 very Good, 1/4 Good, o.5 Average. Tote Talli didn’t know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals

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