Mumbai-based Tham brothers bring their Pan-Asian cuisine to Bengaluru
For Ryan and Keenan Tham, running a restaurant was a no-brainer. Much of their childhood was spent around the clamour of pots and pans, and the bustling energy of a kitchen service, thanks to their father Henry who was also a restaurateur.
In a way, the brothers always knew they would end up in the restaurant business, especially once they returned to India after completing their education abroad. They placed their first bet on a nightclub, Trilogy, which they set up in Mumbai in 2010. Apart from this, they also run a string of restaurants across Mumbai such as Good Wife, Foo, and KOKO.
Now, they have launched Foo–their Asian concept restaurant–for patrons in Bengaluru. Strategically located in the heart of the city at Forum Rex Walk, Brigade Road, the restaurant offers a hefty menu, with over 140 dishes–all made in tapas format.
“I feel like what we are bringing to Bengaluru is very different,” Keenan Tham tells YS Life. “In Mumbai, we had smaller outlets… here, since we have a larger property along with the bar, we get to showcase fresh cocktails along with the food,” he says.
While tapas is traditionally rooted in Spanish eating traditions, the concept of sharing and mixing smaller plates to form a full meal has been widely adopted everywhere in the world.
Tapas-style dining is also all the rage, especially since the format encourages people to try more dishes and share. This thought carries through even in the interiors of the restaurant–with the space being decked up with bunkers, sofas, and several group tables, giving it a cosy atmosphere throughout.
The forward-looking thought isn’t just in the presentation of Foo’s menu. It also carries through in the composition–with about 60% of it being plant-based or vegetarian dishes.
“I think what we learned and we learn quickly is the contribution of vegetarian food or the demand for vegetarian food is high… even non-vegetarians are looking for more plant-based dishes to cut down on meat,” says Tham.
It’s not every day that you encounter Pan-Asian restaurants that choose to present as vegetarian-forward, particularly because many of its traditional dishes use an element of protein like fish or meat. “We actually first came across the idea to do this in Bombay… there we have a huge Jain clientele, which is traditionally vegetarian,” he adds.
Giving India a taste of Asia
For the Tham brothers, to bring about a Pan-Asian menu that is as extensive, much of it relied on doubling down on what would suit Indian diners. This is where they found the sweet spot tucked deep within some parts of the Asian cuisine, particularly in some of the dishes from different provinces in China.
“When we launched Foo, we did a good blend of Cantonese and Mandarin dishes.. we found that it really hits the spot with the Indian palate,” says Ryan Tham.
You can see the inspiration strike in its steamed offerings like the wasabi, edamame, and truffle dumplings, which are rich and sharp in taste–much like a strong, sharp chutney encased within a soft dumpling casing.
Foo’s handmade baos also take you back to a corner of Asia. They’re about the size of palm and are closed so the filling stays fresh and keeps the baos moist, a technique that was followed for centuries in Chinese homes.
Some of its other dishes tread the progressive route, but still stay true to its Asiatic roots. Its in-house blue butter japanese fried rice takes you by surprise when you see it on the table. Stark blue in colour, it is filled with crispy garlic bites. I had the vegetarian version, which came full-stocked with rich veggies and was perfectly complemented with a warm, welcoming yellow curry.
Perhaps what is most appealing about Foo’s offering is its variety. Whether you’re a vegetarian, vegan, prefer gluten-free, or Jain, there’s something for everyone at the restaurant.
“We’re looking to give everyone a vibrant, casual dining experience… with over 140 items on the menu, everything is available all day long. The menu doesn’t shrink… We think it’s value for money and hopefully our audience does too,” says Tham.
Foo is open at Forum Rex Brigade Mall between 12 pm and 1 am on all days.
Cost for two: Rs 1,500 without alcohol .
Disclaimer: This story has been updated to correct some typos.