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Aquarium-inspired restaurant shows how to eat fish amid fish

Sitting on the ground floor of A highrise in Borivli’s Rajendra Nagar, Cafe Hydro take its name seriously. You walk on glass floor embedded with pebbles, as if you are gliding on a seabed. But on closer look, we realise it’s actually the replica of a railway track holding ballast. Above are panels with pop-coloured suitcases placed on berth-like cabins. “It’s our tribute to the Indian railways, which according to us is a neglected service,” says a friendly staffer sensing our confusion.
Just as we wonder what happened to this being India’s first aquarium-based restaurant, we are ushered to the mezzanine. Here, an aquarium sits on either wall of the 1,000 square feet space, with a variety of marine and fresh water fish going about their business. We spot a starfish, tangs and wrasses as we take a seat.
Launched on Republic Day by state education minister, the café is designed by Rupesh Sakpal, also its owner. Sakpal is the man behind the latest refurbishment of Marine Drive’s Taraporewala aquarium.
Hydro is spread across three floors, and its speciality is the surimi, a minced fish paste usually made from Alaskan pollock, Pacific whiting, milkfish, tilapia and shark. The paste is combined with other fish flavouring, preservatives and binders like wheat flour or egg white, before it’s refashioned to look like scallops, shrimp or lobster.
First up, we try the fried fish balls (Rs 275) of surimi paste and Thai herbs, served with ginger, pepper, cilantro sauce, shredded raddish, carrot and garlic chives. On the spicier side, the dish looks as good as it tastes, with a sassy seasoning of Caribbean spices and habanero. The menu is pan-Asian with a good mix of dumplings, baos, noodles and rice inspired by Thai, Malay, Japanese and Indonesian cuisine. The hand-cut potato batons (Rs 145) served with chipotle sauce are average.
They also serve what they call the Burg, Burger and Burgest; the last is an obese four-tiered burger. Adventurous as we are, we say, let’s have one (Rs 420). It comes layered with marinara dip, a sunny side up, fish patty, a cheese slice, some mozarella, friend onion and olives. It could make it to the Man Vs Food contest. It’s clearly for the large eater. After a few bites, we tap out.
Dessert is nothing marine-like. We opt for the gooey chocolate cake (Rs 200). This is served on the third level, designed like a tea house. Inspired by the Orient’s cherry blossoms, it sports low seating, hammocks, and an aquarium with colourful cichlid. Despite the muddle of concept between levels, this is one may be for those who look for drama while they eat.

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