Anokhi: Contemporary, Colorful & Captivating Indian Cuisine

By Sophie Steiner, March 23, 2023

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The Place 

Anokhi is a contemporary Indian restaurant, the brain child of owner and chef Jibin Arjunan, and the posh older sister restaurant to his casual Indian and Middle Eastern eatery, Khan Chacha, of which Shanghai is home to two. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Meaning 'Unique' in Hindi, Jibin’s goal is for every aspect of the restaurant to be a new form of discovery for guests – be it the whimsical take on classic Indian dishes, the colorful room accents, the modern music or the restaurant’s resident Samoyed, a 30-kilo snow white-hued furball of a pup who greets guests in between sunny afternoon naps in the lounge. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The space is modern Indian through and through – bright colors abound: woven tapestries and sequined pillows draped across plush couches; rattan chairs; illuminated hanging sconce lanterns; meticulously chosen original prints highlighting cultural relics and rituals across the Indian subcontinent; sun-soaked greenery; imported limestone tiling; restored wood floorboards; and even a one-of-a-kind carved Keralan temple door crafted and shipped over by Jibin’s father.

It’s cohesive, from concept to branding to design, curated by professionals Newkirk Creative and Kollectiv. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

There’s a swank front lounge and fireplace with a music program created by Simon Adams, an expansive live-edge bar with an Indian fusion cocktail roster devised by Ilya Gorshkov (previously of Italo Trattoria), and a 108-seater dining room offering daily specials, brunch, lunch and dinner.

All bases are covered and then some.

The Food 

The impressive open kitchen focuses on flame-licked meats – a Josper oven, yakitori grill and tandoor oven are just a few of the cooking options on hand.

While most Indian restaurants involve larger portions and heavy curries, Anokhi is more about Indian style “tapas” that fit the lounge vibes; diners can work their way through the menu, adding in complimentary and contrasting flavors as they while away the hours, drink in hand. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Hailing from the southern state of Kerala himself, Jibin created Anokhi’s menu to offer an overrepresentation of South Indian food compared to the rest of the market, with at least 40% of the dishes sporting the coconut and spice-laden curries of the south. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

For starters, Southern Indian dishes involve a lot more seafood, a parallel Jibin draws between his hometown and Shanghai’s cuisine.

Using familiar crustaceans like Chinese river shrimp, Jibin fries them up as the Chemmeen Masala Fry (RMB48) in coconut oil with piquant masala spices, curry leaves, and a dollop of sambal mayo for an addictingly crunch take on a “pica pica” style bar snack.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

India’s answer to Buffalo chicken wings, the Chicken 65 Karaage (RMB38) sees de-boned tender chicken drumettes coated with a lip-smacking 65 Masala spice blend – a popular South Indian recipe for fried chicken.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The next few items offer a taste of Indian chaat – or street snacks – reimagined with a modern interpretation.

Emulating the South Indian vada, customarily eaten for breakfast, the Thayir Vada (RMB32) greets guests with aromatic fermented lentil fritters coated in spiced yogurt, fried idlis, house masala powder, rice puffs and curry leaves. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Another common chaat, the Dhabawala Vada Pav (RMB32) is Anokhi’s take on the Delhi “potato burger” made with two ultra-crispy, batter-fried masala potato rostis nestled inside a pillowy pav bun, all topped with grapefruit salsa, tamarind and coriander chutneys, sweet yogurt and masala spices.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

An Indian play on a spicy tuna roll, the Chunky Tuna Avocado Bhel Chaat (RMB98) is a tartar of Pacific tuna, cubed mango and avocado, rice puffs and housemade papadi.

Mix everything together since the bottom of the glass offers the typical chaat chutneys – tamarind and mint, plus a spicy kick from sambal mayo. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Italy meets India with the Saag Ka Pesto (RMB48) – an herbaceous kale, fenugreek and spinach pesto served with papadi pita chips.

The bitterness of the greenery is complimented by sundried tomatoes, savory pine nuts and a lashing of olive oil.

DSC02537.jpgBhatti Squid Tikka (RMB28), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Sweet and delicate with coconut undertones, the Hokkaido Scallop Moilee (RMB98) shows off what a Josper oven can do, allowing the protein to shine with just a hint of Keralan Moilee – a simple curry of coconut, green chili, curry leaves and black pepper.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The Market – a chalkboard menu of the freshest catch-of-the-day – is positioned below a seafood window, where guests can select their seafood and sauce (one of four Indian flavored curries) and enjoy it prepared on the spot.

Choose between Lobster, Fish, Shrimp or Prawns (availability and price vary daily), cooked on the yakitori grill or in the Josper with your choice of Kalimirch cream, Kerala Mappas, Coconut Moilee or Bengali Jhol. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

One of the restaurant’s signatures – and for a good reason – the Nalli Nihari (RMB308) pays homage to regal Old Delhi dishes from Northern India. A rich and filling curry intended to power one through the rest of the day, most Muslims in Northern India feast on nihari in the early morning after prayers. 

Anokhi’s nihari sees an overnight marinated Inner Mongolian bone-in lamb shank marinated for eight hours, sous vide for 12 hours, then finished in the oven wrapped in a flaky filo crust.

This Fred Flintstone-sized shank arrives soaking in a velvety pool of goat marrow, black cardamom and long pepper-spiced curry. The resulting meat just shirks away from the bone, melting into the curry, indulgent in its excess.

We suggest sopping up every last dribble of that curry with the homemade wheat Paratha (RMB28), a homey (and healthier) alternative to the usual naan.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

On the dessert front, sweets are equally cheeky – a Masala Chai Biskoot Gelato (RMB38) topped with crushed Osmania biscuits, pistachios and dried rose...

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

... and a Sicilian style, pistachio-encrusted Cannoli (RMB48) stuffed with Alphonso mango-studded shrikand mousse made from ricotta and yogurt, spiced with saffron. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

The cocktails are equally as fun, each pulling flavor inspiration from India. An absolute must, the Gol Gappa Gimlet (RMB80) is quite possibly the best gol gappa we’ve found outside of India.

Bonus: It's made with booze! 

Chickpea-stuffed pani puri are served atop a shot glass filled with cardamom-infused gin, lime tamarind cordial and Grand Marnier.

And, just like a streetside pani puri, pour the shot directly into the crispy puffed shell and take it down all at once – a snack and a drink at the same time that embodies the bright flavors of India.

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

There’s also the rose-forward Memsahib’s Vice (RMB70) – a blend of Irish whisky, Pakistani rose syrup, ginger and lime; or the Coromandel Express (RMB90), named after India’s coast, with Old Monk rum, grapefruit, passion fruit, pineapple and ginger beer – resulting in a saccharine start that gives way to a rounded bitter finish. 

DSC02602.jpgRaspberry Cardamom Lassi (RMB40), Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

As for NA drinks, there are a handful of fruit-forward mocktails, lassis and fresh juices. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Pair your drinks with the Bikaneri Charcuterie Platter (RMB288/2pax, RMB388/4pax), a playful twist on the standard cheese plate with English smoked cheddar, truffle gouda, French saucisson cured sausages, a homemade tomato kasundi sauce, crumbly Nimki biscuits, fresh and dried fruit and mixed nuts. 

The Vibe 

Situated on the third floor of one of Shanghai’s newest F&B outposts – The Weave – Anokhi is flanked by Bhacus, Drunk Baker, Lokal, an Alimentari, and a few other odds and ends to round out the international eating offerings.

Yes, it is in a mall, but the team has worked hard so it doesn’t feel that way. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

It’s bright and welcoming, colorful and surrounded by plants, a daytime vibe that slowly rolls into night with the help of a funky playlist, customizable overhead lights and a number of drink specials. 

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Image by Sophie Steiner/That's

Speaking of specials, Anokhi offers daily deals all week:

  • Prime Rib Mondays – a bottle of house wine and two sides with the purchase of a 1-kilo Australian M4  Prime Rib

  • Catch of the Day Tuesdays – two complimentary glasses of wine with the purchase of anything from the Catch of the Day menu

  • Ladies’ Night Wednesday – first drink on the house for all ladies

  • Thirsty Thursdays – buy one get one free on all cocktails

  • Fizzy Fridays – 50% off sparkling wines

Anokhi also offers weekday afternoon lunch sets and a popular weekend 'Nukkad' brunch, replete with crispy dosas, tawa parathas, idlis, chaat, and so much more.

Price: RMB150-300
Who’s Going: Locals and expats interested in contemporary Indian cuisine; the Xuhui dining crowd; lucky mall dwellers who happened upon the best food available in a mall
Good For: Indian food cravings; colorful food photography; tapas-style sharing and sipping

Make a reservation at Anokhi through Jasmine 187 1782 9463.

Anokhi, 3/F, 277 Wuxing Lu, by Jianguo Lu,  徐家汇吴兴路277号 3楼, 近建国路.


[Cover image by Sophie Steiner/That's]

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