Friday, December 17, 2010

An Inherent Indulgence

The place: 602, Karan, Lokhandwala
The time: Mostly for dinner 
The mission: To pig out on Aashrita's killer food! 

This is something I discovered very recently regarding an old school friend of mine who also ply's her trade in Mumbai's bustling film industry. She's one of those amazing amazing natural cooks- the rare breed, who does it out of pure habit and love rather than as a chore. She is the epitome of all things good that come out of any kitchen. And with her faithful advisors/ tasters in Farhad ("the secretary") and me, what could possibly go wrong?

The first time I learnt of Aashrita's amazing culinary abilities (you can read all about them in the blog down in the dumpling) I immediately set myself to find out if all the fables spoken about her were true by admonishing her for not having given me a taste of her food. And wow! If ever a pretense of her food were to be of any measure to her skills, I would have to say she broke ALL boundaries of expectation by a mile! In all my years, I have seen very few so much at peace in the kitchen, doing so much without as much as breaking a sweat. From what I have heard, she can whip up a storm no matter how bad her day has gone, no matter what time of the day it may be. 

I had my first taste of her cooking during a party wherein she made a smoked chicken salad with baked cannelloni and tiramisu for dessert. A spread like that on a casual night out with friends was just the kind of start I was looking for! The salad was delicious (I walloped a plate full of it!), the cannelloni tasted like it had meat in it even though it was vegetarian, and to top it off the rather generous helping of tiramisu (having my own special contribution of coorg filter coffee which I had provided the previous day- a worthy one too) was divine!!! This was just the beginning to many happy meals with this uber-cool couple from Lokhandwala. 

Dearly Beloved. Farhad (l) and Aashrita (r)

What astounds me about this girl is the fact that she makes light of the seemingly impossible. The second meal I had being a true example of it- she comes back from a hectic shoot to immediately start cooking. And what does she make? A delightful tomato curry which goes perfectly well with some home-made chapati's and bread. If that isn't an example of pure genius I don't know what would be. I also took back with me a chuntu container of inspiring homemade fig jam that night- which was the perfect addition to my breakfast the next morning.

Also to be noted here are the other gourmet dishes that she's made- and which she has very unceremoniously not called me for (laser glares!)- such as the roast chicken, some delicious looking hamburgers, and mutton pepperoni pizzas! (which can also be read about- with recipes! - in the blog)

The most recent culinary expedition I had the honor of experiencing in this holy apartment of all things food-related was her haleem, made with the most authentic meat and spices and cooked to the kind of perfection that only Aashrita knows how to get to (although being honest I don't know anyone else who knows how to make haleem!). This, in addition to another helping of her killer tiramisu rounded off the night on an all time high! (literally! I ended up back home at 5 a.m!)

Diving in for fresh catch on whats promised to be our next meal...sushi!!!

Of all my quirks, one of them is as a sucker for everything delectable that comes cooked in a traditional family home- of which we see lots of in India. Its an amazing thing to keep alive- and bloody hard if you ask me. Hell, I cant cut an onion without being all clumsy about it. My own sister is an example of a super super cook who, just like Aashrita, uses it as a tool to de-stress. It just comes naturally to them..and when exquisite food comes out of those kitchens I don't think anyone has any claim to say otherwise. You could literally taste the pure love that they put in their food!

So this here is a homage of sorts to all those inspired cooks whose kitchens are their primary homes. They are the ones who not just cook for their own pleasure- they do it for the love of feeding the bellies of their fellow kindred! I can assure you, you will never come out disappointed after digging into one of their meals! Here's to them, and the next time I get fed..Bon App├ętit!


Monday, December 13, 2010

Ruci Papa and the Brothers Sanctum

The place: Shankari Restaurant & Bar
The time: Mostly the nights
The mission: To drink ourselves silly

I remember a couple of years ago when we were still in school a close friend of ours told us about his dearest granddad- Ruci Papa. He was the kind of person unlike any of us had ever encountered before- a true spirit in heart and mind- and we were instantly awestruck by this essence that was Ruci Papa. He became an icon to all of our minds. A blessing in disguise. The shining light in the night sky….(ok ok. Now I'm just overdoing it!). Anyway, the point of this story is our fondness and respect towards Ruci Papa cultivated over time to such an extent that he became a legend. He became one of us- part of the brotherhood, one who we would all drink to, and celebrate like he was right there with us. Ruci Papa has passed on now (god bless his soul), and we will always remember that time for what he gave us- a bond like no other. That bond has carried on- having grown, matured, witnessed the years come and go- through school, college, and now through our professional lives in Mumbai. It's not like we have stopped getting together for our monthly intake of beer either- and thus, I present to you (drumroll begins like a thunder cloud in the distance)- the most perfect hole in the wall (drumroll becomes louder)- our little sanctuary in Andheri (drumroll starts going wild)- our version of that pristine chapel that all little girls dream of  getting married in (drumroll hits boiling point, deafening to the ears, its unbelievable!)- Shankari! 

The first time I introduced the boys to Shankari, it was an instant hit. I actually got the directions all wrong and made Sushant and Shantanu walk in the pouring rain to get there- it was a surprise they didn't kill me for that. But it was all good once they settled into Shankari. We knew from then on it was the start to many a trip there. It became our little haven for all things good, bad and ugly in our lives. The kind of secrets Shankari holds in each of our lives are never spoken of in the outside world. 

Now, the prices at Shankari are as cheap, if not cheaper, than the cheapest cheap places in Mumbai. The drinks are priced around the same level as Janata Lunch Home in Bandra (see our November issue) but the food is definitely easy on your wallet. You can have a bloody good meal for two- inclusive of alcohol, starters, main course- within the 500 Rupee bracket. 
Lets begin with the starters. I would recommend trying either, if not all, of the following: 
1. Masala Papad (of which you can eat PLENTY)
2. The Tandoori Chicken
3. The Achari Kebab (outstanding!)
4. The Tandoori Pomfret (the size can be chosen with the waiter showing you the fish before its cooked)
5. Anything from their tandoor actually hits the perfect spot- even if you're a vegetarian.
I am a personally a big big fan of kebabs- so on most visits I prefer just stuffing myself crazy with them! 

On the main course- we have had the chicken masala with mouth watering butter roti's- which is simply yummy. Even the boiled egg (of which Shantanu is a big fan) tastes pretty darn good there- although its hard to say where one can go wrong with it! 

We have gone to Shankari so many times over the last year we are actually treated as guests of honor there! If we land up unexpected and the place is jam packed (which is on most visits), people are actually made to shift tables just so that we get our spot. All the waiters are fellow south indians so getting along with them has always been a breeze. The head waiter even makes it a point to come up to our table and have a little chat with us every time. We believe in the philosophy that to drink up is to drink cheap, and Shankari is a great place one can just go to with your bro's on a lazy afternoon or after a tough days work at night. So next time your in Andheri, this is one spot you would certainly never want to miss! 

                                                                                                                          

Shankari at a glance

Address: Juhu Kapaswadi, Near HDFC Bank, Juhu Versova Link Road, Andheri (W), Mumbai- 400053

Phone: +91 22 26252481, +91 22 26250807

Our Rating: 10/10!


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Uninspired Bagel

The Place: The Bagel Shop
The Time: Lazy Sunday Afternoon
The Mission: To satisfy the need for a post-Gostana snack


So this is just a small footer on a place we went to after one of our many trips to Gostana (which has been given rave reviews in our February issue below). Now, Shantanu and I aren't exactly the dessert eating kind on our many excursions to the delightful culinary wonders of Mumbai (we mostly centre our attentions toward satisfying our carnivorous cravings). But this trip, especially after the most inspiring burgers we had ever eaten, gave us a bit of a jolt as to how bad things could get on our quest for good food! 


















First and foremost, the place was packed so we were ushered to one of the most remote tables in the open air area. Second, the dullard waiter who was supposed to be waiting on us was so lost in his own world we were made to wait an hour before it finally occurred to him to even serve us water, let alone take our order! With a start like that, it was a surprise we didn't just walk away (but keen as our taste buds were to try something new, we decided to persevere in any case..we tend to be little naive in that sense).


As it were, we decided to order the Cream Cheese and Nutella Bagels (the latter of which we had heard some pretty good stories!). The following is an introspection on the unfortunate thingamajigs that ended up on our plates that afternoon: 
1. Well, I'll give them this, they at least looked remotely like bagels! 
2. The super-hard, rather fossilized, stale bread made us feel like we needed a saw just to pry out a piece (not to forget giving us sore jaws a couple of bites after)
3. These so-called bagels tasted like they had been baked straight out of the 16th century, when they were invented as the staple Polish national diet! 
4. What were we thinking even stepping into this place?


















On completing the arduous task of eating these remains from another time (yes! we actually finished both bagels!), we didn't have the patience to twiddle our toes while our amazingly up-to-speed waiter got the bill, preferring instead to pay up at the counter and make a run for it. It ought to be noted here that this place definitely does NOT come cheap- its expensive and extremely overrated! 


As a comforting note, I guess not every trip we make could possibly be as uplifting as we anticipate it to be. Nor can I recommend you not to go here, because who knows? Maybe we just went on a bad day. All that I can say is this, a good first impression is always a lasting one- and this one in particular was seriously messed up! As our beloved readers, you don't have to always take our advice, but I warn you- go here at your own peril! 


                                                                                                


The Bagel Shop at a glance


Where: Below Barefoot, Pali Mala Road, Bandra (W), Mumbai


Phone: +91 22 26050178


Our Rating: 0.5/10



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bromelette!

They say charity begins at home. Well, so does gluttony. Today was a happy day for me, because I got a job I really wanted at an Ad Agency that I really like. That's a story for another day. So we were going to celebrate with our favourite Joey's Pizza. Somewhere along the way, we changed our minds and decided to cook at home instead. We ordered in for some meat from the cold storage near by and called for some eggs, bread and cheese as well.

About an hour later, we were holding in our hands the most monstrously delicious omelette we'd ever seen, or made - the Bromelette. It derives its name from the fact that Alok and I are bros and you HAVE to be in our bro circle to:
a) be involved in the making of the Bromelette
b) taste the Bromelette
c) survive the Bromelette

It was a real beauty. Since we love our readers, no matter how paltry the number, here's what went into our little creation:

Six eggs, vienna sausages, pepper salami, bacon, onions, tomatoes, chillies, salt/pepper and some incredibly good Zulu Hot sauce. (We nearly threw in some fortnight-old mushrooms but fortunately saw they were well past the expiration date!) It was topped off with a cold beer, which completed the meal and filled us up good and proper.

Here's pictures of the Bromelette:



We were seriously too stuffed to move after eating that. But it was so so so very good, we didn't really mind. And we're going to get it even better the next time around!

Revival

A big sorry to our (very few) readers that we haven't been writing too much on here for a while now. Not that we've stopped eating - hell no. We've just been too lazy to actually put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) and write about our culinary escapades.

We will be more regular. We promise.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Spice Spice Baby!

The place: It's Mirchi, Ramee Guestline Hotel, Juhu
The time: Whenever it is they have their buffet
The mission: To stuff ourselves crazy!

There is a popular joke that goes around which says that the two easiest ways to any guys heart are 1) his girl stripping down to bare nothingness, and 2) the same girl bringing him good food! Now, for those of you who have never experienced this rather charming joke is the fact that there are a million rules to a woman's heart which precede these points. To quench the curious palate, let me tell you there is a lot more than just 'bringing good food' that chances upon a guys heart (at least..our hearts for that matter!). For one, there is cheap food, two, there is the right food, and (last but not the least) three, the submission (or absolute dedication) to the aforementioned points. All in all, it is about the moment. But let's not drift too far off the point here, let me introduce you to an awesome little restaurant called It's Mirchi.

Situated on the rooftop of Ramee Guestline Hotel, Juhu, this place is packed on most nights so you need to book way in advance to get in. Although it is on the rooftop, it isn't exactly open air or anything, so it gets a bit stifling when the place gets jam packed. Neat little seating arrangements provide for all sizes of crowds getting in though, so there isn't much of a problem.

Having starved ourselves all day in anticipation and preparation, we were there for one reason only - to conquer! With the 500 buck all-you-can-eat buffet, there was to be no stopping us!

For starters, we were served prawns, fish, chicken kebabs, paneer, and some vegetarian thing were didn't pay much heed to. The prawns were mouth watering, the fish marinated to perfection, the chicken kebabs out... of... this....world(!!!) and the paneer, succulent as ever (we actually had two whole helpings!). All of this was skewered and laid out on a grill on the table so we could just pick it straight out whenever needed. As and when we wished, we could order more and the waiter would just grill it right in front of us! What more could you ask for! We actually ended up feasting so much on the starters that after awhile they refused to get us an extra helping of fish (or was it more a case of us finishing their stock? Unfortunately, that mystery will never be solved!)

It ought to be noted here there is also an additional option of alcohol which you could order (not included in the 500 bucks for the buffet), although we were more inclined towards the food on the day.

Also, on the menu is the main course of the buffet you could help yourself to. Personally, I wasn't too impressed with what they had on display. We tried some of the biryani and although the saffron rice was cooked to perfection, it seemed more like they were going overboard with it in many ways. There was also some pretty darn good chicken curry and a whole selection of soups, salads and vegetarian food to choose from (like we were even gonna go there!)

A fairly large scoop of mango ice cream hits the perfect spot to end the night on a high!

All in all, although the debate of the missing plate of fish lives on, It's Mirchi was a delight to go to. The place might be packed but the food generally makes up for it. We were extremely pleased by the experience and would certainly go again (next time starving ourselves two days in advance!). Highly recommendable for family and friends alike!
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It's Mirchi at a glance:


Address: Hotel Ramee Guestline, 462, A.B. Nair Road, Next to Novotel Hotel, Juhu, Vile Parle (W), Mumbai

Phone: +91 22 66905555 +91 22 66935555

Our Rating: 8.5/10

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Who ever thought healthy food could be so mighty good!!

The place: Gostana, Bandra
The time: Lazy Sunday afternoon
The mission: See what the hype is all about!

Nestled cozily in a lane off Pali Hill, away from the hustle-bustle of Bandra, Gostana is almost easy to miss. It took us a little walking to get there (thanks to wrong directions) but eventually found it (I love you, Google Maps!). When one walks in, the first thing that catches the eye is the decor. Done up in vibrant colours with interesting posters on the wall, it exudes a vibe that makes one want to sit down and enjoy their meal.



As described on their blog and their Facebook page, Gostana is on a mission is to serve wholesome, fresh food in a comfortable environment, and started with an intention to turn junk food into a healthy, wholesome meal. That's one nail they've hit right on the head. The burgers are large, low-cal and tantalize the taste buds.

We ordered an Indian Chicken burger and a Lamb Burger and, because we were feeling stingy, a can of Coke each (the cheapest beverage on the menu!). We went half-and-half with the burgers and it was honestly impossible to decide which was better. The bread was soft and delicious, with the meat inside marinated and steamed to perfection.

Every bite is a melt-in-the-mouth delight! However, there isn't much for the veggies by way of choice, with only a spicy Soy Bean and a Spinach & Cottage Cheese burger on offer. All burgers come with a side order of salad, and also one has the option of ignoring that diet for a while and adding cheese and/or an egg to their burger. The same fillings from the burgers are also available in sandwiches, which are made with whole wheat bread. Gostana apparently turns out a mean Hot Dog, which will probably be the purpose of our next visit there!

The prices might seem a bit steep, but if you take into consideration the size of the burger, the healthy ingredients used, the ambiance (including some pretty kickass music) and the fact that one burger will leave you feeling full but not stuffed, it doesn't feel like serious damage on the pocket.

We left feeling content and that we'd got our money's worth. Gostana did not, in the least bit, fail to impress. It was everything we'd heard it was, and much more!
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Gostana at a glance:

Address: Shop 1, Sefa House,New Kanthwadi Rd,Off Pali Mala Rd., Bandra (W), Mumbai

Phone: +91 22 6453 3359

A brief history: The name Gostana came about with just a sound. It simply means just '4 Strings', and is also an ancient Chinese Land of Jade.

Our rating: 10/10!

Sub-standard!!

The place: Subway, Juhu
The time: Multiple visits (regrettably!)
The mission: A healthy, economical and tasty snack

If you have ever walked into a Subway restaurant and instantly seen more than one thing that repulses you, chances are you will say to yourself, "There is no chance in hell I'm coming back here again!". And you won't. My parents have always been right - I love to learn things the hard way.

When I moved to Mumbai, I was elated to see a Subway walking distance from home. The joy turned to an almost bitter disappointment on the first visit and has now just turned to loathing.

In case one thinks I am a total looney, here's a brief description of how an average trip to this very average Subway pans out on an average day:

1. Enter, momentarily happy that you're off that noisy and polluted road.
2. Stop and take in the sights and smells around you - freshly (presumably, at this point) baked bread, and a choice of meats, vegetables and sauces.
3. Walk up to the counter and decide what to eat
4. Wait an eternity to get the attention of someone behind the counter. When you do, wait for them to nod and acknowledge your presence before they get back to discussing whatever it is they are discussing like a giggly gaggle of schoolgirls.
5. Lose your patience and half-yell a stern "EXCUSE ME!" before someone grudgingly lolls over to see what it so important that he had to be torn away from an oh-so-interesting conversation.
6. Place your order, having to repeat only four times, the vegetables you do NOT want. (Four times is the average. Seven is the record, I think)
7. Watch the "Sandwich Artist" (yes, that's what they're called. Sandwich Artists.) throw together your sandwich, slop your choice of sauces and wrestle it shut before hastily wrapping it in paper to prevent the darn thing from springing open. Personally, I think a trained chimpanzee could do a better job.
8. Finally, 20 minutes after initially walking in, seat yourself a sticky table, hoping to enjoy your sub. Unwrap it, and watch it all fall apart. Vegetables tumbling and sauces dripping out of the sandwich makes for a glorious mess. Not to mention that it pretty much defeats the purpose of a sandwich.
9. Struggle through the sandwich, lovingly crafted with crusty bread (so much for point 2 above!), half-thawed meat with little ice crystals on them, and stale vegetables. 
10. Leave, shaking your head and wondering how a trip to Subway could go so wrong.

I'm not sure how many people have similar tales of woe to share, but the Juhu outlet of Subway gives the entire brand a bad name.

And I know I'm a glutton for punishment, but to cut a long story short - don't eat here.
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Subway, Juhu at a glance:

Address: Juhu Tara Road, Next to Tulip Star Hotel, Juhu, Mumbai 

Phone: +91 22 67305471

Our rating: 2/10

A slice of Goa!

The place: Soul Fry, Bandra

The time: Open between 12:30 and 3 in the afternoon, and 7 and 12:30 at night. We've only ever been in the evenings.
The mission: To feast on the most delicious vindaloo yet!


Soul Fry is just one of the many (possibly hundreds!) of eateries and restaurants in Bandra. Situated on Pali Mala road, one can either walk there through a fruit-and-vegetable market or drive down from Hill Road. The restaurant itself is a quaint little one with an old-world charm. With seating both inside, as well as out, there is provision for one to enjoy either the air-conditioning or the natural breeze (combined with the sights, sounds, and smells) of Mumbai.
Where the service lacks in the friendliness of waiters, it makes up on how quickly the food was served. We went there with our order more or less decided (based on our previous visit there) and told the waiter our order - Chicken Vindaloo, Butter Rotis and Prawn Curry-Rice - before he handed us the menu.

Now, there are two reasons we eat certain places (apart from the basic fact that we live to eat!) - either it's a new place we want to try out, or it's a tried-and-tested place we're visiting again for something that our taste buds fell in love with a previous time. In this case, it was definitely the second! The Chicken Vindaloo at Soul Fry is top-drawer stuff! Spiced to perfection, the chicken itself is tender and succulent. What's more, there was enough to go around for three big eaters. (Note: this will not hold true on most days. For some inexplicable reason, it did the day we went!). The rice was "al dente" - just right to be walloped with some mighty good prawn curry! One also has the option of washing down all that spicy food with a chilled beer, of which they have a fair choice.

While it may not be the best place for a business meeting, Soul Fry definitely is a great place for a family/big group dinner, a noisy and rambunctious boys' night-on-the-town or even a cozy and romantic dinner date. The prices are just about high enough to make it a once-in-a-while kind of place. (From past visits - a meal works out to around 300 rupees a stomach without beer, around 500 with).

So, the next time you feel like Goan food, don't bother calling your travel agent - just hop down to Bandra and pig out at Soul Fry!
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Soul Fry at a glance:

Address: Silver Croft, Pali Mala Road, Bandra (W), Mumbai

Phone: +91 22 26046892

Our rating: 9/10

Friday, November 27, 2009

Janata Lunch Home = SST!

The place: Janata Lunch Home, Bandra
The time: Most prefer the nights- some, early evening onwards
The mission: To make the most of cheap food and beer!




Janata Lunch Home, amusingly looked at as a shady hole in the wall by most, is definitely not what the unsuspecting public would generally consider for a pleasant evening out into Bandra. A high class connoisseur would degrade it, the health inspector would give it a thumbs down, and yet, if you were to take that step into the place, I can assure you, you will never come out unsatisfied. The place may not live up to the first 'S' in 'SST' but on the 'ST' bit - it scores a perfect 10!

For a start, we'd heard plenty talk on the grapevine of the relatively cheap characteristics of this little haven for food and alcohol lovers alike. To walk into this quaint little restaurant on Pali Hill, the wooden bench-and-table setup are a throw back to most other "shady pubs"  found in Mumbai (we didn't bother going up to the a/c section, that's just not our style). And boy! Were we pleased by its opening credentials! A mere 120 bucks for a chilled Budweiser was just the kind of start we were looking for! From then on, it was sheer bliss.

What followed was a full plate of succulent tandoori chicken, served with a side dish of...erm...salad (or something of the sort), a plate of the most inspiring Chicken Masala anyone could possibly imagine and two plates of hot, mouthwatering butter rotis each to go with it. Couldn't ask for anything more!

On the whole, Janata is one place you would never want to miss if you are looking for a cheap, bloody good meal. It is said by people living around the area that they even deliver till 3 a.m. in the morning! Which is pretty darn amazing! As for us, we have made the trip twice already, never coming out with anything less than a full belly, a little tipsy, and devoid of any holes burned through our wallets!

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Janata Lunch Home at a glance:

Address: Dr Ambedkar Road, Pali Naka, Bandra (W), Mumbai

Phone: +91 22 26005180, +91 22 32515596, +91 22 26004049

Our rating: 10/10