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...!!!) 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!

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!

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!


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.

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!

Soul Fry at a glance:

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

Phone: +91 22 26046892

Our rating: 9/10