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