Mumbai's Most Overrated Restaurants

August 30, 2010 1:49 pm by

Indigo, Colaba.

Determining how highly rated a restaurant is involves a number of subjective factors: it is a combination of buzz (press and how much it is talked about among people we know), respect/recognition (“awards” and the opinions of people and publications we respect) and popularity (how much business we think it does). Each of these factors is in turn based on the restaurant’s food, service, ambience, and a fourth, highly subjective criterion, value for money. In the second of a two-part series on Mumbai’s most underrated and overrated restaurants, here are six establishments that get more love than they sometimes deserve. You might nod in agreement or be enraged, but either way, it’s food for thought. Post your comments below.

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower, near the Gateway of India, Apollo Bunder. Tel: 6665 3366. Extn: 3111.
Zodiac Grill has been the jewel in the Taj’s crown for over 20 years, and superawesome-outstanding-genius “Grand Executive Chef” Hemant Oberoi’s baby since he took over the hotel’s culinary helm. Serving classical French food in a stuffy setting, it has white-gloved, Raj-era type service that remains its best feature. The problem lies with the food; it really isn’t that good and certainly doesn’t offer much value for money. The famed camembert dariole is excellent but is simply a well-executed cheese soufflé, and you get better steak at a lot of other places. There’s also little innovation in the menu; the signature dish is still the Kahlua mousse—a dessert that was novel two decades ago. Go once for the experience, but don’t go back.

Pali Hill Tourist Hotel, 14 Union Park, Khar (West). Tel: 2605 8228/9.
A. D. Singh is widely regarded as an astute businessman. He has clearly hired some great PR consultants—Olive continues to attract the pretty people. Which could explain why it’s still in business, given what it claims as food and the watered-down drinks it sells at silly prices. It is, as far as we know, the most expensive place to get a bottle of Dom (at Rs40,000; Harbour Bar at the Taj sells one for around Rs14,000). The pizzas are passable; the pastas usually terrible in both sauce and texture; and the lumpy risotto once made us die a little on the inside. The food has improved since Manu Chandra took over as chef, but for us it remains a culinary shame.

4 Mandalik Road, Colaba. Tel: 6636 8999.
Indigo changed the way this city looked at stand-alone restaurants; it was the first of its kind to go all out to please the customer. A decade on, the service is still impeccable, but the problem lies with its food, which simply isn’t consistent. Every menu of the past ten years has featured some great dishes but also several failed experiments. These include the coconut risotto that tasted more like Thai curry with rice, and their savoury souffle (the desserts ones are usually impeccable), which delicious as it is when cooked properly, can just as often be flat and runny. Even their signature pan-seared rawas has a Panchamrut-inspired sauce that doesn’t complement the fish well. Indigo tries hard to be innovative but more often than not, the combinations don’t work.

No7, Minoo Manor, Captain Prakash Pethe Marg, Cuffe Parade. Tel: 2216 1226/66.
Chef Moshe Shek is a very good bakery and patisserie chef. The dessert at Moshe’s is likely to be good, the breads are usually fresh, and it’s a great place to get mint tea. Just don’t go there for a meal. When it opened in 2004, there were very few choices for mid-bracket Mediterranean fare but recently, they’ve gotten complacent with both the food and the service. The quality of the cheese used for the fondues is so poor that we wouldn’t be surprised if they used Amul; the gnocchi is usually lumpy and dry; and Falafel’s does better hummus. The waiters are often seeing loitering around like they really don’t care. Shek is talented and knowledgeable, and it is a shame to see his flagship restaurant serve sub-standard fare. His newer outlet, Cafe Moshe in Colaba is far better and does pretty good sandwiches, especially the salmon bagel and the chicken hot dog.

13/14, Sukh Sagar, Hughes Road. Tel: 2363 2174.
We spent much of

our childhood visiting Kobe and, like all Sylvester Stallone films, we wonder why we liked it in the first place. Loyal customers still rave about the chilli cheese toast and the tenderloin sizzlers, but we’ve had the opportunity to eat at a wider variety of restaurants in the past decade or two and can report that the ingredients used at Kobe are simply inferior. Masking the taste of everything with an overwhelming sauce doesn’t really work on us anymore. It hardly seems worth the time waiting outside to get a table; it’s quicker to drive to Yoko Sizzlers in Juhu for that. We’ve grown up and moved on; we wonder when Kobe will.

145 Mahatma Gandhi Road, Kala Ghoda. Tel: 4039 6666.
Like Kobe, Khyber is another childhood favourite that fails to live up to our memories. The restaurant is as crowded as ever thanks to guide-toting tourists but locals have so many more choices now. Zaffran and Kareems do a better butter chicken; Kebab Korner and Kakori House do better kebabs, and any hole in the wall on Mohammed Ali Road does better bheja. The service is terrible unless you’re a regular; we’ve had something as basic as a paneer tikka served to us cold, hard and stale. The kulfi, however, is still excellent.

Devendra Das likes a bong, all Bongs and while not preoccupied by either, chronicles his gluttonous experiences.

Mumbai’s Most Underrated Restaurants

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Comments (23)

  1. Aatif Sumar |

    Not to forget Hotel West End at Metro.

  2. Gaurav |

    Zodiac Grill has never really been relevant as a restaurant, its just a brand and not to stellar at that.

    Olive again, is brilliant for the bandra crowd to mingle and drink but was never a popular restaurant. their sunday brunch was passable only if one drank a dozen cocktails.

    Moshe’s is def on the down ward spiral, i used to be fairly regular there and now i haven’t been back in ages… they truly are a let down.

    Indigo does try and fail often but i think they are always evolving and at least they have the courage to fail.

    Khyber is def over rated and there are better choices but for a lot of foreign visitors its a good place to initiate em.

    Kobe’s is hardly relevant enough to be on the list.

    I would throw in Shamiana as well as Souk, the Taj flagship really needs to sort its cuisine offerings out soon. President a few mins away has three stellar restaurants, Thai Pavilion is possibly the best place in the city, Konkan Cafe is brilliant n Trattoria is well, Trats… they ought to learn from their cousin.

    For the gentleman and his falafal cart in Times Square, i highly recommend the one outside Brooks Brothers .. best of show !

  3. Vipin Nair |

    i want to know which restaurant can offer a six month industrial training in kitchen department. I am studying in the First Year Hospitality..

    Expecting a reply soon

  4. Chef Trainee |

    i agree wid u………i work for d taj n i feel d food at d restaurants here except for sum like konkan cafe, trittoriam, wasabi , golden dragon, Trattoria, prettyu much sucks…………i ve neve come across stuff as simple a Jus dat was exceptional………….

  5. DevD |

    @Kevin – I tried ignoring your asinine rant since it didn’t deserve a response. If you feel my remarks were unnecessarily scathing – pot, kettle, black. At least the piece tried justifying why we consider these places to be over-rated. Just so you know, the aim was not to state these as this city’s worst places, but simply to point out that these places did not deserve the attention and respect (we think) they have. I’ve been to each of these restaurants at least thrice before arriving at any conclusion, and I hope you appreciate I’ve grown up going to some of these restaurants. Firstly, Indigo is still a good restaurant (even better if one wants to entertain rather than just eat) – it simply is not as good as it is billed up to be. Secondly, Olive may have improved since Manu Chandra took over, but I’m looking at this from a decade’s perspective. Lastly, If I were a ‘rebel’, I wouldn’t do a piece on under-rated restaurants, would I? There is a large difference between invoking a debate and provoking readers to react- I hope you appreciate our aim is the former. “Remarks like … seldom deserve well thought out and carefully picked retorts.” – good thing your retorts haven’t been so. I’m afraid you haven’t really given me any substantial arguments for me to even respond to except the Olive thing. I’m happy, as is the next guy, to have a healthy debate with you or any other reader about my work, but I’m afraid your comments have just been a personal tirade with nothing substantial to back up your opinions.

  6. Ramika |

    Ok i TOTALLY agree about Indigo! For someone whose travelled the world, when I first ate there it was just so meh! There was some “swiss festival” going on and one of their specials tasted and looked like curried bhaaji!
    I couldnt make it past the first 2 spoons!
    I do still love a few things at Moshe’s though :)

  7. Kevin Hunt |

    @ Dev,
    I don’t believe that you deserve constructive criticism for your scathing remarks of some great places. Your tastes are dubious at best, in food at least.
    Remarks like “Never Go Back”, ” remains a culinary shame” seldom deserve well thought out and carefully picked retorts.
    Shame on Mumbai Boss for picking such people for running down places to rake in ‘sensationalism’ points for your website, pity, real pity. That this is practically the most commented piece on your website, should make you wake up and smell the coffee. People also want to read nice things about places that have been around and popular for ages. You however want to buck everything established and be a rebel. So learn to deal with rejection.
    I would rather read, it’s a heck of a lot more useful.

  8. DevD |

    @Kevin – Thank you for the constructive criticism.

  9. Kevin Hunt |

    I don’t know what ‘Bongs’ this particular journalist likes, but seems to me, that he uses one a lot. This a fairly large sack of unsavory and ungluttonous garbage.

    I entertain a lot, and Indigo and Khyber have been doing very well in making my business dinners a success. Of late Olive too has become a hot favorite for some exceptional food, pricey wines though (and perhaps the only thing I agree on)

    I have tried some of the restaurants in your underrated list too, and am glad that they remain there.

  10. DevD |

    @malQ – Fair enough, but it doesn’t matter how fancy a place is or not – it could still be over or underrated. I personally feel Candies is one of them, for example.
    @Hamsini – Not sure what you would like me to expand on. If there any particular part of the paragraph that you want explained?

  11. malQ |

    Was invited out to something called Salt Water Grill in Bandra, Mumbai, a few days ago. Bad luck.

    I guess much of eating out depends on being a regular. You go to your regular club, things work out. Likewise, some places sink after some time – Sagar in DefCol/Delhi is one such example.

    I got tired of eating out at fancy places once I started getting invited out too often. Happiness is still Cafe Britannica in Ballard Estate.

  12. Hamsini |

    Dev D: why Moshe’s? Please explain.

  13. DevD |

    @Bill – Thank you! I’m not sure at what point I lost your respect (I suspect the beef burger piece?) but always glad to have it back

  14. bill |

    Dear Dev,

    You have regained my respect for picking restaurants and dishing restaurants! You have definately selected the right ones!

    I find that especially the independents try to be who they are not…..fine dining experiences.

    Unfortunately you have to go to the nicer hotels for the professionalism required for good food that compares to the rest of the world.

    Yes, there are many, many local “down & dirty” favorites that remind you of home coooking to get a dosa here or a samosa there.

    Keep up the good work~

  15. DevD |

    @foodie101: Why, thank you for trying to spark something of a debate. 1) “Um…it’s even quicker to go to the Yoko’s in Fort”- Actually, I’ve been to the one in Fort. It’s the worst sizzler experience I’ve ever had an nowhere close to the original one. 2) “Vide – Khyber – busloads of American tourists are the only people who still go there.” – If so, there must be a lot of Americans who strangely look Indian and have a grasp of our language(s). 3) Going through your points about every other restaurant – I get that you recognise that these aren’t great places to eat and appreciate that you know your food – but the beginning of this article explains that ‘rating’ is not just business, it could be how much people we know and the press talk about it and how much respect it gets. So I stick by my stand that these are all overrated. 4) As for India Jones – can’t comment since I didn’t know it was highly rated in the first place, Tote has been fairly empty for the past 6 months and I can defend Trats as one of the best places for a 4am drunken meal. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone eat at Tetsuma, the bar is usually full. Souk – agreed it isn’t as good as the middle east (Yes, I’ve been all over the M.E.) – but we aren’t playing the compare-to-the-country-of-origin game here. Souk is worth the money you pay for it purely because it is cheaper than flying somewhere to get better M.E. food. Including your beloved cart in NYC

  16. foodie101 |

    these aren’t over-rated restaurants. these are restaurants that were hot years ago and are barely coasting along today. case in point – indigo – empty on most weekday nites w/ the exception of the occasional firang who read about it on lonely planet. khyber – caters mainly to busloads of middle american tourists. moshe’s – might have been the second coming for jains and gujjus about a million years ago when they were no doubt thrilled to swap the inevitable paneer for indifferent couscous and watered-down tagine but NOT any more. zodiac grill -its whole shtick was being the most expensive restaurant in bombay. perfect place for the douchebags who’d order a ridiculously overpriced cheese souffle ‘because it tastes just like the one at the george cinq.’ but never a place that people who like to eat rated very high – and again, never a place where it was a problem getting a table. if you want to do a list of over-rated and yet inexplicably popular places – you could start with tote on the turf, trattoria, tetsuma and india jones (standards have really fallen) should be on it. oh and souk should top it – haven’t seen more overpriced ordinary middle eastern food anywhere else in the world. the lebanese guy w/ a cart near times square has better food!

  17. foodie101 |

    “It hardly seems worth the time waiting outside to get a table; it’s quicker to drive to Yoko Sizzlers in Juhu for that.”

    Um…it’s even quicker to go to the Yoko’s in Fort.

    These restaurants aren’t over-rated. I think most people know what to expect from each of them and they’re definitely not rated as highly as you seem to think they are. Vide -
    Khyber – busloads of American tourists are the only people who still go there. Olive was always more about the scene than the food and Moshe’s – well, if you happen to be a hardcore vegetarian with very few choices, then indifferent couscous and a sorry excuse for a tagine can seem like the second coming. The Zodiac Grill’s schtick has always been being the most expensive restaurant in town – perfect for people who think being able to pronouce camembert correctly ‘because we went to Paris last month’ makes them foodies. Oh, and Indigo is empty on most weeknights except for the occasional expat or lonely planet tourist. I doubt if most people think of these places while going out to eat considering how easy it is to get tables at all of these restaurants. Try India Jones, Tote on the Turf and Trattoria for over-rated – theyre all insanely popular and totally sucky (and India Jones used to be awesome :( .

    PS you really think souk is good? have u ever eat middle eastern food outside india?

  18. Raj Bagaria |

    Dear Dev,
    point taken, if it is the last many years that you are talking about, then it is a culinary shame no doubt. All I can do is feel bad for outstanding talent who has been handed the task of turning the place around ,and which I am certain will happen soon, to be at the receiving end of a scathing op ed.
    What I would recommend as a fellow foodie, ‘gourmet’ may be presumptuous given the company I often keep, is to go and review it once it has made that leap of faith. In all fairness to us fans and your readers.
    Maybe we can dine together someday.

  19. DevD |

    @Debu – Erm, so are Konkan Cafe, Ziya, Souk, to name a few. I don’t mind paying 5k a head if the food and the rest of the experience is that good. Conversely, places like Rajput are so bad that I don’t think its even worth the little that they charge.

  20. Debu Panda |

    The Zodiac Grill is in a five star hotel. Of course it’s not value for money.

  21. DevD |

    @Raj: Thank you for your detailed comment; glad to see there are people who actually eat at Olive rather than go there to see and be seen. Olive at Bandra has been around, I think, 8-9 years? So you have to understand that while you think Manu is a great chef, he hasn’t been at Olive Bandra for more than a month. I personally go by three visits – if I’ve had three bad experiences the restaurant is a write-off for me. As for your chilli flake comment, I’m not going to dignify that with more than saying you may need new friends.

  22. Raj Bagaria |

    Dear Dev D,
    I’m an ardent foodie and moved here from Bangalore about a year ago. While I believe most of what you have written, and even experienced it first hand in almost all cases, I must defend one place.
    I was a regular to the Olive in bangalore, since it is considered by many a culinary mecca and Manu Chandra has been the sole architect of that. I had mentioned to him once, that the food in Mumbai was an abomination and I shall not be a regular there, that’s when he told me to wait up. Which i did.
    The food that I have had at both the olive’s in Mumbai over the past month have has been exceptional. Many dishes, many courses and I have to say that you assessment was either made a long time before he got the ball rolling, or you just carried the ‘pretty people’ grudge with you.
    But all in all, I would not be as harsh and probably make a second trip. The pasta was lovely on a recent visit, a roasted pumpkin ravioli; unless of course your yardstick for pasta is a well done Penne Arrabiatta with extra chili flakes which a lot of my friends in Bombay seem to like to eat.

  23. Hitesh |

    Well written..