Things That Make You Go Mmm…
Every once in a while I find food that makes me stop in my tracks. If I’m in the neighbourhood, I will make the time, or even take a slight detour just so I can have them. It doesn’t matter how recent or big my last meal was. Some of them are recent finds, some are rediscoveries, and some are old favourites. This list does not try to cover every cuisine, price level or neighbourhood. It’s food that I would like to eat often, and I think everyone should try at least once.
Crab Gassi at Pratap Lunch Home
79 Lucky Mansion, Janmabhoomi Marg, Fort. Tel: 022 4002 1101.
This hot, tart and creamy gassi is an even more florid orange than the large pieces of unshelled crab in it. For the right balance of starch and curry, I like to drop chunks of neer dosa into the curry and spoon them into my mouth. Alternate this with cracking open sections of shell and scooping out the white and sweet crab meat. Price as per catch.
Samosa at Naivedyam
6 Stadium House, 81/83 Veer Nariman Road, Churchgate. Tel: 022 2282 1721.
One pure ghee samosa at this “exclusive” mithai and farsan shop that’s tucked away off the main road is as good as a whole meal. Sometimes you need to take a nap after you’ve had one. Each samosa—packed with a spicy potato and pea stuffing with the occasional white raisin and piece of cashew—weighs around 100 grams, but it feels more like a quarter kilo. Go early. Naivedyam makes a limited number each morning and they sell out quickly. Try it three ways: take a big bite out of it, peel away a piece of the crust and have just that, then have a few chunks of only the filling. Each bite is a different kind of fun. Rs12 per piece.
Panipuri at Jambulwadi
528 Jambul Wadi Lane, off Kalbadevi Road, Dhobi Talao. Tel: 93223 20850.
I’ve been going to this tiny, third generation chaat shop since I was in school, often under the pretext of getting new notebooks and textbooks from the adjoining road. Over the years, the location and size of the shop has stayed the same. The complex, cold, tangy paani may be made with Bisleri now, but it still leaves a lingering burn at the back of the throat. Everyone has a favourite thelewala for chaat; this one is mine. Rs35 per plate.
Parmigiano Reggiano Ice Cream at Ellipsis
B-1 Amarchand Mansion, 16 Madame Cama Road, Colaba. Tel: 022 6621 3333.
Salty, aged cheese-flavoured ice cream. Yes, this sounds strange. But as strange combinations of flavours go, it’s delicious. Ellipsis used to serve it with a syrupy balsamic glaze (which I preferred; its nip complemented the sweet-savoury flavour nicely), but I suspect the new balsamic tuile will please the slightly less adventurous more easily. Rs330 for one serving of three scoops.
Patties Chhole at Tharu’s Mukhi Bhandar
Shop No 7/8, Madhuban Building, Khar Pali Road, PD Hinduja Marg, Khar. Tel: 022 2646 2882.
There are scores of shops selling heart-shaped stuffed potato patties, but Tharu’s is extra special. There’s spicy channa dal dotted with raisins and cashews at the heart of the patty which is fried on a giant tawa (on order) in a pool of ghee. A ladle of steaming hot, very dark and thick chhole is served alongside. Khar’s Sindhis will attest to the proprietary spice mix that makes this stuff addictive and satisfying. Rs50 per plate.
Bangda Ambat Tikhat at Mi Maratha
Iqbal Manzil, Ground Floor, next to Peninsula Corporate Park, Ganpatrao Kadam Marg, Lower Parel. Tel: 022 2493 0345.
This is a dish whose flavour is described accurately by its name, but still, it surprises you. Lower Parel Malvani newbie Mi Maratha’s bangda ambat tikhat is flecked with white red chilli seeds in a not-too-thin red gravy that is sour, but not mouth-puckeringly so. And there’s the mackerel’s astonishingly briny aftertaste. Rs110 per plate, serves two people.
Bhee Channa at Kailash Parbat
Sheila Mahal, corner of First Pasta Lane and Colaba Causeway, Colaba. Tel: 022 2287 4823.
Two finger-long sticks of bhee (lotus stem) are boiled and then sautéed with masalas. An earthy brown chhole flavoured with tamarind and dried pomegranate seeds is served alongside. Be sure to top it with KP’s onion and beet kachumber for texture and try various combinations of their three chutneys: mint-coriander, tamarind-jaggery, and green chilly-salt. This is really chaat in the guise of a main. All branches of KP serve this dish, but the original Colaba one does it best and allows maximum customisation. Rs70 per plate.
Kharda at Purepur Kolhapur
1 and 2 Aditya Apartments, Parleshwar Road, Vile Parle (East). Tel: 022 2613 4569. Also in Dadar and Thane (East).
It’s technically a condiment, but Purepur Kolhapur’s kharda should never play a supporting role in a meal. This is no ordinary green chutney—it’s made of coarsely pounded whole green chillies with tons of garlic, a touch of cumin, asafoetida and salt, all lightly roasted in oil. Bhakri is merely the vehicle to transport kharda into your mouth. Rs25 per serving.
Kheema Pao with Chhaas or Solkadi at Hotel Grant House
Near Haj House, Palton Road, at the base of the JJ Flyover. Tel: 022 22617059.
A recent post on the food blog Finely Chopped reminded me of my first time at Hotel Grant, or Police Canteen as it was known then. My dad took me to this hot, dusty shack near his office. It was covered with a cement ceiling (or was it metal sheeting?), and we sat community style, way before shared tables became trendy. I remember digging into fiery kheema between sips of cool, lightly salted chhaas, while the woman across me breastfed her newborn as she ate. I have since counted on Grant’s kheema (always with buttermilk or solkadi) to heighten my senses. Rs75 for a plate of kheema pao; Rs15 each for solkadi and chhaas.
Sandesh at Bhaishankar Gaurishankar
21A Kanbhai Bhavan, CP Tank, near Kabutarkhana, Girgaon. Tel: 022 2386 3655.
BG’s triangular pieces of sandesh (the Bengali sweet made with chenna, or pressed milk curds, and sugar) are fresh and creamy, slightly crumbly, barely sweet and so light that it’s easy to pack away half a dozen pieces in one sitting. If you like the flavour of saffron, you cannot miss the kesar variety. (On fasting days also try their alu sabzi with rajgira puris.). Rs15 per piece for white sandesh; Rs16 per peiece for kesar sandesh.
Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi is a Mumbai-based food journalist, a contributing editor at Vogue magazine, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York City, and the restaurant reviewer for the Hindustan Times newspaper in Mumbai.Tags: Bhaishankar Gaurishankar, Ellipsis, Hotel Grant House, Jambulwadi, Kailash Parbat, Mi Maratha, Naivedyam, Pratap Lunch Home, Purepur Kolhapur, Restaurants, Tharu's Mukhi Bhandar, The Tastemaker