Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thai Pavilion

Rest : Thai Pavilion
Loc : Vivanta Taj President, Cuffe Parade
Meal : Dinner

Since the sister in laws were in town i figured id take em to perhaps the best restaurant in the city, Thai Pavilion, neither of them were keen on Thai (the wife had been of a similar opinion once) but i was sure their opinion would change.

We got in around half past 7, Chef Ananda Solomon was on the phone, (every time im there ive been greeted by him) and were promptly sent to a nice corner table. First time i noticed the masks on the wall, usually im just so engrossed in the discussion, expectation and consumption of the feast to come.

I ate a whole bowl of the peanut sauce by myself, just love it. Grudgingly shared the second bowl (lets be clear these arent soup bowls)

At TP i avoid starters as it just becomes too much food and they dont have much of an appetizer selection to begin with, yet considering it was a foursome we ordered some mushrooms as well as some Thai style rolls.. both were ordinarily and fairly avoidable

The Tom Yum was just mild, not pungent and spicy hot like it usually is, we sent it across to be spiced up a bit and they really went to town on it, one spoon on the walls would peel of paint. 

The Tom Kha, coconut flavored soup is usually delicately flavored, which was missing this time around. It was not bad, everyone liked it, however i know how great it can be and it was definitely not there.

The cashew and water chestnuts in chilli paste were awesome, just perfect.

The pad thai noodles were stellar, the Thai Red Curry was out of this world (no surprise here)
and not much else to say really. By the time we were done there was nothing left.

So, in the end, the appetizers were disappointing and the soups were slightly below par, however the main courses were just fantastic. The girls loved the food and had no complaints, so no major complaints i reckon. 

The service, was scatter brained, i made the mistake of ordering our entire meal in one go and then everything was brought out together, so we sent the soups back while we finished the appetizers, i find this to be a cardinal mistake made by some restaurants and avoid ordering all together, however would not expect this from the Taj.

The food arrived in quick succession as it always does, always seems like there is a sense of urgency on their part to turn around covers, didnt feel rushed however.

We asked for a slight change in a dish, asking them to combine one dish with the sauce of another  but there was some confusion, they got us both the dishes. Being the Taj, they served us both the dishes and took one of them off the charge. For all the bumbling, does not leave one with a bad taste in your mouth.

An off day for the best restaurant in the city, lower by their usual standards yet a pretty strong showing.

Food: 7/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : 4200 for 4 without drinks.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Idli House

Rest : Idli House
Loc : King Circle, Matunga
Meal : Breakfast

This week has been quite a gastronomic feast as the sister in laws were in town, we went around and got quite a few solid meals and missed out on some as well. Sunday morning is usually, samosas and papdi and dhoklas or pancakes or Cafe Madras. This Sunday morning though was all about Idlis.
The younger sister in law is quite a fan of the rice caked goodness and we thought we would give it a try.

So where would one go to try out Idlis in this town? Well Idli House of course, located in the South Indian stronghold of Bombay - Matunga. There is literally a HORDE of restaurants to choose from in a 5 min radius of Kings circle. 

From the Rama Nayak family comes a restaurant focused solely on Idlis, near two dozen of em from various parts of the South. I started of course with the simple Butter Idli, although this was not regular packaged butter but more like fresh, unsalted churned butter and that my friends is what makes all the difference. I will not try to express how good this was but i will say that i ate if fairly silently besides the odd moan and then i ordered another one.

This was the Idli wrapped in mudho leaves, a little bit of a chore to open up and then consume however, pretty good,

The yellow idlis (Rava Idli and Kanchipuram) were actually the weakest of the offerings, not bad but certainly not a patch on the rest of the selections.

The idli upma was another pretty spectacular, fluffy sprinkled with sev, peanuts, the first time i have had something like this. Not pictured here is the idli rasam which was good and the  pepper idli which was terrific, it was not pepper sprinkled on top of the Idli as one would think but mixed in the batter i reckon. Brilliant.

All this washed down with some brilliant filter coffee, better than Cafe Madras which i thought was terrific so far. So good that between the 7 of us we had about 13 cups.

While there are more idlis, there are some other accompaniments which can be tried, the red chutney is brilliant, the white not so great, the sambar not too bad.

Overall, the place is very small, can barely seat 15, the rest though can eat at the standing table. The service itself is quick, no-nonsense and a little on the unfriendly side. The gentlemen sitting on the cash counter (the younger of the two older gentlemen) had a terrific sense of humour and saw me enjoying the sambar and brought me another one without asking.

He cleared up the dishes himself as well, great to see. Its the cuisine of hard working men and made and served with a lot of hard work as well. All in all a must do, go on Sunday when you can park.

Food : 9/10
Service 7/10
Damage : 630 for 7 of us.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Cafe By The Beach

Rest : Cafe By The Beach
Loc : Right before Chowpatty Beach
Meal : Early evening snack

Salt Water Grill (here and here)was perhaps my favorite spot to hang out in (not the best restaurant by a long shot) until political pressure and ulterior motives forced them to shut down. I do miss being able to go there and sit by the ocean while having a bite, so i was quite excited when i heard that the space was re-opening.

The Cafe by the Beach as its now known is under new management and focused on a rather healthy cafe menu with salads, sandwiches wraps etc. The menu is reasonably varied, they even do cheese platters as well as a deli meats platter. I have been told they will soon have daily specials in play as well. There is no liquor or wine available and though id miss it, i am sure its really not worth the hassle and the payoffs.

 The place is just brilliant, as good as i remember it, having your feet in the sand while looking out at Bombay is quite something and its a pity that ridiculous zoning regulations deprive the people of vistas like the one below. 

Thankfully the new management has been smart enough not to really mess with a good thing, there have been minimal changes to the original decor, some of the canopied tables are gone, there is a strong Buddha-Zen motif running, the lounge chairs are still there which is great.

Spied these at a table nearby and snapped em, looked pretty good, they have a decent selection for breakfast but i have never been a fan of the viennoiserie.

i did however, split (literally) a blueberry muffin with the wife, tasty, very tasty.

The open faced balsamic tomato with mozzarella was freshy fresh tasting. It came with a side of dialed down mustard (god i hate mustard) and some upma which was cut in a neat little square, a very nice touch. Also a nice touch were the thinly sliced potatoes.

The iced-tea was not too sweet, which is just as well, however not pictured here is the fantastic orange peel cooler which though sweet was pretty stellar, a must order.

This was the view we saw by the time we got going to the other items in the menu.

The watermelon salad with feta was effing good. About the only way watermelon should be eaten in my opinion.. is with a dollop of feta cheese. I had another version of this at Indigo Deli recently as well. The only problem was that it was not the salad i had ordered and watermelon being a watery fruit, tends to leave a lot behind in the plate when you slice and dice.

The Napolitano wrap was pretty pretty good, recommended by the chef over the others, the wraps come in little bite sized portions which is a nice touch, easy to eat, especially for an animal like me.

The salad i had originally ordered, grape with goat cheese, they got it for me in the end anyway, not bad, but nothing stellar, not a patch on the Watermelon.

Overall, its great to have a proper place on the beach open again, that alone is worth the price of admission (just an expression) its a downright dirty shame that stupid regulations by stupid people prevent good things from happening (or maybe that's how they get their bribes going)

While i was there there were two pretty Asian ladies giving foot massages, which can never be a bad thing. The place is being positioned as an all day cafe dining space, which means the atmosphere is casual and the pricing not too bad. Once the specials are available it should round out the menu nicely.

However, its still a safe menu, not too much experimentation and there is plenty of that around (Indigo Deli's, Moshe Cafe's, Smoke House Deli etc) they all tread the same ground. The location and ambiance is certainly what sets this far apart from the competitors.

Service was friendly and eager to please all around though a tad scatter brained but you can chalk that down to early days. The front of house is not as snobbish as the Salt Water Grill used to be (unjustifiably so)thankfully.

Food : 8/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : 2100 for 2

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Duke Rises

Proof that Indian soft drinks are better than any other
 Dukes is the 100+ year old soft drink brand, perhaps best known for its club soda and lemonade flavor. Ginger and Raspberry were their other well known flavors. I think Mangola was also a Dukes product and far superior to Frooti (shite) and Slice, perhaps Tango was also their brand but i could be wrong.

Image Courtesy : Parsi Khabar

Very easy to sport by their distinctive spiral ridged bottles, which lined up in their array of colors, looked like the remnants of an acid trip. Dukes survived for a long time up until Pepsico bought them out and narrowed down the product line, pushing their crappy products against indigenous goodies (Coca Cola tried to strangle Thums Up as well but couldn't do it)

While Pallonji's and Rogers continued to be available locally, at Parsi weddings and Irani joints, Dukes slowly became invisible (i am a sworn capitalist but some of these MNC's have more muscle than brains)  Personally, my office is located near an old Dukes distirbutor and one of my memories as a kid was to walk by there look wide eyed at the crates of different flavors of Dukes stacked up to the ceiling.

Later, somewhere in the mid 90s post the Pepsi takeover, my grandfather was in talks to buy out a Dukes factory located at Lamington Road, i got a chance to walk across the plant, it wasn't huge or anything and it was sad to see everything given to decay and rust. I was quite excited about him buying it but it was not to be, in any case it would have turned into a building and he definitely was not going to become a soft drinks purveyor.

Liquid psychedelia anyone?

So, imagine my excitement when i heard that Pepsi was relaunching Dukes and throwing in a Masala Soda as well for good measure. Perhaps Pepsi is atoning for well.. Pepsi. Although the news broke in November, only the PET bottles were seen here and there, until finally i walked down to the dealer and life sort of came a full circle (in this context) and i ordered a crate. No Raspberry yet but have been promised i can pick em up by Saturday.

240 INR for the crate, not a bad deal. Haven't had any yet, washed the bottles in water and put them in the fridge, will wait until the raspberry's are here. Now that Dukes is back.. next ought to be the  most nostalgic bevvie brand of them all...

The Zing Thing Gold Spot (Coca Cola.. are you listening)

Monday, December 12, 2011


Rest : Debailleul
Meal : Post dinner dessert
Loc : Prabhadevi

Debailleul is a Belgian patisserie that opened its doors a few months ago, high end European desserts and chocolates are now available, unfortunately at European prices (one can also get Leonidas chocolates if one were feeling generous, i walk by every other day as its up the street from my place, never walked in, though i have picked up their goodies in the NYC)

Sitting in the bright, cheerfully lit space, one can very easily be transported to Paris/Brussels or Prague as the wife thought. In terms of design, from the menu to the little chocolate boxes, everything is aesthetically superb.

The menu is interesting, you have the whole shebang - gateaux, tarts and macaroons, bonbons and  ice creams(choc, vanilla) sorbets (raspberry, mango sorbet) but each variety has a limited offering.  They haven't gone crazy or tried to do too much which isn't too bad an idea.
The wife chose the Voltaire, chocolate goodness this one, a relatively thick dark chocolate exterior with soft mousse like innards. Excellent. 

Galloway, the one i chose, a blueberry filling in a cream cheese cake was recommended by quite a few but i found it to be a weak choice, pretty weak.

Raspberry Sorbet, brilliant, perhaps the best thing there.. but then i am extremely partial to sorbets so perhaps not the most objective a view.

Overall, the ambiance is nice, the service friendly and quick. The menu interesting and the offerings themselves good, the pricing however is on the extreme side, (Voltaire was 500, Galloway 500, the sorbets 250) at those prices, i would expect everything to be compelling and in that context they fall short. It is certainly not value for money and definetely not a place i would go often, also one could head to an Indigo Deli/Theobroma and pick up a few sterling choices at a lot less.

It is also unfortunately located right at the busy traffic light which leads to South Bombay from Prabhadevi one is guaranteed to struggle for parking during the day, best to drive over on Sunday afternoon or post 8pm.

Food : 8/10
Service : 8/10
Damage : Catastrophic 1250.

Thursday, December 08, 2011


As some of the readers here know, i have been hunting down ice cream sandwiches across the city. The first place i came across one was Havmore in Ahmedabad (linked here) and one of the readers Bhairav was kind enough to point out that i could find them at Breach Candy which is not too far from my house. In fact i stop by there often for some coconut milk and never occurred to me that they might do these.

So this is the Pastonji's ice cream sandwich, costs 20 INR same as the Havmor, however it is substantially smaller in size, bout 15% smaller. It also comes quite unfortunately packed in a plastic container, which looks kind of cool but is ridiculous because its quite a task to get it out without breaking it (well one could but it would require patience, time and a knowledge of physics - 3 things which dont lend very well to ice cream) i prefer the regular plastic wrapper, save money on the plastic and maybe give us a flavour or two? or a bigger sandwich?

Taste wise though, it was pretty good so in the end i reckon it was kinda sorta worth it. I dont know if its Parsi owned and run but Pastonjee is a Parsi name and im a great fan of Parsis (my rakhi sisters are Parsi) berry pulao, raspberry soda and a zillion other things.. Bombay would never be the same without their zeal to innovate ! 

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hot Review - Smoke House Deli

Rest : Smoke House Deli
Meal : Lunch
Loc: High Street Phoenix near McDonalds

Smoke House Deli is the brand spanking new restaurant in whats turning out to be the most attractive one stop shop for eating out, High Street Phoenix. The entrance is so subtle you could just miss it, so watch out between for the white door between McDonalds and the Blue Foods monstrosities Noodle Bar & Bombay Blue.

You walk in and the first thing that strikes you is that it is perhaps the most original, interesting and attractive space this city has seen in a long time. While Veda located a few feet away interprets all that is excessive about India, Smoke House Deli interprets, simplicity with quirky hand drawn art on its walls (i have been looking into their design, turns out its actually very cheap for a restaurant so full marks for originality and a lesson to everyone who thinks money trumps originality. More on the decor here)

The menu is directly in competition with the Indigo Deli's and Moshe's of the world, both of which have a presence only a few meters away. There is a breakfast section as well as a separate offering of eggs any which way. Sandwiches & Burgers, Soups & Salads and Mains round up the rest.

They have a full service license which means wine and booze, since we were there for lunch, skipped out on the cocktails but went for a Sangria which was awesome. The iced tea was sans sugar, considering my recent health scare (more on that some other day) but tasted allright.

The Greek salad was near perfect, gobbled it down fairly quick, nothing to say really, spot on.. just what a Greek salad should taste like. The feta makes or breaks it, there have been times when folk have used weaker or staler feta at times, which pretty much kills it.

The second salad we had was a sweety sweet mix of figs, pine , grapes et al. the salad was pretty good but a tad too sweet with grapes in there. if they just through in some goats cheese in there to dial down the sweetness, it would kill.

The spinach ravioli was not too bad, unfortunately for my wife who ordered it and fortunately for me it was not as big a portion as my entree.. :)

The penne in tomato and garlic dashed with Gorgonzola cream was simple and that was great. Nothing heavy, nothing overt, simple taste of tomatoes, garlic and pasta.. good stuff.

The bread basket was small but filled with fresh bread and was served in a little bag reminiscent of how they used to serve their bread back in the day at Salt Water Grill.. (thank you Maharashtra Government for robbing us of a brilliant location and continue pillaging do not stop till the well runs dry) The fresh butter was also pretty awesome.

The dessert was a Creme Brulee, which was pretty good, and a chocolate tort which was everything a chocolate torte should taste like and more.

Overall Smoke House Deli is a welcome addition to what is a crowded and competitive space. As i mentioned before, the theme of the menu is similar to both Indigo Deli & Moshe's and despite  Indigo Deli being the big daddy, the Smoke House Deli is younger and less intimidating (and i still cant get over the decor)

Hopefully SMD can keep up to the mark like Indigo Deli has which has been reason enough to over look what is terrible service.

Price wise too, they score, roughly 20% cheaper than Indigo Deli they are greater value for money and also have soup and half sandwich options for a soup + half a sandwich 400 a pop (which by comparison is a steal) 

Service was reasonably quick and friendly.

Food : 8/10
Service : 8/10
Damage : 3000 for 2 with a Sangria each.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Our friends Pooja & Pramit got married this weekend in a Gujju-Mallu wedding in Ahmedabad. I was quite looking forward to a gastronomic feast which it was but not exactly as i expected.

Ahmedabad has seen a fair bit of progress over the last few years, wide roads which are more or less clean and traffic is not too bad for a former capital. Two major national educational institutes (IIM-A and NID) a convention centre and an airport which is at best 30 minutes from most places.

Right at the airport i found a Havemor, which is all over Gujarat and has begun mushrooming in other states as well. They serve the ice cream sandwich, something i have been looking for quite a while but have had no luck in Bombay (K.Rustoms on Marine Drive does not really count)

The sandwiches were delicious and i had two a day throughout my stay there. I hope they add a chocolate flavored one soon. Apparently there is a Havemor outlet in Phoenix Mills, though i haven't seen it yet.

Our first meal that day was a totally south Indian home cooked meal complete with pappads, rasam, brilliant, BRILLIANT dal, curd rice (damn, i want to cry now, really)

Pramit, the groom and our man in Ahmedabad recommended we have breakfast at Laxmi Gathiya Rath (map) which is right on Nehrunagar circle. On a Sunday morning the place was fairly buzzy, they serve regular gujju staples,

The Khaman was brilliant, sweet with spicy chutney, good good stuff, i like my khaman softer with a little more water, this was dryer but not bad at all.

the white dhokla was pretty good as well, the fafdi/papdi was very different from what i am used to here, its usually dry and crunchy while this was just out of the frying pan and continued to be soft throughout our meal.

The patra were nice, though i have this habit of having em with ketchup, so felt a little incomplete.

the khandvi again, soft and surprisingly on the spicy side with flecks of chillies in and around.
the chutneys.. Overall the food was brilliant, however its plainly unhealthy for you, nearly everything was friend and they werent cheap about the oil either. Dont think id be able to do this more than once a month.

Another surprise was this crate we saw while leaving, after our chai. A crate of Sosyo, the evening before we were discussing old tv commercials and dead drinks we liked as kids. Sosyo had a catchy commercial and was easily available in the 80's but disappeared all together at some point.
But Lo and Behold, we see a crate and walked over to check out how it was possible.

Shailesh Prabhu, founder of Yellow Monkey Games, greedily gulps it all down.
Turns out Sosyo (website) is actually still alive and is an original Gujarat brand being exported globally (but not nationally) The drink is masala soda esque but not quite as spicy, it just needs to be chugged to be understood. Now if only someone would bring those awesome Gold Spot bottles back! (For the record Pepsi has revived Dukes which is the only good thing i can say about Pepsi)

As i mentioned before, i went for a wedding most of our meals were with the wedding party, as much as i wanted to slip out and get a thali (which i love) i really couldn't get around to it. Part of the reason was meals like the one above which were simply stunning. A traditional meal this is probably one of the best, south indian meals i have ever had.

there were sweet and salty banana chips, veggies, avial, puri, papads, the most amazing AMAZING tamarind chutney i have ever had, a brilliant sambar, pyasamas galore.

dal, rice and ghee, how on earth could that be anything but great. 

washed down by loads of spiced buttermilk. 

So all in all, the trip was amazing, the city was easy like Sunday morning (though i could never move there) the food was good all around, we had plenty of meals Gujju, South Indian, Punjabi, home made pav bhaji even and not a single one was below superb. 

Perhaps ill get a shot at Ahmedabad and their Thalis some day, until then Bombay will have to suffice !
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