Monday, January 30, 2012

The Newly Opened 36 Oak & Barley - A guest review

Rest : 36 Oak & Barley
Loc : August Kranti Marg, near Cumballa Hill Hospital
Meal : Dinner

This one has been reviewed by the wife, like everything else, she gets ownership of the blog and its therefore only fitting that she does a review. 36 O&B is just around the corner from where we live, though the building itself has a bit of a nasty reputation, its nice to have a new restaurant in the neighborhood. She had to meet a friend for a bite on a Sunday evening and with no intention to brave traffic.. voila a review for the new neighborhood restaurant.

36 Oak & B replaces East, the south east asian restaurant designed like a bit of an understated Tiki Bar or like the East coast based Penang. While East was around for a while, it never struck quite the chord with diners, the food was okay but nothing special, it was also quite oddly located (traffic, parking woes)

The place itself is quite large and a little loud in terms of design, a strong industrial streak runs through the layout which i think has been carried forward from East. The menu is expansive and covers a wide range of cuisines, focusing more on the plates, best of different cuisines.

The bean sprouts have been retained from the old East table service and were lovely, you could eat tons of this and still ask for another plate. The breadsticks were fairly ordinary.

The fondue was pretty decent

served with crispy bread.

a bit of a deconstruction with these things on the side if you so wish to indulge.

The falafal was pretty good with hummpus drizzle. Very enjoyable.

The risotto was creamy  but not heavy, an average dish.

Overall, the place has a relaxed ambiance, the decor is certainly high end, however they could have definitely toned it down and it would not have hurt the environment at all. The menu has a bit of a wide range and could serve as a decent all day dining spot but i think its a little too large (spread over 2000 square feet) a smaller place would have worked too. 

The service is top notch, no complaints. Their pricing is competitive too, as was the case with East.

Food : 7/10
Service : 8/10
Damage : 1750 (2 appetizers, a main, glass of wine and a mocktail)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Ramanayak Udipi Shri Krishna Boarding

Rest : A.Ramanayak Udipi Sri Krishna Boarding
Meal : Dinner
Loc : 1st Flr., LBS Market Bldg. Near Matunga Central Railway Station Mumbai
Company : Pat, Slash, Shri Samant Saheb

Four years ago with a great deal of expectation and anticipation i dragged a few friend to Ramanayak's, unfortunately we had a pretty sub standard meal, possibly one of the worst of the lot, we vowed to never go back. My post (here) attracted some fairly violent, disparaging comments. However i stood my ground.

For some random reason (and owing to my recent southie fixation) i figured it was time to give Ramanayak's a shot again and ascertain if it was a one off bad day or they well and truly sucked. So we ditched the car and hopped a cab to Matunga, the south Indian stronghold of central Bombay. My friend Pat who was with me the last time we dined here led the way as we tried to find our way.

Its not an easy place to find, its near the station, if you come from the main street, head towards the station, the building is at the end of the parking lot. Once you find the building don't enter, go around the back and you will find the door. Or you could stand on the main thoroughfare and moan "where the f*** is this place" like i did and someone will pop out and point you in the right.

It was packed inside but there was no wait, we walked in and paid up for our full meals (INR 130) you can also go for set meals (INR 48) and rice plates etc.

We grabbed our table, where we sat in twos, the banana plantain was already spread in front of us. Looking around the walls as you wait for the food you see their famous sign "The owner eats here" interesting, we were seated near the kitchen which looks fairly clean, a sign on the door invites you to inspect the kitchen if you so wish.

The contents of the thali are more or less standard, two gravies, a dry vegetable, a pickle, chapattis, poppadums, a small bowl of curd, fermented buttermilk, sambar, rasam, rice and one of three sweet dishes.

The food was pretty good, four years ago we were just robbed i guess, the place has been around for nearly seventy years, couldn't have lasted this long if they were no good. This time around, not a single item was below par. Spot on on every front, the rasam especially was possibly the best i have had, the fermented buttermilk i could drink gallons of (damn near tried too)no complaints.

Thalis are all about combinations and usually they put together enough dishes to appeal to most people, once in a while you will end up with a situation where none of the dishes work, perhaps that is what happened the last time. This time round, the combination worked.

The service too is functional, have to ask for a few things over and over but considering the environment it sort of seems to be part of the experience.

Overall, the food was solid, the service okay, i do think the pricing is a tad on the higher side, for example a full meal at Mani's served similarly was INR 100.

Food : 7/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : 130 pp

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Inflation or Insanity

I am laid up in bed due to a recurring inflammation of my peroneal tendon, a terrific pain that makes it impossible to put even a feather on my left foot. The doc advises complete bed rest, so as i try to kill time and work from home i happened upon my credit card statement from American Express.

The little telephone number marked at the top was apparently what i owed them, mind immediately flashed back to one of my fav movies of all time Wall Street. Early on in the film Charlie Sheen remarks to John C.McGinley  that American Express probably has a hitman out looking for him.

I find myself in a similar predicament, my love of food and wine is forcing me to cash in my unborn childrens college fund. While i as a lover of the good life can choose to dine frugally or eat at home (eww)i wonder how people running massive, ornate, stand alone restaurants manage as they obviously dont have the luxury of discretion. Especially as there are so many new ones or relatively new ones that seem to have an obsession with size.

Tote on the Turf owned by the Akerkar's of Indigo clocks in at 25000 square feet and has a rumoured monthly rental of INR 35,00,000 ($70,000) Despite the huge bar, a brilliant layout, the restaurant itself has never found a stable identity (unlike Indigo) it is now Neel serving an Indian menu.

Hakka San is massive, at 6500 sq feet and done to the nine's, their sister white elephant Yauatcha is nearly twice the size, with rumored spends on kitchen/decor to be North of 7.5 Cr ($1.5million)which seems irrecoverable from where i sit.
Canvas at the Palladium, Phoenixm Mills is laid across 7500 square feet and looks like it was designed by a Colombian drug lord, the food however was fairly atrocious.

Five star hotels have it easier,  especially the larges ones who have the space and can afford to experiment with them. The Taj came up with Wasabi, a signature restaurant of a well known chef, high ticket price, they fly in all their ingredients. Its a prestige restaurant more than anything else.

A recent conversation with a fellow gastronome revealed that Le Cirque at the Leela Palace does 1.5 Cr/month ($300,000 at present exchange rates) which sounds pretty impressive despite it being one of the most expensive restaurants in the country it seems well patronized. There is probably a sweetheart deal in place with Leela for rent and they get the cache of having such a prestige brand.

Besides, Le Cirque has never been about food, more about excess and a place to be seen. So financially despite the possible largish overhead and operational cost, the place is less of a risk than the stand alone joints that have gone overboard.

Restaurants are a competitive business and once the gimmick wears thin it really comes down to the food and the service but the fundamentals are always the same, you overspend and that makes it hard to get to profitability. Also, i think personally, that dining out has begun to touch stratospheric levels, especially for those of us who do it regularly and are not on expense accounts.

Thankfully places that have recently opened offer a more viable/affordable option, besides the myriad Indian options to dine out on. I wont name any because that would tantamount to advertising. Anyway, just my 0.02 cents until i get back on my feet (literally)


Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Rest : Mani's Lunch Home
Loc : Matunga, Near Kings Circle (map)
Meal : Lunch


Our dub session for Ashoka 2 got halved as one of the child artists was feeling unwell, with an unexpected afternoon off, we decided to get some lunch, an inspired choice by the wife who mentioned we should head to Matunga as its on the way and hit up Mani's (we had been discussing exploring more of Matunga as we both love to explore Southie food beyond the staples)

Not knowing where Mani's is we sort of bumbled our way to Matunga and reached a crossroad. The Mrs who is a smart cookie at the worst of times wanted to ask for directions but somehow i got the feeling that it was nearby, i picked a lane and bam! there it was. The wife was amazed and i kept wishing i could pick stocks like this.

Mani's is relatively small, cramped, no frills and very very crowded, so do not go into it thinking its going to be sexy in anyway, you want sexy southie food head to Daskhin at ITC or Konkan Cafe, this is fairly basic. You get the regular idli/dosa bunch of snacks but during Lunch hours most people come here for the thalis or for the rice plates. 

The thalis are served as a set one serving in regulation steel plates or one can choose to have a full meal on a banana leaf, both of us chose to go for the full meal. 


They serve chapatis, rice, rasam, sambar, a dry vegetable, two gravies, pickle, papad, yoghurt, buttermilk and a dessert. they also serve payasam on the weekends.
this litle dal/veggie thingy was fantastic, cant say enough about it, absolutely spot on, not too spicy, just right, tasted brilliant.

dry veggie was fairly standard, no real taste of its own, blandish, coupled with pickle or one of the other veggies and it was not too bad.

the second gravy was a potato dish, did not mind it much, the wife loved it but i would not put it in the same league as the red one.

they served a brilliant rasam but must only have it when its piping hot, the sambar was not bad at all. The yoghurt is sour and very tangy, the buttermilk made from the same yoghurt is fermented brilliantly. The dessert was okay, was too stuffed to have the pyasam, perhaps next time. 

overall, the meal was a pretty good but short of brilliant, i think they scrimped off by not serving as any chutneys (i would have expected atleast 2) or a munchy like banana chips as is traditional to do.

Definitely worth a go however.

Service is fast and can be a little rushed if they dont like you but is quite friendly on the whole, the ambiance is functional but thats how its meant to be and no real complaint about that. I am going to continue to explore the Matunga/Kings Circle area over the next few days and report as things go.

Food : 7/10
Service : 7/10
Damage : for 100 per person which is decent value for money.

PS. There are three restaurants owned by the same folks, all called Mani's so double check which one you end up at. The one mentioned here is the first one they opened decades ago, the food is apparently the same across em all.

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