Here is my last restaurant report from my brief visit to Bombay, just three months after I left. Don’t scoff: it took me nine months to get done with my reports from London in June and I probably ate out just as much in Bombay as we did in London. This was my penultimate meal in Bombay (I ate dinner at Highway Gomantak later that evening), and was the third in three days with my friend Paromita who is as ideal an eating companion as you could hope for: willing to eat anything but not easily pleased. We also ate together at Just Kerala and at my second dinner at O Pedro. For this last meal she recommended Taftoon in the BKC. I should state upfront that—as at lunch the previous day at Soam—we were not regular diners off the street. She has a close connection to the chef and we were afforded special treatment and a number of dishes were comped on the final bill. With that in mind, here are my thoughts on the meal. Continue reading
My restaurant reports from my Bombay trip in December have so far covered restaurants that largely serve traditional fare in traditional forms: Jai Hind Lunch Home, Just Kerala, Highway Gomantak, Soam and Swati Snacks. My two remaining reports are of restaurants that take traditional flavours and dishes and re-articulate them in more eclectic forms—though not in identical ways—for upscale diners. First up, a quick look at two dinners at O Pedro in the BKC area—a sterile conglomeration of office towers and expensive hotels for business travelers visiting those office towers. I was one of those business travelers staying in one of those hotels, and as O Pedro was a brisk 10 minute walk from my hotel, and as I was dining alone on my first night in the city I decided to give it a go. I liked the food enough to want to come back with company and try more of their menu. Herewith, the details. Continue reading
Okay, I’m back in Bombay and back at another iconic Gujarati vegetarian restaurant, and depending on who you talk to, perhaps the iconic Gujarati restaurant in the city. Soam opened about a decade and a half ago and quickly established itself as the main challenger to Swati Snacks‘ crown as the purveyor of the finest Gujarati food, traditional and contemporary. My Bombay friends—those who live there and those who visit often—are pretty evenly divided. Some say Soam, with its larger menu and size and its less spartan aesthetic, is the clear front-runner; others acknowledge that Soam is good but wonder why anyone would ever go there over Swati Snacks. As one who is not from Bombay, knows little about Gujarati food, and has not eaten enough at both restaurants (three times at Swati Snacks, just this one time at Soam), I am not qualified to have an opinion. I can, however, tell you what my lunch there on this trip was like. Continue reading
This was actually the last proper meal I ate in Bombay on this trip but I am writing it up out of order now as I am a little pressed for time and it involves resizing fewer pictures than all my remaining Bombay meals.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Bombay food scene—as I imagine most of my readers are—the name of this restaurant is probably a big mystery to you. It is actually very simple: the restaurant serves Gomantak food—a subset of Goan/Konkani food—and this is a branch of the original Gomantak restaurant that is located by a highway in Bandra. Thus Highway Gomantak: mystery solved. As with many restaurants in this genre in Bombay, it is an unassuming restaurant that serves Goan food of a kind completely unknown in North India, leave alone in the US. This is not the Goa of vindaloos and sorpotels but of fish curries and rava (semolina)-crusted fried fish and shellfish. All these restaurants serve an array of seafood dishes that are basically iterations of a few preparations with a range of fish and shellfish. Add some thalis and some side dishes and that’s your menu. As with many restaurants in the genre, the price is on the low side and the quality is on the high side. Continue reading
Dinner plans on my second day in Bombay were for a seafood blowout at Jai Hind. The proper thing to do would have been to eat a light breakfast and early lunch to prepare. Accordingly, I had a big bowl of uppma for breakfast at the hotel and went out for a late and massive Malayali lunch. I was meeting a friend—whose love of good food matches mine but whose capacity I may have pushed to the limit over the three days we spent hanging out, discussing work and so on. Anyway, I wanted to eat Malayali food in Bombay—on the principle that it must be better than in Delhi given the greater proximity of Bombay to Kerala. Just Kerala on the second floor of Hotel Samraj in Andheri East was her pick as a casual, no-frills old-school Kerala eatery and so it proved to be. This is a good thing. Continue reading
The food of the southwestern coast of India is something I had almost no sense of when I was growing up in India. I grew up all over India but, other than brief visits to Goa, never went further south than Hyderabad; and as an adult I didn’t spend much time in Bombay till after I’d left India for the US. It wasn’t until I ate at Swagath in Delhi in the early 2000s that I realized just how different the cuisine of coastal Karnataka, particularly Mangalore, and of the adjoining Konkan coast is from the South Indian cuisines I was more familiar with. And I just loved it. But as good as Swagath was in its heyday, its food cannot compare to what is available in Bombay—which makes sense as the cuisine is both seafood-heavy and because Bombay, due to proximity, is chock-full of people from those parts of the country. As a result, whenever I am in Bombay I try to eat at at least one restaurant that specializes in Mangalorean/Konkani/Malvani cuisines. On this trip Jai Hind Lunch Home was my first such stop. Continue reading
Delhi has probably overtaken Bombay as the premier food city in India* but there are a number of cuisines for which Bombay is rather obviously superior. Malvani, Mangalorean and Parsi are three of these cuisines and Gujarati is another. And if you are in the city the very best place perhaps to eat Gujarati food is the venerable Swati Snacks in Tardeo. A Bombay institution that first opened in 1963, Swati Snacks is the kind of place where you can get a handle on how difficult it is to talk glibly about “traditional” food in the Indian and especially in the Gujarati context. Culture does not stand still and there’s no tastier way to confirm this truism than by taking the measure of the menu at Swati Snacks where thalipith with pitla can be had alongside bajri paneer pizza. A meal at Swati Snacks is a must for every first-time visitor to Bombay. Me, I go on every visit to the city. Continue reading