Review posted this week
The bhaji was a huge turn off but the paav was orgasmic
That Sardar is famous for their signature paav bhaji is basic knowledge, I decided I must go there and eat the most revered paav bhaji in the city. Afterall, it automatically qualifies as a moral obligation for foodies to do so. I remember reading about Sardar’s legendary paav bhaji when I was in school and have since then, dreamt of how delicious it must be, especially after reading that they unflinchingly use an entire 100gm pack of Amul butter for one plate. Well, for me, this nugget of information seemed somewhat exaggerated (I think it’s somewhere between 50-75gm butter. Also, I think that line was an exaggerated manifestation of some diet-concious person’s butterphobia).
So, my best friend and I arrived at Mumbai’s paav bhaji Mecca, not surprised that their house speciality is the only dish on the menu, barring coldrinks and fruit juices. The ambience is a couple of notches lower than that of a hygienic Udipi restaurant, so don’texpect a cool crowd. The two of us ordered 2 paav bhajis and 4 extra paavs and waited with bated breath for them to arrive. This was the longest waiting time I had ever experienced in my life. I kept asking the waiter after regular intervals of 10 minutes as to when our order would arrive and he kept giving us chooran (read: lies, that too big ones) that it’s going to arrive anywhere between 5-10 minutes.
Finally, after a long wait of 45 minutes our order arrived (The foodie that I am, there’s no way I would have left the place without eating). The sight of the freshly arrived piping hot brown-ish coloured bhaji was a refreshing surprise. A refreshing surprise because it wasn’t like the schezwan sauce-cum-ketchup-coloured gravy that is served by a whopping majority of restaurants. Also, personally, I like the coarse texture of the bhaji (I dislike bhaji that’s textured like a smooth paste).
And now, for the moment of truth. The moment I ate the bhaji, I was sorely disappointed. The bhaji leaned strongly towards a garam masala (a blend of garam masala gone horribly wrong that is) taste than the trademark paav bhaji taste. Even drizzling some lime juice couldn’t redeem the bhaji. I ate only half the quantity of bhaji served (this is a huge aberration considering I have always, always, wiped off my paav bhaji plates clean). If Sardar’s bhaji didn’t conform to the standard paav bhaaji appearance-wise, it certainly did not do the same, taste-wise (And I don’t mean it in a good way).
And now to the butter (I believe the quanity of butter merits a separate paragraph altogether). No restaurant can beat Sardar when it comes to generosity of butter. The bhaji was topped off with nearly 3 times butter to that of other restaurants. The glossy paav’s looked absolutely mouth-watering afterall, they were drenched soaking wet in butter. The only things missing on the paavs were a halo, angel’s wings and a divine light emanating from them because they were truly orgasmic in taste. To hell, with cardiovascular health for a meal at Sardar’s. It wasn’t the bhaji, but it was the paav that did me in.
Favorite Dishes / Drinks: Buttered paav
Review posted this week
Un-pronto service but pretty decent on the palate and wallet
When I saw the names of the dishes and its corresponding prices on the takeaway menu of Pronto, it seemed too good to be true. Therefore, I wasn’t at peace mentally until I would check out the branch at Churchgate, myself. So I went there on Sunday night with some friends in tow. I’m sure that you too will suspect something fishy, if a place like Pronto is 75% vacant on a Sunday night. Especially because the uber-chic Umame next door is swarming with rich folks arriving in their fancy-schmancy cars (We spotted a jaw-dropping yellow Ferrari).
Though Pronto seemed a bit crammy because of their small area, the place was pretty ok with A/c and English hip-hop playing softly in the air. Since the restaurant was barely occupied, my friends and I, perched ourselves on a table and without wasting anytime decided our order — Pan Fried Mushroom & Burnt Garlic Soup (Rs 90), Pronto’s Special Pizza (Rs 210 for an 8 inch), Panchetta Pizza (Rs 175 for an 8 inch), Pasta Funghi Parmigiano (Rs 175) and Pasta Pollo Cacciatore (Rs 185). The staff is courteous but what I fail to understand is why would they take so long to take an order and deliver food in a reasonable waiting time.
After a long wait of about 17 minutes, our not-so-steaming hot soup arrived and frankly, I couldn’t care much about its temperature because my stomach already was rumbling with hunger pangs. The first spoonful of the Fried Mushroom & Burnt Garlic Soup was comfortingly delectable. The mushrooms, garlic, freshly chopped basil — all in harmony with a creamy broth that was thankfully, not too creamy. However, the chopped garlic bits which settle at the bottom of the soup bowl, were partially raw — characterised by its raw crunchiness and acrid taste — and not burnt garlic, which should have ideally been the case.
Now coming to the pizzas, we asked for thin crust and to my dismay, the thickness of the crust was a cross between a thin crust and the usual thick pizza. But this was forgiven because the pizzas were good. The Pronto Special Pizza came with generous quantities of chopped chicken pieces, slices of chicken sausage along with onion and capsicum. I, a pork-lover, relished the Panchetta pizza that came with a good combination of bacon strips, onions and basil leaves. Until Pronto came onto the picture, I don’t think there was any moderately priced restaurant serving pork/bacon pizza (Mamamia serves beef, not pork, sadly).
The pastas took their own sweet time to arrive (I wondered whether they were actually arriving all the way from Italy to our table). Since I have a preference for pasta in cheesy white sauce, the Pasta Funghi Parmigiano did not dissapoint and was decent enough. But the surprise of the night turned out to be the Pasta Pollo Cacciatore. The reason I avoid ordering pasta in brown sauce is because many restaurants go overboard with ground pepper to make the sauce look dark in colour. But Pronto didn’t do that. The roast gravy sauce was lip-smacking with a mild tang, devoid of the overdose of ground pepper and garlic, that happens so often. In fact, the Pasta Pollo Cacciatore was voted as the best dish on our table. (Note: The portion size of the pasta is for one person only, and doesn’t come along with garlic bread on the side). Unfortunately, the four of us were pleasantly stuffed and did not order for any dessert. Will surely go back again to try other dishes.
Despite the minor disappointments about the food and a major disapointment about their snail-paced service, Pronto is pretty decent on the palate and wallet.
Favorite Dishes / Drinks: Pasta Pollo Cacciatore
Review posted this week
Tasty, tiny treats
I first heard about Soam when I saw Kunal Vijaykar singing their praises on his show The Foodie on Times Now, some years ago and wanted to go there ever since. Though I’m a hardcore non-vegetarian, I appreciate vegetarian food cooked in traditional Indian style (I gleefully accept any opportunity to eat a Gujarati, Rajasthani, Punjabi, Maharastrian or a South Indian thali). But unfortunately, for most of my friends, eating pure veg food outside home is a strict no-no. Else I wouldn’t have had to wait so long to visit Soam. But I finally hatched an impromptu plan to go there earlier this week, and dragged my best friend i.e. my bakra along.
The fact that Soam offered Valet Parking not only impressed me but also increased my expectations from them. And so, as I entered the place, I was a bit disappointed to see so many tables crammed so closely together (I didn’t have to strain my ears to eavesdrop on conversations on either side of my table. Sadly, I don’t understand Gujarati).
The ambiance is good with A/c, and Indian music playing at a low volume. The restaurant has a nice traditional touch not only with the décor but also its cutlery. There was a table mat for each person made of out of dried leaves and food was served on golden-ish metal plates (My friend was so taken by the rustic touch, she thought we’re supposed to eat on those dried leaf table mats). Most of the items on the menu had Gujarati names but thankfully, they had English descriptions for strangers to their cuisine.
We ordered Sweet Lassi (Rs 100), Lemon and Basil Punch (Rs 90), Farsaan Platter (Rs 150), Paanki (Rs 100), Vatana Pattice (Rs 100) and Kesar Jalebi (Rs 120). Within 10 minutes all our food arrived in quick succession.
I began by spooning some of the green chutney, green chillies and chunda made with plum, dried dates and raisins kept in little colorful bowls on each table, on to my plate and began attacking the food one by one. The Paanki (3 pieces) was yellow-coloured rice flour batter, spread thinly onto banana leaves which were roasted on a hot pan. I peeled off the delicate paanki off the banana leaves (I was distinctly reminded of the act of peeling off a face mask) and ate them, relishing the taste – lightly spiced with a mild tang. The Vatana Pattice (2 pieces) was made out of a mixture of green peas in a spicy green masala stuffed inside a covering of mashed potatoes, rolled into fine vermicelli and deep-fried till crisp. The only downside of this dish was the powdery corn flower-ish taste of the mashed potato covering.
The Sweet Lassi had just the right balance of sweet and sour-ness and had the thickest consistency I have ever come across (a notch thicker than Kailash Parbat). The Lemon and Basil Punch was quite refreshing however, it left a slight bitter aftertaste post every sip. The Farsaan Platter (sounds very grand) turned out to be a small cane basket containing 2 small pieces of Palak Cheese samosa, yellow Dhokla, fluffy fried Kotimbhir wadi-esque snack minus the Kotimbhir and a mashed green peas samosa in the shape of a cresent. The Palak Cheese samosa was the star of the platter while the rest were decent except the mashed green peas samosa that wasn’t upto the mark.
The Kesar Jalebi was the best dish of the evening. The mini-sized yellow saffron-flavoured jalebis were crispy fried in ghee and lightly sprinkled with tiny almond flakes (These babies looked so cute patiently sitting in their serving bowl, waiting for me to devour them). I want all jalebis to be standardised to that of Soam’s because most places serve soft, thick, super sweet jalebis that irritate the throat after eating.
Overall the food was tasty but the prices don’t justify the small portions. (As per our bill, it was Rs 330 per head at Soam. With a similar amount, I can eat an unlimited Gujarati thali at places like Rajdhani, Samrat, Golden Star Thali or Friends Union Joshi Club). The service was friendly and quick. But if you don’t mind spending this much or more, it’s totally worth your money.
Note: Young folks might receive a mild culture shock at Soam as you’ll mostly find a middle-aged and elderly crowd. And everybody – customers and staff included – seem totally unfazed by little screaming kids running around the place.
Favorite Dishes / Drinks: Jalebis
Review posted this week
Don’t get deceived by the name. Besides their variety of good food, it’s their service and ambience that wins you over.
Discovering Tea Centre just two years ago is one of the many minor-yet-somewhat-significant regrets of my life. This restaurant, tucked inside Resham Bhavan building (and therefore, invisible to passers by), opposite Asiatic shopping centre, is one of the hidden gems in this city. You very likely to spot a mixed crowd, like a couple on a date, friends catching up on quality time, elderly folks, and professionals on a business meeting discussing work, at any given time. So, it is indeed a great place for all of the above.
As you enter this place, you’re greeted with a sophisticated old-world charm. Spaciously spread out circular tables covered with white table cloth such that conversations held on each table get their own privacy. The atmosphere is quiet with soft lights and instrumental tracks of classic English songs playing faintly in the background (you have to stop talking and listen to the music to decipher which song is being played). Placed on each table is a little bell you can ring (like the ones used during puja) when you want to summon the staff at your service. Perhaps, the best part about the place is that it has a very relaxed atmosphere, unlike any other bustling restaurant. The staff doesn’t pester you or hover around the tables for you to place your order, in order to prevent disturbing you during your conversations.
The name Tea Centre is very deceptive as they serve a wide variety of food and beverages. Their menu is divided into sections such as Teas, Breakfast, Snacks & Starters, Continental and Indian Cuisine (including starters and main course in vegetarian and non-vegetarian) and desserts. Since their menu is pretty diverse, making choices can be difficult.
So here’s my list of recommendations: Among hot teas, the Hot Buttered Apple Tea (delicious indeed and a sure-shot winner), Banana Caramel Tea, Pudina Chai and Lemongrass Tea. As for iced-teas, the Mojito (my most favourite), Peach, Strawberry and Mango. Other favourites include – for Starters, Chilli Garlic French Fries, Macaroni & Cheese Wedges, Murg Chatpata and Cream of Chicken Soup. In sandwiches it’s got to be Spicy Creamy Chicken and Chargrilled Meditarranean Chicken. Their Bruschetta and Sheperd’s Pie is delicious. For the Main Course it’s Pasta Alfredo (very cheesy with Chicken), Prawn Biryani. Sadly, I have not tried any desserts here because I’m always so stuffed with the food and beverages.
Recently, I had gone there for breakfast. My friend and I ordered the Executive Breakfast Non-veg (Rs 155) and Executive Breakfast Veg (Rs 125) and French Toast (Rs 95). We couldn’t resist ordering some Ham on the side (real pork ham, not that fake chicken ham variety) (Rs 80). The non-veg version of the Executive Breakfast included eggs (either fried, scrambled or poached), one slice of toasted brown bread along with butter and jam as accompaniments and a hot cup of robust Lemongrass Tea.
The veg version of the Executive Breakfast includes the same as above except, instead of eggs, you get to choose between Baked Beans on Toast/Tomato Omlette/Mushrooms on Toast. I chose Mushrooms on Toast, and boy, glad I did. Sauteed mushrooms in creamy, cheesy white sauce with crushed black pepper and freshly chopped basil leaves on toast just made my day. The French Toast was nothing to boast of. I wished it had a slightly crisp exterior accompanied by some maple syrup on the side.
Overall, Tea Centre is a sure-shot winner. The food is quite good, in fact you can blindly order anything on the menu. Their pricing is justified, and the ambience and service is even better. Don’t be in a hurry to eat here. Just relax, take your time, and savour the food and beverages leisurely.
Favorite Dishes / Drinks: Apple Crumble
Review posted this week
Head here when you’re in the mood for an unlimited Gujarati thali but are low on cash
There are are some good options for unlimited Gujarati / a mix of Gujarati-Rajasthani cuisine in Mumbai. Some of the well-known ones are Samrat at Churchgate, Chetana at Kala Ghoda, Golden Star Thali at Charni Road, Shree Thakkar Bhojanalya at Kalbadevi and last but not the least Rajdhani, Panchavati Gaurav and Indian Revival outlets which are scattered over the city. These places not only boast of delectable food but also good ambience and hospitable service. And most people don’t mind paying Rs 275 to 350 for a meal.
But what if you want to satisfy your unlimited thali cravings when you’re low on cash? I suggest you head straight to the no-frills Friends Union Joshi Club, an establishment that’s a little over 50 years old. It may sound similar to a ‘fancy-schmancy’ restaurant but it’s nothing close to that. They serve simple, rustic home style Gujarati food. I call it a no-frills place because unlike the restaurants mentioned above, FUJC doesn’t have A/C, soft lights and music or their staff dressed in colourful traditional Gujarati-Rajasthani costumes warmly greeting customers with smiles. This place has the ambience similar to an Udipi restaurant. But we’re here for the cheap food, remember? So let’s jump to that.
Thali joints have a slightly different menu eveyday, with the most elaborate one on Sundays. My friends and I had gone to FUJC on a Friday afternoon. The variety of food at FUJC is pretty much standard barring the absence of some favourites. The pickle platter placed on the table contained: typical spicy Mango pickle, sauteed chopped Green Chillies, spicy Green Chutney, Red Hot Chilli Paste and quartered Fresh Lime pieces. However, the pickle platter was marked by the conspicous absence of the staple sweet Mango Chunda or Chundo.
The staff begins to fill the thali with salad — diced Cucumber with Tomatoes, and cubed Onions served separately. Next come the veggies, crunchy Cabbage and Green Peas subzi, Rajma in typical Onion-Tomato gravy, Doodhi in a masala gravy and Potatoes in a watery-masala gravy. (I missed their delicous Karela subzi that I have had in the past.) Two types of Dal — Meethi Dal and Teekhi Dal, both were good. Unfortunately, they didn’t serve Sweet Dahi Kadhi, one of my favourites. Then came hot Rotis smeared with some Desi Ghee. Unlike some thali joints, they don’t serve Theplas, Biscuit Rotla or Nachni Rotla with Gud (jaggery) and White Butter.
The farsan/snack component, which should have been served at the begining of the meal was served much later. The lovely, spicy piping hot mini Batata Vada was served with sweet Imli (tamarind) chutney. The Chaas was of the plain salted variety, devoid of Cumin-Black Pepper Masala, chopped Coriander and Boondi. Then arrived at our table Plain Rice, no Khichdi or Pulav options here. And Roasted Papad. (I always prefer Fried Papad especially when I’m having a thali).
As for dessert, they had two options — Aamras and Gulab Jamuns. I chose the latter and boy! glad I did. Two medium-sized Gulab Jamuns stuffed with chopped Almonds and Saffron strands, yum-oh! (FUJC’s Rasgollas are pretty good as well.) However, I sorely missed their Puranpoli, a unique variety in the form of a thick gooey patty/cutlet drizzled with Desi Ghee.
Though FUJC has some staple dishes typically home to a Gujarati thali missing, it’s alright. I mean, where else would you get an unlimited Gujarati thali for Rs 180? (Rs 150 for food + Rs 30 for Dessert). Their food is reasonably good and the price that it comes for, one shouldn’t be complaining.
Favorite Dishes / Drinks: Gulab Jamun and Rasgolla
Find the best of restaurants, nightlife, events or movie listings around you with just a tap of your finger.
With Timescity mobile app, you can select any of the listed places, read reviews, look up their addresses, get directions, call them and share the contact details with friends. Download now!