Category Archives: Bandra Bites

A busy evening at Bandra. Moshe’s

I was all set to toss-up a rather piquant pasta for K today with the spaghetti that Ranjit gave me, Sassy Fork’s smoked Gouda and the mild hard award-winning goat cheese that Maunika gave me. I’d picked up a rather sharp Hungarian salami made in Holland (!)  from Sante to liven up things. Which is when K suggested going out for dinner as I was leaving the next day. The idea of having someone cook for me and someone serve me in a nice place seemed quite tempting and I agreed.

But what’s with people these days? It was 10.30 PM on a Thursday and Out of The Blue was full. As was Sancho’s. We checked out Mangi’s and it seemed to have shut down. K suggested Salt Water cafe which is when I thought of Moshe’s. K called and we luckily got a table. The restaurant turned out to be half full and close to closing time.

I’d wanted a sugary ice tea and the black currant ice teas worked for us. The Mezze platter was outstanding. the baba ganoush, the taboule (the hing curd thing, hope its the right spelling), the hummus and a goat cheese and spinach mezze tickled our fancy and made us forget the hovering mosquitoes and the friendly but blundering and inept waiters. They charge 8 % service charge for the latter and K added a bit more to that.

We ordered a greek beef stew which the waiter initially told us was not available. Looked and tasted like Kosha Mangsho. They served this with some of my favourite olive focaccia here when we requested for bread. They’d given us some extra pita too and I need to heck with K whether they charged for this.

I skipped their legendary baked cheese cake and went for the ‘chocolate puddle’. It flopped on your plate like a like a peaceful, sleeping baby and was the perfect send off before I headed to the other side.

I am off to Australia now for a rather a schizophrenic trip of conference paper presentations and food and travel discoveries. Melbourne, Perth, Sydney … sounds like a cricket series to me.

PS Still not sure of WP and might go back to blogger

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>The excellence in customer service award goes to Amore

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This is a tale that had to be told. Was just floored by the service of Amore Gelato at Bandra.

I was craving for ice cream couple of nights back. Last night too. We sat down for dinner. K called Amore. No one picked up. She called up Baskin Robins. No one picked up. Disheartened I sat for dinner.

Suddenly the phone rang. It was someone called Yasin from Amore.He was calling back our number. For the record, this was a new number for them so they didn’t know that we had called up. We usually call from my phone.

Yasin explained that their systems were down and they couldn’t deliver.

Well, nice of them to call back and tell us that.

But he went on. Apparently their head office has asked them to take down the number of those who had called to order but couldn’t get ice creams. They were to be given a complimentary gelato when the systems started working.

Well, we forgot about it. Anyway who was going to order an ice cream the next day to get a free ice cream? Chapter closed.

Tonight K got a call just as she was returning. It was from Amore. Their systems were working. They wanted to know what was the flavour that we wanted. We would get a medium cup on the house to make up for yesterday.

Ten minutes later the bell rang. It was Yasin. With a large cup of Ferrero Rocher flavoured gelato.

No questions asked.

Take a bow Amore.

Note: Amore’s phone number at Bandra is 65208300

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>Ho hum…. California Pizza Kitchen, BKC, Mumbai

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Finally went to the California Pizza Kitchen today. We were at Bandra Kurla during lunch time. I thought that we might as well try the CPK there out. All I had heard about it so far was that it was expensive. No one raved about the food.
We walked in to find the place quite crowded on a weekday afternoon. A mix of the white collar crowd and kids. Well BKC is a bit of a desert with fancy office buildings but hardly any eating places. There was some outdoor seating and the weather was pleasant enough for that. We sat inside though in the largish restaurant with a modern clean decor.
The service was friendly and prompt. There were quite a few smiling and attentive waiters around. And, yes, they did add a service charge for this.
I had a peach ice tea which had character and was not one of those sugar syrupy ones that they often serve at local restaurants.
We followed this with tortilla soups which my lunch mate recommended from her last visit here. It was a thick tomato soup. The menu card described this as having ‘vine fresh tomatoes’ with green chillies. The chillies were not visible but made their presence felt through their heat. There were crisp tacos strips which melted into the thick soup and combined with soft, sweet corn to give an array of interesting textures. This was a good pick.

There were pastas and salads but I wanted to eat a pizza. It was the ‘pizza kitchen’ after all. They didn’t have small portions or slices. So I chose a vegetarian pizza. Now, don’t gasp. My lunch mate is vegetarian and she offered to eat soup and salads while I had a pizza. That didn’t seem fair to me and the pizza sizes seemed to large for one person. She even sportingly suggested adding non vegetarian toppings on half the pizza. There were some interesting vegetarian combinations which I thought were worth trying. Plus I didn’t want to be seen as the boss who bullies his juniors.
I chose a pesto pizza for us. The result was a dish which had a lot of promise and yet disappointed. And that had nothing to do with the lack of meat. The thin crust was phenomenal. Very limber and fresh. Not over crisp at all. Very elegant with a stream of melted mozzarella discreetly flowing through the crust. This was sheer genius.
The pesto was very disappointing though. It didn’t have the zest and spunk of a good pesto. I like pesto because I find it to be raw and fresh and with loads of attitude. The mix of fresh basil, sharp garlic, pine nuts and Parmesan is meant to be a robust and manly combination. The pesto in the California Pizza Kitchen on the other hand was too sweet and dainty. More feminine than masculine. Could have passed of as the sweet version of the Gujarati dish, Undhiyu. The presence of meat wouldn’t have made a difference.
The sun dried tomato added to the saccharine motif. The only respite came from the odd piece of chopped red olive which gave an occasional much needed edge to the dish. So it wasn’t the lack of meat which failed the pizza. It was the very poor pesto which spoilt the effect of the fantastic crust.
The regular version of the pesto pizza came with cottage cheese or paneer which had too neutral a taste to make a difference. In retrospect goat cheese, which was there in other combinations, would have helped. The nomadic salty taste of goat cheese could have salvaged the gulab juman syruped pesto pizza. On asking a waiter I found out that I could have opted for this. Too late.

The pesto was anything but robust

Crust was a work of art though

Just realised what was listed below the pesto pizza. What was I thinking?
So should you go to CPK? Only if you are at BKC. Don’t mind spending Rs 700 – 1000 (18- 20 USD) for two. And are not a very demanding eater.
As for me, maybe I need to visit it again and find some meat.

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>Lazy post: Khar Koli Fresh Water Fish Festival at Poonam’s

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Off to a vegetarian dinner cooked by a friend. Might label these later. Might not 🙂 OK, I did Mom’s always thrilled by the fact that they cut and clean the fish here unlike in Calcutta where you have to pay another guy to do so. In fact Mom let me to Poonam’s shop when she came to Mumbai. Poonam and her sister and mom were thrilled to know that I had gone to the Vasav Koli Festival.

By the way, this is a post by Sassy Fork on a real Koli Festival going on at Mahim right now

Rui Kaalia step one

Ilish…the key to a Bong’s heart

Poonam Cuts my ilish. Her mom cuts the rui

While her sister negotiates price with another docile Bengali gentleman

This surmai looks a bit stunned

wish I knew how to cook crabs

I bought some surmai slices even as K hollered on the phone “but we never finish them”

Ironically fresh water fish is cheaper than sea fish in the coastal city of Mumbai

These prawns looked so tempting. Why couldn’t spinach have high cholesterol?

Machher mudo or fish head. A Bengali wet dream

The Koli fresh water fish festival

Putting a price to our friendship

Sorry fellow Bongs

A well stocked Bong fridge

Alu chhok. A dish inspired by a tweet by @madhumita

Ilish bhaaja

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>Khar’s new Urban Legend. Sancho’s

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We went to Sancho’s one evening. They didn’t take reservations. We didn’t get a table. A colleague and her husband went another night. They didn’t get a table too. In fact I didn’t know anyone who had gone to this new Mexican restaurant at Khar and eaten there. Yet, this was the restaurant everyone couldn’t stop talking about. For Mumbai barely has a Mexican restaurant. Very different from the late 90s when there was Taco Bell at Bandra’s Turner Road and a place called Sheriff at Linking Road, Bandra. Then the Mexican wave died. Till there was Sancho’s. But then again no one had actually eaten there. Was Sancho’s an Urban Legend?

I was unimpressed by the Mexican food in Mumbai in the late 90s. A forgettable tradition carried on till today by the Cream Centres and Bombay Blues of the world. Sticky, creamy, red things called nachos, enchiladas and other Gujarati sweet nothings. Mexican food in Mumbai was soon defined as beans, ketchup and poor quality melted cheese over sticky crackers.
Then Anthony Bourdain came into my life. I saw the episode of No Reservations where he went to Mexico City with one of his sous chefs. Apparently most kitchen chefs and workers in NYC are Mexican. Just as waiters in Mumbai in the late 90s used to be Bengali. Bourdain’s Mexico was very different from the synthetic Mexican of Mumbai. A riot of reds, greens, purples. Rich meats. Menacing chillies. Guacamole. Stuffed capsicum. This was oceans apart from the red plastic “Mexican” of Mumbai’s Gujarati havens. Then I read Anthony Bourdain’s book, ‘A Cook’s Tour’. The chapter where he goes to the ranch of another Mexican sous chef. Of the cow that was slaughtered and slow cooked underground. And the hours of tequilas which gave it company. This was a different world. A world for real men. Men who love to eat. And are proud about it. I had to go there. I had to experience it. I had to follow in Bourdain’s footsteps as my rites of passage.  And till I made it to Mexico, Sancho’s seemed to be the answer. But how did one go there? It is so difficult to get a table in the evenings. Then I thought of going there for lunch on my birthday. What better day than one’s birthday to experience something new?
We got a table. The restaurant was fairly empty on a Monday afternoon. Barring a table of vegetarian ladies who kept comparing the food with rajma and roti that they could make at home. The first thing that struck me was the sense of space. Sancho’s was not as small as we thought it would be. In which case the sort of crowds it garnered night after night was creditable. There was a certain calm and serenity to the place which is just what one needed after a dinner at home which ended at 4 AM.
Our first waiter was a bit circumspect. That wouldn’t work for me at a pricey place with an unfamiliar cuisine. I asked for a change of waiter and the next gentleman was sure of his stuff. We skipped the Margheritas and Sangrias (off the menu) and went for ice teas and Diet Cokes. I started going  though the menu and was impressed by the fact that they had divided it into authentic Mexican and Tex Mex (which is the American Mexican equivalent of Indian Chinese in spirit).

So the Mexican pork corn taco (RS 350ish, 7 USD), which we chose, was soft unlike Tex Mex which apparently was crisp. Our meat of choice was pork. ‘Belly’ as the waiter confirmed. K and I were both awed by the delicacy of the dish. It was a wrap stuffed with red meat, peppers, guacamole (thick like the way a girl I met recently said it should be). Yet seemed to float in our mouths. The taco extremely soft with a pleasant mouth feel. The pork as poetic as real meat can be. We chose Habanero Peppers, the hottest apparently in Mexico, to season our tacos. And boy, they seared even our Indian chili trained palates.

The tacos came with refried beans and K kept saying how she enjoyed her ‘rajma’ (Punjabi kidney beans) much to my discomfiture. I asked for an extra serving of guacamole which was a tad salty to eat by itself.

The other dish that I chose was a chicken chocolate mole. We had read about the use of chocolate in Mexican cooking in the book ‘Like Water Like Chocolate’. The chicken mole at Sancho’s was a more expensive dish (Rs 550 / 11 USD) than the taco. We got rice, beans, two thin strips of chicken with the chocolate sauce and a sprinkling of sesame seeds on its. The sauce wasn’t sweet and had a deep masculine taste to it with the understated heat of chilli. I guess that we haven’t taken to the taste of chocolate in food. Just as some don’t take to the taste of mustard in Bengali food. K said, “I don’t like anything coming between my chocolate and me”. I agreed. The tacos was a tough act to follow. The mole didn’t work for us.

Still, I must say, that it was after a long time that I had gone to a newly opened restaurant and really liked it. No wonder Sancho’s is full all the time. I hope they find space for us if we want to go there again some evening.

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>The Seventh Day: JATC turns into EATC

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I got a bit emotional the other day when I saw that JATC had shut down. I poured my heart out at this post.

A week later the great but elusive @anaggh, ‘the ghost who tweets’, tweeted me about a food tasting as I headed to the gym. @musingsman was arranging it Didn’t take much to change my mind and I was off to what was once JATC. Turned out that it was opening as ‘Eat Around The Corner’. Cashing in on the old fan list though the name doesn’t really flow IMHO.

It was a secret tasting that evening. All hush hush. No photographs allowed. Mr Sanjay Narang was there and it was good to meet him. It was great talking to the the head Chef ,Chetan, a well travelled man who knew his food. I was relieved to see some of the old staff around. The look of the restaurant had changed to a more classy black and white theme. Gone were the chirpy sea blue and whites. The quirky posters were gone. Then I was shown that a few reproductions had remained for us loyalists. I was assured that waffles would be served too. And after a few attempts they managed to recreate the chocolate milk shake K so loved.

I caught up with some prominent tweeps @berges, @B50 and @Netra but soon left them and chatted with Chetan as he hand crafted a gouda, ham and honey mustard multi grain melt which would have sent my pa in law cartwheeling in joy. The breads are baked in house apparently. I tried the pepporoni pizza which had a nice mouth feel despite being out at the counter for a while. A moussaka which I liked for a change… some enchanting hummus and I am quite finicky about it. My first taste of guacamole and later a tantalising strawberry cheesecake. From what I understand, EATC builds on the JATC concept of soups, salads, entrees, pizzas, desserts, coffees and teas… but gets more sublime, aesthetic AND expensive.

We were supposed to keep quiet about this but then the formal preview happened today. Bunkin Banu had done her disappearing act so I swung by at EATC on the way back.

Quite a few tweeps were there. @  @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @ @I ended up piling up meats beside Mahatma Gandhi’s Grandson who seemed to be doing the same. Found out that you don’t turn into a prince if a former Miss India shakes your hand.

K joined me after that and made a beeline for the ice cream counter after some salads. We sat where our old table used to be. Or so we thought.  The layout has been changed after all. The ‘John’ is gone and there are two swank loos now. Those who have more than a decade of history at JATC, like we do, would know what this means.

The fresh highlights for me were the rather sharp chorizzo and the curried rice which as Chef Chetan explained was made with coconut milk, beans and Indian curry powder. The latter’s apparently used in the Caribbean too. The dish didn’t evoke much faith visually but looks were pleasantly deceptive here. The Jamaican stew was too Indian curry like for me though. The Illy cappuccino was quite robust. Rs 127 according to the menu board.

We wanted to go to EATC for breakfast on my birthday. Hadn’t opened then. Is opening in a couple of days now and we will head their waffles soon. Hope they keep to the standards of the tastings when they get down to business.

Disclaimer: This was not an anonymous review. Was carrying my BB and not the camera on the day when it was not ‘in camera’!

The strawberry cheesecake won over my heart

Good to see some familiar faces

The coffee was pretty good

Berges who is on a mission to make the world a quieter place

Was impressed by how fresh the pizzas tasted despite being out at the counter

Chef Chetan justifiably thumping his chest after a job well done

The chorizo was nice and sharp

I think this is roughly where K and I used to normally sit

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>RIP JATC

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“I can walk to a place where butter melts on hot waffles and coffee shops know my name. That’s why I live in Bandra.”  Mrs Knife’s Facebook Status after our last breakfast at JATC
It felt strange to see the grey wall in front of me as I drove down today.
I felt like the legendary Bengali lover, Devdas, coming back home to find that his childhood sweetheart had got married and had gone off to her in laws. 
I knew that JATC Bandra had shut down a few days back. Twitter was abuzz with it. It’s just that I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Was oblivious to it. Till I saw the high walls coming up where the welcoming gate once was. A part inside me died.
Just Around The Corner or JATC at Bandra was so much a part of my life here. It was a landmark. It represented everything that Bandra promised to a set of out of towners who had come to make their fortunes, all right who am I kidding, to get a job, at Mumbai. The atmosphere was casual, young, vibrant. You got a peep of the fringes of Bollywood. Over the years I had spotted Tabu and Mallaika Arora here. JATC was open late into the night. We could hang out here much later than what we were allowed to back home. It was a common meeting place. A place to grab a salad before catching a movie at Gaiety, Galaxy. Sarfarosh on a wet night if I remember right. The salad bar itself was so typical of our new world. It was a new concept. Symbolic of the new life we had moved into. As were the brownies and ice creams.
A year of courtship followed. We would stop at JATC at least once a week for dinner. Would have been more if K could rebut my theory that ‘salad isn’t dinner’. The ‘all you can pile on your plate’ salad concept was manna to couples eating on a budget. I was an expert of talking a half plate (Rs 70, 2000-01), piling salads then more sauces then more salads…then topping it with boiled eggs and desperately searched for pieces of ham. Patting it all together with a fork to form a pyramid. Hoping that the wobbling tower of boiled stuff wouldn’t topple over before you reached the cash counter. Come on, admit it, you have all done it.
Bachelorhood ended and the salad dinner dates turned into waffle breakfast outings. They had a waffle and coffee combo at JATC. That along with a Mid Day, that K would give me 5 Rs to buy with, was the only way to start a Sunday.
Then  Candies came into our lives, the odd trip to Crepe Station or Coffee Bean, and the breakfast trips to JATC became rare. Plus I would always end up bursting a few blood vessels as week after week the folks at JATC would never follow my instructions to get the waffles and coffee together.
Of course JATC was about more than just salads and waffles. A preferred spot for her to storm off to after the noodles turned out to be soggy and over cooked. A place to pick up the chocolate milk shake that she so liked when she was home and not well. With extra chocolate sprinkles. The place where we picked up pastas one NYE when we couldn’t get a restaurant table.  A place to have the in laws over for sandwiches that ‘daddy liked’. Chicken junglee, shredded ham and cheese. And boiled egg salad for the mother in law.
We went to JATC after ages sometime back. The waffles were perfect. Butter and honey happily flowing over mine. Just butter over hers. The coffee was brought in at the right time. The conversation was pleasant. The morning scripted to perfection. The birds were chirping. The world was happy.
Little did we know that it was our last breakfast at JATC, Bandra.

PS: This was apparently not The End. Read this 10/2/2011

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