Parsi Da Dhaba, In Between Vapi and Mumbai

Parsi food sure is becoming super popular! Everywhere I go, people want to talk about the places they went to eat Parsi food and what they tried. S and I are both vegetarians who eat eggs but according to our friends, if you don’t eat meat you can’t fully experience the joys of Parsi food. I do agree with that because most of their diet is meat based and the way the cook the meat adds to the charm; but vegetarian eaters need not feel left out! There are quite a few things you can eat which are vegetarian or which have eggs. If you don’t eat eggs, I think you may have a problem!

Parsis are a fascinating and very jovial community. If you haven’t lived in Bombay, your chances of interacting with Parsis is bound to be very limited. They have excellent English, are very good at theatre, have a very distinct fashion sense and possess the ability to laugh at themselves. Their culture is unique to them and Parsi weddings or festivals are wonderful to observe.
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S and I were driving to Bombay this last weekend and when we told some friends about it, they said we absolutely must stop at Parsi da Dhaba.  One  of them even went as far as saying that the only way he would drive down to Bombay is to eat the food there. With such rave reviews how could we NOT go there? We weren’t sure  exactly where it was but Google Maps sure knew it! Fortunately they have sign boards and ample parking space. We were not sure if we entered the right place so moved around a little precariously.
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The garden restaurant echoes the way a lot of fancier dhabas are. They have simple, brown plastic tables and chairs and huts erected. Its quite shady and since we went around winter time it wasn’t hot at all even though there were no fans around us. We were seated quickly and had our menus in front of us in a short span of time. Our friends had strongly suggested getting the ‘dudh nu puff’ and there were a whole lot of flavours to choose from including chocolate, rum and brandy. We settled for vanilla. I loved their menu because it had a little explanation and a brief background/story of the dish.  Traditionally, the glass of milk is kept by the windowsill to cool through the night and is frothed  the next morning so that it has a frothy top called puff. We weren’t exactly sure what this was so we decided to split one. Its a small glass which is filled 1/3rd with sweetened and flavored milk. And topped with a huge puff. Its very light on  the stomach and I can easily imagine having 3 or 4 of these myself!
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I am a huge French Toast lover and when we went to Gir recently, more about that in my next post, I ate French Toast every day for the 5 days we were there! Parsi da Dhaba also had French Toast on their menu and the description said if you haven’t eaten French Toast their way you haven’t eaten it at all! Of course I HAD to try it.. It is served as 2 slices of bread covered in a golden eggy mixture. I tasted a hint of vanilla and it was sweet and moist enough that I did not need honey with it. Not bad, but not the greatest. I personally did not enjoy the bread and would have preferred if they would have used a slightly thicker bread.
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S wanted to eat Dhanshak but we were driving to Bombay abd he didn’t want to fall asleep at the wheel after eating the rice and Dhanshak. He settled on tamatu per edda or an egg on tomatoes. The tomatoes are more like a gravy and there is a fried egg on top of it. We  had eaten papeto per edda or salli per edda which is an egg on potato chips, but our server said that the potatoes stick to the pan and this turns out much better. I love the Parsi tomato sauce! It has a different sweetness, not sugar but  honey or jaggery. I’m not sure. And it is very subtle. You can still taste the sourness of the tomatoes but they have a good balance with all the spices. All in all it was great! Parsi da Dhaba serves a great tamatu per edda with all the flavors balanced just right! The yolk is slightly runny and looks gorgeous with that golden liquid oozing out of it.  S ate it with their rotis which are like homemade phulkas. They are light and have the sweetness that comes from wheat. Perfect accompaniment to this dish.
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I was still a little hungry since the French Toast wasn’t really that heavy. I decided  to order some baked potatoes. They were beautiful. Covered and served in foil and thrown in the charcoal pit, they have a nice smokey taste. They  are served with a little bit of pepper, salt and butter. Potatoes that amazingly satiate the need for carbs in a healthy way. Just as soon as I ordered the baked potatoes I stumbled upon aloo parathas in their menu. I don’t know why but I was craving potatoes terribly that day. After I made S swear that we would share the paratha with me, just so that I don’t feel lie a glutton, I ordered them. They came quickly and were piping hot. The aloo parathas were served with a side of curd which was thankfully not at all sour and was thick and creamy. I love my curd and hate it when restaurants serve sour and thin curd. The parathas were crisp, hot and obviously had a good amount of oil in them. They had an excellent filling of potatoes, onions, chillies and spices. Simple yet perfect. Judging by the parathas I would think that their Punjabi food would be great too!
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Besides Dudh nu Puff, the other highly recommended thing was the caramel custard. It was so delicious! Creamy, eggy, sweet with a hint of gorgeously caramelised sugar and it had air bubbles. Now I’m not really a fan of custards but this was very good. It wasn’t very heavy on the stomach for some reason so even though we had eaten so much, the dessert didn’t make us uncomfortable. We completely relished it and savored every bite. I can’t think of a better way to complete this meal.
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The menu at the Dhaba has a section at the back for information about Parsis for non-Parsis written in a very jovial and light hearted way. Its a delight to read it. Some of the facts I loved were – “You eat 30 eggs a day”, “If you have a tan then you are off the marriage market” and “You secretly think you are related to the Queen”.
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The service is quick, efficient and the place is very clean. Its nice enough to visit with family as well and we were surrounded  by tables that had come with grandparents and all.  The food is great and I’ve heard the non-vegetarian food is amazing! Its not too far from Thane and is worth a visit on Sundays for a long drive and some yummy food.  This place is the prefect highway Dhaba and I can’t wait to take another long drive to Bombay just so I can visit here.
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For good food, quick service, a clean  restaurant and reasonably priced food, I give Parsi da Dhaba a 4 out of 5!

Happy Travels!!

Restaurant details: Located on NH 8, Village Varwada

Restaurant Contact: +918806279379

Cafe Mangii, Powai

The last time I had visited Powai was in 2001 or earlier.  In fact it has been so long that I can’t remember anything at all about the place. Hiranandani was still quite new and though people had moved in, it was completely a different  story. S and I were going to meet up with a few of his friends in Powai and I had zero recollection of the place. I was intrigued to see how it looked now and wanted to know for myself if it really was as clean and wonderful as everyone had been saying. It was a looong drive from South Bombay, but since it was a Sunday it was much faster and a delight to see so many different areas. For the first time, I saw IIT Bombay!

But let’s talk about Café Mangii. I had heard so much about the place and in fact had planned to visit the restaurant in Pune where they opened a branch a few months ago. Unfortunately, that had never worked out. I was keen to try the pizzas which were called some of the best in Bombay by a very credible source. 4 of us from a party of 15 reached a little earlier and I was glad that I could make my first impressions while the entire restaurant was still quite empty. The entrance has white pebbles strewn on both sides of a wooden pathway. Atop the pebbles, that have very Mediterranean inspired tables and chairs, which would be great to have a cup of coffee in the evening and some dessert.

We walked in and after a little planning from the host’s side, they seated us. We were really hungry and it seemed like everyone was going to be a little late so we went ahead and ordered.  We decided to start off with jalapeño poppers, Gnocchi in a creamy pesto sauce and a light Caprese Salad. The jalapeño poppers were flavoursome, not spicy and cooked crisp. They weren’t oily to touch and had a good coating. The pesto sauce stayed true to its name and was super creamy and rich. The Gnocchi was a little gluggy and could you have been better. It stuck to my palate and did not allow  me to fully enjoy the sauce. The sauce, by itself, had a rich texture and a subtle yet perfect hint of basil. I would have enjoyed it as a dip by itself with some thin and crispy bread. The Caprese Salad was my favorite. Nice and fresh mozzarella with sweet tomatoes with a drizzling of basil oil or basil pesto, I am not sure. It was light and flavorful. Great for a hot day.

For mains, we decided to go for pizza and some pasta. The pizzas are supposed to be some of the best in the city and are baked in a wood-fired oven. They are thin and crispy and very light. The sauce is good and isn’t overpowering. The vegetables stay crisp, which is a relief. A good pizza experience but I wouldn’t say they are the best that I’ve eaten.

We ordered a penne in red sauce and the Penne was just very slightly underdone. It had a bit more bite than what was needed. The sauce was good. A little bit of pepper added some excellent extra flavor and really brought out the taste of basil. From the mains, my favorite was the Saffron risotto; but then again I am quite partial to risottos! There was a beautiful aroma of Saffron and they definitely didn’t skimp on it. It was creamy and cooked very well. The seasoning is excellent for all the foods and I was glad to have no complaints regarding it.

The downer was that the Balsamic Vinegar had some insects in it but they were apologetic and quick to change it. They even sent some dessert to our table to make up for the negative incident. They sent us a blueberry cheesecake which had a blueberry compote and a whipped cream Strawberry cake. I wouldn’t go here for dessert but then I am very picky about my desserts so I could be quite biased. Nevertheless, it’s always good when a restaurant makes up for their mistake graciously. 

Service here is very mediocre. It takes a few minutes to get someone’s attention and for some reason they like to hang out in groups near the various counters. Once you do get their attention, they are polite and some are well informed. However, they do not serve very well with larger groups of b people and they prefer if you serve yourself.

All in all, it was a good experience but I don’t think I will be running here again soon. I wouldn’t mind meeting someone here but it didn’t make for an extremely memorable experience.

For its Caprese salad, Saffron risotto and the graciousness of accepting their mistake, I give Cafe Mangii a 3.25 out of 5.

Restaurant Timings: 11 AM – 12:00 AM

Contact Numbers: 02225705137 , 02225705139

Biscuitwala Bhaiya at Marine Drive, Mumbai

One of the luxuries of living in India is that people are so enterprising you can count that every service imaginable exists and can be quite specialised. For example, would you ever believe that someone would come to your house on a Sunday to sell  only 5 specialised Indian bakeries’ biscuits? I would never have imagined so.

The first time I met the biscuitwala ‘bhaiya’, it was a very  lazy Sunday morning. S and I were contemplating what we should do for brunch. The doorbell rang and I was told the biscuit man was here if I wanted to pick something up. I was very intrigued. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted something but I wanted to check out this concept as I had never heard of it before.

As I stepped outside I saw a very pleasant looking man who greeted me with a smile and a namaste. He had, by his side, opened up a large aluminium trunk or ‘peti’ which was lined with plastic and filled with biscuits.

I immediately recognised some of the standard Indian-Irani bakery biscuits! He had khari biscuits, butter biscuits and jeera biscuits. Khari biscuits are savory and are a little bit like puff pastry  or filo pastry.  They have many thin layers which are well buttered to create a crisp, light biscuit that gives you a slight snap when you bite into it and crumbles a little.  They taste excellent with tea or dipped in tea. Almost like a Mumbai classic.

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Butter biscuits are small round biscuits flavored with jeera or cumin. They are rich and buttery and are slightly salty.  These go very well with typical Indian tea which is sugared. Jeera biscuits, also called as ‘poor man’s biscuits’, are flavoured again with cumin or jeera and have very little butter. Hence the name, poor man’s biscuit. They are very crispy and leave crumbs add you bite into it.

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The other three varieties that I couldn’t recognize were badam maska biscuit, sugar topped khari and rusk toast. Badam maska biscuit, literally meaning almond and butter biscuits are shaped into small fingers.  They are slightly sweet with a hint of cardamom and lots of butter! No surprise that they are my favorite!! I love them dipped into a hot cup of masala chai! Sugar khari is simply khari biscuit topped with sugar grains.

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Rusk toast is a very hard biscuit which had a lot of fibre. It is slightly sweetish and to be honest I do not enjoy them much.

I asked the bhaiya if he made them himself. He said he gets them fresh from a bakery and goes around selling then on Sundays.  I believed him when he said the biscuits were fresh because they were warm when he handed them over to me. He is originally from Gorakhpur and has apparently been around for years. He normally rings the bell on every floor to see if anyone wants anything.  I would assume he visits a few other buildings in the area as well. He is such a sweet and polite man. I asked him a lot of questions because I was so intrigued by him and his concept, but he answered them all patiently and seemed happy to do so.

I find the whole concept so wonderful and interesting. It is a testimony that we, in India, have so many luxuries.

If you have someone who comes to your doorstep and sells such unusual goods, do let me know! Would love to hear more.

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But for now I’m going to. Spend my Sunday enjoying a hot cup of tea and delicious fresh biscuits!

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Indigo Deli, Apollo Bunder – Mumbai

If there is one restaurant that can be credited with changing Bombay’s food scene, I think it has to be Indigo. The original Indigo, located at Colaba, was started about 9 years back where they created fusion cuisine and worked hard towards getting the presentation correct. The restaurant was contemporary and gave you a different vibe than say a Taj or Oberoi. In my opinion, it isn’t as ‘snobbish’ and sends a more accessible vibe. The food was fantastic and was served in a way that reminded you of fine dining restaurants abroad. It was new, different and delicious! Suddenly, you felt that you weren’t just having dinner; it was an experience.

 

While Indigo offered something very unique, the restaurant itself was expensive. Mains start from Rs. 795 onwards (without taxes). I have been to Indigo only once and looooved the food!! I couldn’t believe how yummy it was. But honestly, I would go there once a year to celebrate a special day. I don’t think I would spend that much to dine there as often. So, when I found Indigo Deli I was super excited and I try to go there every time I am in Bombay. The cuisine is not all the same and they have more sandwiches and all day meals, like a deli should, but its absolutely delicious! The presentation isn’t as breathtaking but the food is superb. Its one place that you can blindly trust will have absolutely heavenly food.

 

The restaurant has a lot of heavy and dark wood and the lighting is lower to give you an atmosphere that is a mix between a fine dining restaurant and a fancy coffee shop. There are cute booths, good for 4-6 people and they have chairs and tables as well. During rush hours, they open their upper section, which has mostly tables and chairs. I am assuming that if you are a large group, and would like a slightly more private seating, you could ask for the upper section to be reserved for you. The seating is comfortable and lends an intimate, relaxed atmosphere.

 

What is one of my favorite things about the restaurant? Warm bread (Ciabitta) served to your table, with their signature mustard and butter, while you wait for your meal. They normally have a daily specials menu if you are going during lunch or dinnertime. Or, you can choose from their menu. You have the option of choosing breakfast food, appetizers, sandwiches, burgers, pastas, risottos and pizzas. They serve coffees, teas, hot chocolates, juices and mocktails.They also have heavenly desserts, so I have heard, but I always stuff myself with their delicious mains so I have never had a chance to try them. They have a good collection of spirits and on occasion, we have had their Sangrias, which are wonderful. They are good, full bodied wines, which aren’t overly sweet. They serve a good amount of fruit and have a good balance between the fruit juice and the wine. I prefer their red wine sangria to their white wine, but S enjoys his white wine sangria.
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I normally order the same thing every time I am at Indigo Deli – Oven roasted potatoes and mushrooms with caramelized onions and Brie cheese on a Ciabitta roll. I LOVE it! Beautiful, light flavors that dance on my tongue. I enjoy my sandwich with a little Balsamic vinegar and olive oil on the side, and then I am in seventh heaven! For the longest time, that is the only thing I would order. I would try a little bit from someone else’s plate, but this is the one thing that would satisfy my stomach and my soul. Another favorite of mine is their Wild mushroom risotto in a red wine sauce. The mushrooms are cooked just right and the risotto is creamy. The red wine adds a different, but great flavor to the risotto. Ask for some freshly cracked pepper on top and its awesome! S asked for a Corn encrusted, jalapeno and potato burger the last time we were there. It probably comes in second after my sandwich! The jalapeno flavors are subtle but noticeable. It isn’t spicy at all and the corn-encrusted patty adds great texture. The bun is soft and is warmed so it isn’t dry. I hate it when the burgers buns are over heated and become crispy. It becomes so messy with all the bread crusts falling all over your plate. The burger is quite large and is quite filling if you’re eating it all alone. Perfect for lunch.

 

The servers are not as attentive as Indigo and you do have to crane your neck around hoping someone will notice you, especially during lunch or dinner. They are however; well informed about the menu and serve you well. They don’t make a mess while pouring water in your glass, which is a relief. The service is fairly prompt and it does take about 20 minutes to get your meal out once you place your order.  I also appreciate that they are fairly accommodating and try to make your overall experience pleasant. I was in between travelling once, and went with my bag to the restaurant. They were very gracious and were happy to keep my bag out of my way so I could enjoy my meal in peace.

 

I have had coffee there and it was good.  They keep newspapers so if you would like to come for coffee and a snack or dessert alone, you can enjoy time on your own. I would love to go with my computer and order an espresso with a chocolate dessert and just sit and soak in the wonderful, quiet atmosphere one of these days. I highly recommend making reservations here if you plan to go for lunch or dinner.

 

For consistency, a good ambience, perfect portion sizes and accommodating servers, I give Indigo 4 of 5. See you there!

Restaurant Timings: 8:30 AM – 12:00 AM

Contact Numbers: 02266551010, 02266551011, 02266551012

Khyber Restaurant, Fort – Mumbai

You know that feeling when you’ve walked by a place a hundred times and finally when you go in, you wonder, “Why haven’t I been here sooner?” That’s exactly how I felt when I went to Khyber. Khyber is opposite Rhythm House in Fort and looks like the tiniest restaurant from outside. We wanted to celebrate S’s big achievement and were wondering what to do for dinner. Punjabi/Indian food was our obvious choice, but where to go? Khyber came up to be the most voted option. The crazy love I have for Zomato and Burrp, I snuck online to check the reviews. Most said it was good, but a few said it was ok. I was a little skeptical when we went and am so happy to say my skepticism was totally wiped away when we entered!

Just as we were about to enter, I thought, “this looks like a cute little restaurant.” I assumed it would have a seating capacity of about 70ish people. When we entered the restaurant, I was in love with its design. I felt like I had entered some restaurant in another era. They have a beautiful painting by the famous Indian artist, Anjali Ela Menon at the entrance. You see a marble staircase leading you up to the upper floors of the restaurant. There is a lot of white stone/sand stone used on the walls and for the sculptures. Vintage Indian wooden doors, lamps and large metal pots are used to accentuate the décor.

We were about 8 people and went up to one of the more private rooms. It feels like you’re in a cave and I thoroughly enjoyed the feeling. The space was so much more private. I was thankful that the restaurant wasn’t too loud or perhaps we were isolated from the noise. The crockery is simple and tasteful and staff was reasonably attentive. For a section that could seat about 15 people, there were 3 servers and 1 captain. I do appreciate having good service in a fine dining restaurant and an understaffed restaurant is just a turn off. We were handed over the menus and I went into my little world to drool over all the yummy things available and their description.

We started off by ordering the tandoori aloo, which is stuffed with dry fruits, mashed potatoes and spices and decided to order a vegetarian platter so we could try a whole bunch of things. The platter was HUGE! The paneer was soft and beautifully flavored. It wasn’t spicy at all and I loved it! The reshmi broccoli was cooked well and very mildly flavored. The baby corn pakoras were coated in a batter and deep-fried and the kebabs were cooked in a tandoor and covered in a delicious spice. The starters were all lovely, though I have eaten better reshmi broccoli at the Four Seasons, Udaipur. They were more than enough for our party of 8 and I would have loved to eat only appetizers as mains.

We did decide to order just 2 mains since we were full with all the appetizers. We settled for vegetable malai kofta and channa masala. The malai kofta was the best malai kofta I have ever eaten! The gravy was creamy but delicately spiced with saffron, cardamom and other Mughal spices. The koftas themselves were cooked perfectly and were so soft. They went perfectly well with the gravy/curry. The channa masala was completely different from what I would have imagined. That’s when I realized I was thinking of chhole masala and this was channa masala. The main flavor was that of asafoetida in my opinion and was a little spicier compared to the malai kofta. Together, the vegetables complemented each other and created a lovely balance.

I was told that the Maa ki Dal was one of the most famous dishes of Khyber. Being a lover of Dal Makhani, i decided I would love to try it. The dal was wonderful! It was perfectly spiced and was not as creamy as a dal makhani. If I can be a little poetic, it felt like the spices were dancing on my tongue! I wish I hadn’t eaten as much for dinner so I would be able to do complete justice to the dal.

Our meal was in celebration of S’s achievement and it was an absolute perfect celebration! The food was excellent, the ambience was beautiful and the service was good. We had a lovely time and I can’t wait to go back again! If you are going to visit Mumbai or have international guests, you must go to Khyber. It has been around for years and is like a Mumbai Classic restaurant. Its also a great choice to go for a date.The next time we do go, it’s going to be a Maa ki Dal and Malai Kofta meal for me! I still can’t them out of my head! They were so good!!

Will I go there again??? OMG! I can’t wait to go back again!! For its amazing food and unique décor, I give Khyber Restaurant, Mumbai a 4.5/5.

Restaurant Timings: 12:30 PM-3:30 PM, 7:30 PM to 11:30 PM
Contact Information: 02222673227, 02240396666, 02222673229