Saturday, July 26, 2008

Britannia & Co.

Britannia & Co

I am very glad for this trip, and can ask for no better way to cap off my Mumbai escapade then with my visit to Britannia & Co today. I love exploring exotic cuisines and their unique flavors, hence on my must-try list was Parsi food, something I reckon hard to get exactly right back home.

I picked out Britannia & Co from Lonely Planet's extensive list, as it read with the most history. Finding the place was a challenge, even with a cab, but with more help from passerby then my luck and command of the Indian language can summon, I got there.

I got there alright, an hour early, since they only serve lunch from 12:30pm. No matter, proprietor Ashfin kindly offered that I take a stroll around the port area in the meanwhile, and cautioned me not to wander too far, least I lose my way.

When I got back, Ashfin sat me down and introduced his father Boman to me. This very dearly old man asked, "Are you here to chat with me or to try the food?" Hungry and confused, I go "Erm, both, I guess, since the food's not ready." Twat I am.

He told me about Everything, starting with the history of the Zoroastrians (that he is), how they are the longest known religion known today; their struggles in Iran, how his forefathers came to India and finally settle down in Mumbai, set up a cafe to sell Parsi food, his way of preserving his heritage and offer fellow Persians a connection to their roots, and this is how Britannia & Co. eventually came to be.

A Family Spread
Prepared for a Guest, Fit for a King

When the kitchen was ready, Boman asked what I had decided on. I hadn't, since every item on the menu was new to me, and I couldn't order Everything.

"Ah, you are going back this evening? Then you will not have the time to visit again and try all our dishes. But neither must you order too much now, you cannot finish them and you will spoil your stomach. I tell you what, I will order for you, you will eat what I eat."

He muttered some orders to a waiter who nodded and disappeared into the kitchen. Boman continued "Everyday my brother and I will eat here, the same things, I have asked them to prepare the same for you, it is simple food, but you will get to taste a bit of everything, which is good."

The food came, and came. Boman had indeed instructed for a bit of everything to be presented on the plate, and his brother joined us at the table. I regret forgetting his brother's name, for his was as dear a man as Boman was. They introduced every dish laid out on the table, most interesting was the rice with cooked with barberries, a tart and slightly sweet fruit, very delightful. I also found the potato crisps they serve with everything a fun part to the meal. (My Sis would kill to have chips with every meal and every meal in-between meals.)

Random Deliciousness:
Chicken Farcha (Fried Chicken)
Dhansak (Meats in Lentil Gravy)
Jardaloo Sali Boti (Mutton in Onion & Tomato Gravy with Apricots & Potato Crisps)
Jinga Nu Pathio (Prawn Curry)
Saas Ni Machhi (Yellow Rice with Pomfret Fillets in White Gravy)
Sali Murghi (Spicy Chicken with Potato Crisps)
Tamota Ni Russ Chaval (Mutton Cutlets in Tomato Gravy)

The surprise of the meal was the simple stewed fish which is not on the menu; it was a staple of the brothers' lunches and they made sure I had a good bit of that too. The lovely brother insisted on had picking the tiny bones from the fish before giving them to me. I was so moved I didn't know what to say. Gosh!

The food is really amazing, every dish was spot on simple yet delicious, it warms both stomach and soul. Needless to say, my favorite was the fish, coz it was shared with love.

Boman Kohinoor, sons Romin & Ashfin, brother
A portrait of Boman & father, Rashid, hangs above

At the end of the day, it didn't feel like a meal at a restaurant. Instead I left feeling like I just had the most heart warming meal at my Grandfather's, with family. This is indeed, the best meal of my life and one I will always remember. :)

Britania & Co Irani Restaurant
Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road
16 Ballard Estate (Pier)
Fort, Mumbai

Ring: 91 22 2261 5264

Eat: Mondays to Saturdays. Closed on Sundays.
11:30 am to 3:30pm. Lunch commences at 12:30pm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Street Foods, Indian Chinese Cuisine


Given Mumbai's notorious weather, drink stalls are up and about the streets like little oasis, offering cool and sweet respite from the heat.

Falooda is one of the most popular drinks amongst them. It is a sweet concoction of rose syrup, milk, tapioca seeds (the little frog eggs-like bittie bites), sometimes fruits, and vermicelli. Yes, they put noodles in everything here, especially in desserts, that's why I just love this crazy place! Do they just do things the other way around, or are we simply unawares of the full exploits of our everyday food? See why we all need to travel once in a while? :)

I do not take to sweet beverages well, but had to give it a go, the color was tempting and the weather begging. The first sip or so went down well, and brought comfort from the intense heat. Thereafter, I couldn't manage anymore, it was simply too shockingly sweet. But for those amongst you who have a sweet tooth, this is just the thing for you, my friend.

Mystery Snack

The best I can describe the above is a sweet and spicy version of the Behlpuri. It drives me absolutely ballistic when I forget a name of a good dish, I really should strap a notepad to my camera on my future food hunts.

Back to the "mystery" dish, Baby G tells me it's not local to the Mumbai plate, hence his joy upon seeing this at a cafe. Chickpeas make the main, accompanied by a jaw droppingly sweet red sauce and an alarmingly hot HOT green one. I love the extremes. Just wish I could tell you what it was.

Hot & Sour Soup

In India, strong, intense flavors is the way to go, which is why you hardly find subtle tasting cuisine such as Japanese food around. The same goes for Chinese food, but since the Chinese have been here longer they have figured out ways to tweaking their cooking styles to suit local tastes. The result is the ever popular Indian Chinese food.

I kid you not, this is AN ACTUAL CUISINE! Which explains the ever popular Manchurian Chicken/Fish and so on. Think Chop Suey in the US of A, you get my meaning. Native Chinese would never have heard of these dishes otherwise. But I digress.

Baby G ordered for the both of us. Yes, over here, he knows his Chinese. He's the expert. :P

Chow Mien

The experience is quite an experience in itself, if you get my meaning. The restaurant was resembled an Imperial palace preparing for Chinese New Year, with bright red pillars and even brighter Chinese lanterns hanging about. I couldn't help but find this hilarious, it was so stereotypical I felt like I was entering a Chinese Disneyland. I was tickled pink. No! Red! Oh great fun.

Everything here tastes stronger than they do back home. The S&S Soup was thicker and sweeter, the chow mien had a thick S&S sauce dressing it, and I liked what I was tasting! Really!

Chop Suey

As a Chinese, I would be ashamed if I didn't try the Chop Suey. I mean, what is Chop Suey? It is a mixed vegetable dish, with a thick sauce poured over it. Again, great fun. You are not a true Chinese until you have tried this. :P

I liked what I had. If you come here expecting Chinese Chinese you will be disappointed, if not offended. But if you are wiser, you would come here expecting a Different kind of Chinese food, something adapted to India and have come to its own. Like how food from a country can vary so widely between regions, Indian Chinese food is indeed unique and rightfully deserve its own distinction, and its own Wikipedia page.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Rajdhani, Crawford Market

All You Wanna Eat Thali Set

Today's day trip took me to Crawford Market, where the heat and noise of the masses congregate to assault your senses on all fronts, leaving you battered, defeated and desperate for fuel. I lost all senses in the assault, and wandered in search of some hearty grub to nurse my poor self back to full form. Preferably a place with air conditioning, I mumbled without a prayer.

I must have been guided by some powerful food deities today, for the Great Ones lead my weary feet to a gem of a place that was (a) Air conditioned--Thanks be to thy deities! (2) Marked, post-it-ed, highlighted and dog eared on my Lonely Planet--what're the odds of that? and (iii) A Thali joint.

The place is Rajdhani. (pg 56)

A Thali meal is the most ingenious buffet conception of Mankind. You need not bother getting off your fanny to retrieve more food like a traditional buffet, nor are you required to interrupt your feeding frenzy to scour the menu and call for replenishment like an ala carte. No, my fair friends, if you are a hardcore buffet devotee, a Thali is the way to go.

See the huge and glorious plate above? It stays this way, period. The moment any one of the merry components look in danger of depletion, a helpful waiter would swiftly come, like a knight in Thali sliver armor, to refill the said component, so you are never in need or want, and your mind and hands are freed up to feed to your heart's and tummy's content.

I am so happy. This trip just keeps getting better. Every dish, chutney, bread, curry of the Thali was magnificent, richly spiced yet unique in flavor, heavy and hearty, and so many once again new to my palate. Gawd I am so happy...

Street Vendor along Crawford Market

After shedding buckets of grateful tears and replenishing the fluids with equal parts of curries, I was now strong enough to continue my footsteps about Crawford.

Myriad of Colors & Flavors Offered

The street vendors are amazing, from their tiny portable kitchens / motorbikes, they dish up massive arrays of food, pipping hot and freshly prepped before your eyes. Every hawker take great pride in their wares, often adorning the final plates with countless garnishes and final seasonings, so that perfection is achieved even in the humble street food.

Pav Bhaji

Sunset Surprise Against Chowpatty

Back in the hotel, another lovely surprise, this time brownies with walnuts and topped with a macaroon each. This place is just too kind. Seriously, how can I expect anything tomorrow to top what I have experienced thus far?

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Vegetarian Terrine
Butter Florets, Original & Basil

Mumbai, a crowded, chaotic, crazy, clustophobic cocoon of a city, all things so un-Cariño-like. How then do you explain my infatuation with the city, or the country for that matter? Mayhaps it's the beauty beneath the madness, though you never need to dig too deep, or in this case, search too far and wide. All you need is a good guide to show you where to look. Cue to baby G. ;)

Indigo Restaurant is among the Top 60 best restaurants of the world as per US Conde Nast, and it is not hard to see why. A quick left turn from the bustling workday buzz of main Colaba Road leads to an oasis, calm and quiet, a fine dining French-Indian fusion restaurant housed in a bungalow set amidst palm trees and (quasi) wide open spaces (hard to come by, here in Mumbai, hey it rhymes! Ah-hem, as we were.)

I love the bread basket, or more specifically, the colorful butter florets, so pretty I almost couldn't bear to eat it. Almost. Baby G and I finished 2 servings of the normal / basil flavored spread. The bread was dry but the butter saved the day.

The terrine is the best I have ever had, the composite constructed with layers of CHEESE. Straight to the good stuff, these guys know what they're doing, and they definitely know their clientèle.

Gorgonzola Risotto

Another item we picked, with little expectation of surprise. I have tried real risotto. I mean an eaten-in-a-fancy-smancy mama-mia!-pricy Italian restaurant kind of risotto, so that bar has been set. And of all places, I did not expect it to be met, much less raised, here in the Orient, here in India.

I was blissfully wrong. While the Italian original is cheezy and lusciously heavy, think Moomba cheezy luscious heavy, Indigo's take is easily the winner for me. It's light and fresh tasting with surprising gems of juicy corn and crispy fried shallots. To cap it off, this being Indian infused, curry laced the dish without overpowering it. We likes it. We likes it a lot.

Zucchini Cake with PB Ganache

Zucchini Cake coz I'm currently obsessed with the idea, learning about it from Chocolate & Zucchini's amazing blog, and was excited about finding this in Indigo. Unfortunately I couldn't make out the plant too much, but the PB Ganache was good. When is PB never good? :)

So far everything was different and delightful, this gem of a place is very well worth exploring if you ever get the chance. All you need is a good guide.

Lovely Surprise

Just when we though the all surprises have been revealed, we returned to the room to find a lovely dessert platter, compliments of the hotel. Nearest to the camera is red wine pear, another dish I read about but never tried. *hangs head in shame*

A exciting day and a perfect nightcap after, I'm all syched up for tomorrow. Nights, ya 'all.

Bolly Bolly Bollywood! Day 1

Clockwise From The Top: Red Onions, Carrot Pickle, Chutney, Papad
Onion Rings, Russian Salad, Dahi Batata Puri

I have survived the long flight, the crazy immigration, the heat and the pollution, and now I shall feast!

Our hotel resides at the end of the Queen's Necklace, aka Chowpatty Beach. Along this said stretch is Baby G's chief recommendation, Cream Centre, which I made sure to check out before all others. I Want Indian Food, and I Want Them All! And Cream Centre does just that.

I went with the Thali Set, a great introduction to the highlights of Mumbai cuisine. It consists of no less than 15 items, including breads, starters, mains, chutneys etc. I ordered away, expecting the portions to be small but decent. I did mention the
15 items, right?

Holy Cow! When the first set of food was served (see Exhibit A above), I was stunned and almost embarrassed, and if that didn't turn me maroon red, notice I said first set.

From The Front: Lachcha Tawa Paratha, Raita, Paneer Makhani
Amritsari Vegetable Korma, Dal Makhani, Leera Rice

"All these just for me? You sure you got the right table? Really? Oh, you're too kind!" On and On I went with the waiter, until I was assured it wasn't a mistake and that no one would come and take my food away halfway through my meal/feast/food orgy.

I love Indian veg, and this was a dream come true. Many items new to my ears, every flavor to my taste buds. The oddity of the ensemble, as you may have noticed, is the Russian Salad. Who knew, this is actually one of the most popular salads in Mumbai?

Have I mentioned desserts? :P

Chaas & Vanilla Choc Hot Fudge Nut Sundae

Against A Bollywood Boulevard Sunset

Behold! The Great Thali Menu, A Menu Made of Dreams

Pav Bhaaji

Across the road is the famous Chowpatty Beach, and the even more famouser Chowpatty Beach Night Market. Oh yeah, I'm talking more food. Just. Talking. Nothing more can go the other way in my mouth.

More Street Food

I managed to snap a few yummy looking bites, but cannot find the correct names for them all, much less taste them. Another battle for another day. I can't wait for tomorrow. ;)