Andy Warhol, Twelve Chairs and the Silk Route

about Pali Hill, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India 1 comment:

Though burdened by a heavyweight title (which, as you will see, positively sings with relevance) this is really about a tiny but very promising burger joint. I must say though, that I walked in not knowing anything about the place except that it had a cool blue sign, Andy Warhol posters on the walls and a very cosy ambience about its twelve seats. It looked like those tiny neighbourhood hippy-owned cafes that so dotted the cool streets of New York, and seemed the perfect place for cozying up to Sunanda over coffee.

gostana gostana burger cafe gostana

The unusual blue sign hid, of all things, a burger joint called Gostana. In minutes, I was confronted by whole wheat lamb burger (which the menu cheekily informed me was their take on the keema pao). As it turns out, it was quite good - and indeed closer to the keema pao than the gourmet classics the Americans are so fond of. Of course, this is grown up keema pao – a nice, soft, crumbly wholewheat pao considerably wider than your local pao-wallah encashing a nicely formed and nicely sauced keema cutlet. A hot dog followed, boiled sausage and pickle in tomato and mustard – closer to the New York original than most people will like (including the very high bread to meat ratio). Of course, the bread is considerably better and the mustard much nicer than the streets of the big apple, so all in all a very satisfactory experience. Great coffee too.

It turned out to be less of a “find” than I thought. The place has been reviewed extensively in the papers, on blog sites and even has a blog of its own conveniently listing all of it – Burgers, Blogs, Bandra. I filched the photos from there.

I’m always a little worried when food joints go heavy on healthy advertising, but this place really takes it seriously. The family that owns it apparently brought Subway to India; thats probably where these corrupting influences came from. Putting it to work with burgers really takes work, but it seems to work here – mostly because their burgers are not traditional burgers at all. Yes, there’s round bread and meat in the middle, but think of them as tasty sandwiches in a very cozy cafe than something out of a steakhouse.

The name has a story of its own. Apparently, Gostana has nothing to do with either meat or a movie. The stepson of Ashoka (who was vegetarian and would have thoroughly disapproved of the menu) set up kingdom in an oasis in the desert on the edge China, and named the capital after himself. Now called Khotan,  it goes down in history as the first place outside China to grow silk; apparently one of the kings married a Chinese princess who smuggled the silkworms out of the country in her hair, thus making it the only place in the ancient world for a good bed sheet if you didn’t like soy sauce. No relation to burgers of any kind but it does make for a pretty tale.

Final analysis; very tasty food, very cute place.

Factory Food

about Hiranandani Gardens, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India 1 comment:

Delhi NCR used to be the only place you could get your fill of the Great Kabab Factory, but its now in our very own backyard (Ok, the people at Powai get hurt of you say backyard, but well …) so of course I went. Twice. To the factory.


Its official - The Great Kabab Factory is now in the back…well Powai. Right on the main promenade a sneexe away from the DMart. Unlimited kababs from a limited menu, attached to some dal, vegetables and biriyani all at one price -the concept is novel enough that the hostess has to explain it to each person who walks in, and some walk out. Here’s what my two visits yielded as a review.

First, the opinion on the kababs. I must say that I’ve dined a few times at this place in Gurgaon, and I’ve always thought the place was great on ambience and merely good on food. That impression remains; this is not tunde kabab with mastercard accepted. Its good kababs, but not the world’s best. The packaging is good, and because they change their kababs every day (except for the aforesaid galouti) there’s plenty of variety to prevent boredom. The chicken biriyani and the dal – the signature factory dal is basically dal bukhara – good but not great. Make that quite good.

Ok, so bottom line. Good Kababs, pleasant packaging and booze on order. Happy happy!

Galouti paneer Seekh

The pictures are from their website, so don't blame me.

Streetwalking 2: The Makkhan Updates

about Delhi, India No comments:

It feels to good to finally have a sequel out.

In the previous post about the lanes of old Delhi and the fabled makkhan, I talked about being thrilled with the discovery of makkhan at Haus Kazi Chowk, but as it turns out, I was at the wrong place. Yes, it sported a few makkhan sellers but where the hordes were gathered was not far away. Ten minutes of walking later, as I neared the Chandni Chowk end of Nayi Sadak (which is not really new and barely recognisable as a sadak) the makkhan sellers multiplied till there was one every few feet! I counted no less than eight, all easily recognized by that characteristic white and yellow dome of foam.


The interesting part is, they all claim to have been there for at least a decade! Given all the discussion on the Internet about how hard they were to find, I think people were just looking for them at the wrong place. I tried a helping from multiple sellers, and I must say some are a little better than others. Airier, more aroma of saffron, better balance of foam and crunch – these were the things that distinguished the best ones. I even met an uncle-nephew pair from Moradabad; the uncle was better than the nephew and he explained that though both carts had the same base product, his nephew was too lazy to whip the foam up one last time before serving, which apparently made all the difference.

Vari Finds and Dodgem Chaat

about Delhi, India 1 comment:

The last time I walked the entrails of Delhi’s old city, I came across raw potato chaat, beef biriyani with pickle and the fabled makkhan, but also something else that I only discovered later to be quite a find.

That last time, my pocket was full of fresh, atm-expelled five hundred rupee notes which when hunting for street food is a disturbing proposition. I was therefore looking for a way to buy just below a hundred rupees worth of something, so that it would lead to oodles of change. At eight in the evening, there wasn’t that much open in Bazaar Sitaram, but one store displayed stacks of vadis and a friendly shopkeeper willing to give directions, so I bought some eighty rupees worth. Those, I discovered a week later when one of them hit my tongue, was the discovery of the journey. Forget the sheermals and raw aloochaat – this was the best vadi I’d ever had, and frankly one of the best foods I’ve ever bought by accident.

Varivale Gurmukh Singh Di HattiA few weeks later, finding myself near the metro line in Delhi again, I decided to pop in for a spot of old-world retail therapy at my favourite find. This time the friendly young shopkeeper was replaced by his father, toothless and definitely vintage but a fount of information. Apparently, this was a genuine discovery – the variwala (officially Gurmukh Singh di Hatti) turned out to be the oldest vadi shop in the market. Its been selling four or five kinds of varis made at the old man’s home close by for something like a hundred years.

Loaded with vadi but with some more time on my hands, I asked the old man what else was interesting and was led down a galli to Shyam Sweets for some great kachoris and a very nice gobi samosa. Then I struggled down the anachronistically named Nayi Sadak, through an immense mass of cycle rickshaws and more people per square inch than fairies on a pinhead to the Chandni Chowk Metro, but not before more foodie adventures.

These streets, though a mere sneeze from Asia’s largest mosque, have little if any relevance to the Mughal Empire. Punjab, Marwar, Madhya Pradesh and UP influences dominate here, and people trace their roots back to Moradabad or Jallandhar rather than Agra or Lucknow. The street food reflects this – its entirely vegetarian. Rabdi, chaat, dahi bhalla, aloo tikki, chole kulche, samosa, kachori, nankhatai - that's what was on sale to feed these thronging throngs. But take a small detour, poke your head down a random galli and suddenly you’re in meat heaven – that’s the fun of wandering these streets.

Shakkarkhand Makkhan Some fantastically airy nankhatai

Though a walk through this area should never be allowed to come close to words like salubrious, there is much here to reward the adventurer who can avoid being run over every thirty three seconds. I’ve realised – what is indeed great here is the chaat masala. Every vendor here makes his own, and this chaat masala is pretty much the key to the taste of everything savoury here - the chole, the aloo tikki, the shakkarkhand, the gujia. To back things up with some moisture and zing is tamarind water or chutney, usually loaded with chillies. Everywhere I was offered two choices – light or medium masala? More or less? Sometimes more can be too much; the native ingredient of the chaat quietly murdered in a sea of chaat masala (as in the case of the roasted sweet potato).

I find the food here very satisfying, though you can’t call it gourmet – more Beatles than Bach methinks. Generations of experimentation have perfected some amazing taste-texture balances and some great ingredient quality makes for deeply satisfying bites all spiced up, of course, with the adrenalin rush of dodging suicidebomber rickshaws, frenetic commuters and mad motorbikers. Would it be equally satisfying in the tame environment of a living room?


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