Utter Crepe

about Vinayak K Shah Marg, Nariman Point, Mumbai 10 comments:

So much has changed in a decade. South Mumbai was once a daily commute; now it has fallen so far off my work and entertainment map that it took me seven months to visit the newest and best regarded of one of those things I'm very fond of; the very Gallic crepe.

I acquired a taste for crepes the proper way – cycling the streets of Paris. It was stoked to fever pitch at another city – San Francisco – where Ti Couz and Galette introduced me to the savoury alternative (alas, both have since closed doors). Mumbai had its crepe choices (a couple of chains too) but they were usually pedestrian so, when a few Frenchmen get together to open a creperie, tongues are bound to wag.

And here I finally was, on  Saturday afternoon, at Suzette.

 

The location is tiny, hidden away in the depths of Nariman Point, the entrance a black narrow staircase beside another one that unfortunately leads to a men's loo. Once you have negotiated these rites of passage (and possibly taken a leak in the process) you fill find yourself in a space that could have been lifted straight from the streets of Soho, Manhattan. Chic and beautiful people fill stylish minimalist decor in a tiny tiny space. To add to the stereotypes, one of the partners is a soundly French-accented Pierre, while another is an investment banker.

 

Suzette's crepes are good; plenty of choices on the menu both sweet and savoury. The chicken-n-olive galette was nice, the Belgian chocolate crepe especially so; coffee was great, Wi-Fi was free, the fresh orange juice unsweetened for the more dedicated types. It's only flaws seem to be that inconvenient closure on Sundays and the barstools at the counter that could do with better footrests.

Mumbai is filling up fast with cosy, warm and very international options.

Yogakarma

about Chimbai Rd, Bandra West, Mumbai No comments:

Just as you the corner from St. Andrews, just where the road - after a brief, tantalising view of the sea - reverts to narrow bylanes, is a small pastel and white slice that you could miss if the corner of your eye wasn't paying attention. This is Yoga House, technically not really a house at all, carved out from the side of what must once have been a pretty Bandra bungalow, now covered with utilitarian extensions and matchbox windows that sinks with ease into the unplanned mishmash of Chimbhai road.

Yoga House (next door to the late lamented Serpis) does much with its space. A white wooden porch, some coats of paint and a few flowers have persuaded this corner back into something resembling the Bandra of yore. Its focus, as the name suggests, is yoga but the few white chairs and pastel cushions on its porch signal its intention to be more than just a roomful of mats; it is also a very pleasant cafe. The slatted wood lets sunlight in strips and slices, the pastel green walls make rustic virtue of the rough plastering, cleansmelling airycotton women provide the cool chic of an upmarket yogi's life.

For all its yogic attachments, the menu does not insist on being healthy all the time. Plenty of options involve cheese - but organic is everywhere and meats nowhere. Healthy hints like toning, detoxifying or alkalizing buzz liberally about the pure vegetarian menu, built on soup, salad, sandwich, juice all worded eccentrically in first person moods; an aubergine sandwich is "I Am Daring" while the cheddar-loaded Somerset Tartine signals "I Am English".

I've been around the menu a couple of times, and most things are at the minimum pleasant, great ingredients minimally fussed about, tested combinations rather than haute stuff. Healthfad staples like quinoa and buckwheat abound, but the food tastes great even if you're not trying to save yourself from dying. There are a few standouts - the Mykonos Tartine soaked in liquid feta cheese, the Mediterranean salad with a wonderful sesame dressing and not a wilted lettuce, the khullar masala chais competing with the very best of roadside.

The nicest part of the Yoga House Cafe is the cool, languorous, encouraging cheeriness to come and while away time in a neighbourhood that - watched over by the very elegant St. Andrews Church - should have been quaint and picturesque but has over the years faded into chaotic and crowded. Sitting in Yoga House, sipping from a khullar and munching at those perfectly unwilted salad greens, it is easy to imagine Bandra as it should be.

Breakfast at night

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The Americans like their breakfast any time of the day, but most other people wait till the next morning. I felt American today, and had an uncontrollable urge to down an eggs benedict for dinner. Which is all very good, but eggs benedict isn't the easiest of dishes to get hold of in Mumbai even in normal hours. The only choice I had, really, was to make my own version – and so that is what I set out to do.

Eggs Benedict, like so many other famous dishes, has obscure origins though most people agree on its invention sometime at the turn of the century in New York. The basic recipe is remarkably consistent – poached eggs on english muffin and ham, topped with hollandaise sauce. Basically, crisp base, chewy salty centre, squishy top and a rich tasty sauce on top.

It turns out the only thing I had from that list was – the egg. A burger bun substituted for the muffin, a chicken mince patty played the role of ham and I do a fair poached egg with real eggs, but finally – there was the elephant in the room. Hollandaise sauce has been known to curdle even on Masterchef contestants who can otherwise produce six course meals with two hands tied behind their back; I had no idea how to make it.

Brainwave, however, was around the corner. There was, indeed, something in my pantry that was yellow, liquid and tangy the way a good hollandaise should be. Some days ago, I'd bought myself a bottle of cheese salsa for some nachos, and that was as close as I was to get.

 

And so the Shanky variant of the Eggs Benedict was made. It was surprisingly good; the chicken went nicely with the cheese salsa, and that beautiful runny poached yolk was – well -  beautiful. It did look like the real thing - sort of…

Sure, the original works better but I surely have a shot at one of those variants. Behold – the world's first Eggs Bambayia!

Creative Spam

1 comment:

I'm definitely becoming popular. I stand before you now as the vehicle of a very creative promotional attempt – one of my posts has an obvious, if creatively targeted, spam. Its made to look like a genuine comment by a person in response to my blog on Chennai biriyanis – but it's obviously fake. It gushes about basmati and clean cooking oils and fantastic packaging in a way that can only be an advertorial inspired by commercial interests. And, apparently this commentator – a person named a distinctly feminine-sounding Lavanya - has a wife…

What I cannot make out is, was this posted by a robot or manually? Manual, I'm very flattered; robot, not so much – I may even be a little creeped out.

Take a look here (comment #2) and decide for yourself.

Sunday Stuffing

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There's nothing like a run to work up a hunger, and long Sunday lunches were therefore perfect excuse for some stuffing. South Mumbai is no longer a place I visit so often any more, so this also seemed like the perfect excuse to visit some old favourites.

The first visit was to satisfy a craving for steak. After a few twists and turns around the block, I squeezed myself into a tight little parking spot in First Pasta Lane and walked. To Paradise.

 

An unassuming storefront on Colaba Causeway, right across the road from Kailash Kailash Parbat is quaint parsi restaurant that has not changed either its menu or its attitude in decades. Racy pictures on the walls, old men sipping coffee and a long line of deliveries to Cusrow Baug were – I noted - all intact as I sat down to get myself a hearty steak. Unfortunately, power was out. Both air-conditioning and beefsteak was unavailable, but all was not lost. Paradise also serves a mean mutton steak and a very nice salli boti, both of which soon landed up on my plate.

 

Paradise Special Mutton Steak is a special steak. Its a nice, juicy, tender lump of meat in no particular shape, slathered with a brown onion sauce and topped by these fat potato fries that are so good at absorbing aforementioned sauce that they should come with a warning label. Did I mention there's Russian salad on the side? Salli Boti was equally classic, a beautiful sweet-spicy sauce topped with light, crisp salli – string fries. The only complaint is the size of the portion; even for old Parsi lawyers, this must be bit of a small bite.

And then there was the end. My sweet tooth started asserting itself as the meal neared the finish line, and along came the star of the show - lagan nu custard - by far the best rendering of this Parsi staple around.

Last Sunday, I noticed a new sign on an old place. Hidden behind the rump of Wilson College, on the unglamorous side of Gamdevi's jeweller lane is a place once known more for comfortable beer and pool than food. Cafe New York was all about pool tables and jukebox, a less crowded Mondegar, Wilson girls instead of gori backpackers. I and my friends had long outgrown it (pool was no longer so cool anyway) but when Kedar told me it was now open for decently nice breakfasts there was this small nostalgic twinge.

Cafe New York remains a tiny, narrow, corridor-like space (though I couldn't figure out how to get upstairs to those pool tables) - chequerboard tablecloths covered with the menu and Irani chairs. Keema pao was on the menu, of course, and a plate of it soon landed on my plate – rich and brown, eggs stirred in ghotala style, dhania, bread and those two essentials on the side – diced onions and a fat slice of lime.

 

Brunch requires more than one dish, so another Irani classic – a chicken-cheese omlet – was kept for the second round. And so it was that a fat, juicy, amul cheese omlet with torn bits of chicken breast added to the count.

Satisfying, this conjunction of calories and nostalgia…

Bhutan III

about Taj Tashi, Thimphu, Bhutan No comments:

The dragon thundered at our last dinner, and it was loud!

Days of lunches and dinners had passed the same way; Indian food firmly hogging centrestage, local dishes waiting meekly in the shadows. Worse, the Bhutanese choices on the buffet were invariably vegetarian; beef, pork of the local eateries banished in deference to Indian sensibilities. Luckily, for the last dinner - our final gasp of the thunder dragon before we were back across the border - the kitchens of the Taj Tashi proved more adventurous. Significantly more; Bhutanese food may be all water-butter-boil, but much can obviously be done with just that.

Shikam Paa

The last night was only about local food. Ngou ngou and datshi pranced happily about, nary a korma in sight. Beef, pork made a grand appearance alongside chicken. Even the soup dug up local roots. Only the dessert counter was left in Indian and Western hands, the Bhutanese unable to conjure much of a sweet tooth.

Here's a the roster of dishes that were on offer:

  • Cheese Momos with fish sauce and a delicious chilli-cheese dip .
  • Gongdo Churu Jaju; a rather unusual soup of riverweed and egg-drop. The riverweed imparts a milder-than-seaweed seafood and umami punch, while the egg drop adds body to the soup. Delicious
  • Hoentse Jaju; a soup of mustard greens that was far tastier than it sounded
  • Gongo Datshi; a cheese-n-egg stew sounded nicer than it tasted, but it was nevertheless quite good with rice. Bright red, unlike the other datshi dishes.
  • Kewa Datshi; this was the best rendering yet of the staple potato-chilli-cheese stew. Quite delicious, and though neither origin nor technique is the same it bears a strong resemblance – in taste and appearance - to potatoes au gratin with chillies thrown in.

Kewa Datshi Bhutanese Saag Norsha Paa 

  • Jasha Broccoli Tshoem; a bright red stew of diced chicken and broccoli was colourful but not particularly memorable. Broccoli is a recent visitor to Bhutan, but plenty is grown locally
  • Dolom Ngou Ngou; aubergines and garlic stir fried in butter was simple but delicious.
  • Jeli Namcho Ngou Ngou; local mushrooms stir fried in butter. Resembled oyster mushrooms but a bit bland, not quite as interesting as the aubergine.
  • Bhutanese Saag Fry; a fry of some spinach-like local green and chillies – about as exciting as that sounds.

Jasha Broccoli Tshoem Dolom Ngou Ngou Gongo Datshi

  • Norsha Paa; dried beef with glass noodles in a red, chilli-laden sauce. An interesting combination of soft noodles and chewy beef
  • Shikam Paa; a combination of local dried pork and radishes was easily the star of the night. The fatty chunks of dried pork resembled bacon, and the radishes did a wonderful job of soaking up all kinds of juices.

I'm not quite done with the Datshi yet. Lunch, earlier in the day (as is often the case), had yielded a couple of new dishes including the much awaited Emma Datshi, or chilli-cheese stew. It's Kewa Datshi without the kewa or potato, a bunch of medium-spicy chillies vying with the cheese for attention; I must say do indeed like Emma Datshibetter - the lack of potato concentrates focus on those tasty chillies and cheese. They're spicy, these chillies, but not quite as murderous as the worst Indian ones and plump and meaty to boot.

Dresi

Then there was Shamu Datshi, local mushrooms in the same cheese stew. Pumpkins made their appearance in Kakur Sege, not much more than boiled (people may harshly judge it as tasteless, I choose to carefully describe as 'interesting'). Lunch also yielded the only Bhutanese dessert in sight – a saffron-tinged rice called Dresi, mildly sweet and laced with fruits and nuts and served traditionally with a butter tea called Sudja before lunch. While the Sudja butter tea was a rather nice soup (it won't go far down your throat if you think of it as tea) the Dresi - well, I would tag it a similarly careful 'interesting'. Its hard to think of it as anything more than coloured steamed rice.

Sudja 

All in all, Bhutanese food showed far more promise than the previous few meals had led me to believe. The cheese stews are quite satisfying, the shikam paa definitely worth repeats and the ezzay  (chilli paste dips of various kinds) – some were simply wonderful.

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