Yesterday's ride, to a neighbourhood I had not visited in a while, threw up some interesting spots. Huffing away at my trusty bicycle, I ended up after a while at Yari Road, that part of Mumbai where Kolis still proudly live in villages and drying fish competes with filmstars for attention. Its also the new cool street for restaurants populated in generous numbers by PYTs and Shahid Kapoor clones.
The first place that caught my eye was a bright purple wall that announced its new-age credentials by casually blending and being too cool to spell – Chaicoffi
I seem to remember it being a Barista in the past; the new avatar was … well … a new avatar of a coffee shop, mixing desi beats into the very hip and fancy cofeeshop. Cutting Chai, Brun Maska, Keema Pao, Sev Puri all happily cohabitated with Quattro Frommagi Pizza, Cafe Latte, Marzipan Carrot Cake.
I ordered a masala chai and a cous cous upma (just the kind of arty farty thing most restaurants mess up royally). A properly desi-hip khullar chai (namebranded sugar pouches on the side) landed up, along with the most lip-smackingly delicious upma I've had in a while. Cous cous it was, but it came loaded with curryleaf and rai, peanuts and tomato bits – as upma as you could want it. Cous cous is not very far from semolina (both are broken wheat) expect that the texture was basmati rather than sushi rice. And yes, the masala chai was nice too. Pleasant seating, lots of eye candy, nice chai, great snacks – no wonder the place is packing it in. No wi-fi or power points, though
My exploration continued down the road, deep into the heart of the koli village that still looks like it lives in the nineteenth century. Narrow lanes (some would challenge bicycles) and colourful houses of occasional vintage makes for a nice ride. Those gobi balls that Mumbai's fishing communities seemed to have snatched from the Chinese were to be found here and there, but I stuck to my goodbye resolution and avoided them (deep fried, after all). All of a sudden, I was in front of an incongruous sign.
I have this theory that the Bengalis will inherit the earth (the bible called us meek, but that's another story) and this is living proof. The Kolkata roll has hit deep, deep in the heart of the unbelievers. I have no idea who Hingla Devi is (maybe some celestial variant of Hangla) but she's clearly committed to the Kolkata roll. Unfortunately, it was closed on account of it being Sunday evening (run by bongs, after all) so a taste test will have to wait. Its on the way to the ferry, so all you can try it at your leisure.
More rolling was to follow. A few more turns of the pedal later, I was back in Bandra, and back in front of a sign that combined Kolkata and Roll with the yellow colour.
Bong Bong is a brand new eatery just off Shiv Sagar, on your right if you're headed to Pali Naka. The Bangalicious shop offered rolls, rolls and more rolls – not to mention biriyani that smelled like the real thing, kassa, chaap and other promised goodies that may have promise too. Still in full goodboy mode, I had to avoid Foursquare's hot tip, the aloo roll, not to mention the real options - mutton and chicken. This left me with just a tiny corner of the menu – a paneer double-egg roll.
While waiting for my roll, I ruminated on how the new rash of bong restaurants seemed to ignore entirely both mustard and fish. A few minutes later, I was biting into a fat generous sized roll, properly wrapped in paper. Its hard to make much of a taste judgement when all you have to work with is paneer, but based on a superior paratha and the spicy tawa-tossed onions I would hazard that the mutton would be worth trying.
My last stop of the day was Kailash Parbat, newly opened three steps from Bong Bong. It still has Mumbai's best pani puris (before some smartass comments, I was at Tarabaug last week and sorely disappointed). Yes it comes on a do-it-yourself plate but the water is Mumbai's best - spicy, tangy, tasty, quite unlike the usual green drainwater that the average guy peddles. The sweet chutney is loaded with tamarind and chillies, putting in the right amount can at least put you on Kolkata Mail, if not actually get you there.
All in all, a fruitful bicycle ride.