During a quick trip to Mumbai (though I still love to call it Bombay) a couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed authentic Thali in both Lunch and Dinner. The one for lunch was a vegetarian royal treat in a highend mall and the dinner Thali was at a local sea food restaurant. Both the places serve some amazing stuff and yet have lot of difference in terms of cuisine, service, place and flavours. Here is a peep into these.
Lunch At Maharaja Bhog
The outlet in the food court of Oberoi Mall in Goregaon is just next to our office. So, during my almost every visit to Mumbai, the lunch is usually at Maharaja Bhog which serves an all-Veg Gujarati Thali in Royal Style.
Each table would already have the brass Thali laid out which sets the tone for the royal treat to follow. As soon as you settle down, you are served the welcome drink- a Sherbet. You sip it and they bring a pan with a water pourer, again in style, to let you wash your hands. Then comes the smoked Butter Milk. While you start sipping, the empty vessels start filling one by one. First four different Chutneys / Pickles and Papads are served. Then a dry and a fried Farsan usually a Dhokla and a Samosa sort of item is served. Then lands a bowl of Dahi Vada. By the time you are trying to visualise what’s happening, the little bowls (katories) are filled up one by one. This time we had Gawar Phali (greens), Palak Kofta (curry), Aloo Bhaji (dry veg),Mixed Kator (mixed lentils), Dal (lentils), Peeli Kadhi (Rajasthani) and Safed Kadhi (Gujarati). Then comes a variety of breads such as Thepla, Puri and Tawa Roti. Simultaneously, you are served two desserts. This time it was Suji Halwa and Bengali Sweet.
I have my own process of enjoying each item, otherwise it becomes too much for me to handle. I start with the Farsan followed by the Dahi Vada. Then I enjoy all the veggies one by one along with the breads and keep on taking out the katories from the Thali. I do this, other wise the empty ones would be refilled, instantly. Once done, I am served with the steamed rice. This I enjoy with portions of Dal and the two Kadhis.
Once done, finale is done with my favourite Khhichri. I always ask for a generous helping with an equally generous topping of Ghee on it. That makes my day. Sometimes I take a second helping. This Khhichri is something to die for and an absolute show stopper for a grand meal.
The highlight of the experiencing this royal Thali, besides the food, is the service. The staff would go out of the way to make you feel at home. You can ask for unlimited refills and you would be served with a smile, each time. The supervisor on the floor would communicate with the servers in sign language for instructing refilling so that you could eat in peace. They would urge you to repeat dishes and also guide as to which dish goes well with what.
For a new comer, the food may appear to be quite a lot. But believe me, once you sit down and eat mindfully, you will be able to enjoy the entire array of offerings. And, it’s not very expensive.
Dinner At Highway Gomantak
This Goan Sea-Food restaurant is in Bandra East. As soon as you enter, you would be accosted by a whiff of sea food in the air. The place has a basic furniture giving it an authentic look. Two of us found many local families dining and enjoying their food. We also found a suitable table and sat down. Before deciding the mains, we ordered the starters, my favourite, Bombil Fry and Prawns Fry. The service was pretty good. Soon, the two landed on our table and floored us.
A plate full of eight good-sized, golden-brown, Rava Crusted Bombil Fish sat pretty in a steel plate with almost no trace of oil. Gave you a whiff of the sea and invited you to savour without wasting any time. The first bite told us that it is a magic. The outer was crusty and flavourful which enclosed a super soft and silky fish inside. I am yet to taste such a fresh and soft Bombil elsewhere. The flesh would quickly fall off from the crusty batter if not held quickly with your fingers. I bet, one can’t stop at just one or two fish. You would want to keep on enjoying it till the plate is polished off.
The second was the Prawns Fry, again a golden-brown heap of Rava coated small prawns served in a steel plate with salad. Again that whiff of sea asks you to pick up the prawns, or shrimps as you may call those, with your fingers and savour one by one. Add a dash of lime and the taste multiplies.
I kept on switching between the Bombil and the Prawns and finally decided in favour of Bombil, being the best.
Then was the time for ordering the mains. We checked if we could share a Thali between us. We were told yes, but Thali has a limited one time service of the items. We ordered the Pomphret Curry Thali (had a very strong recommendation to try this). We also ordered one portion of Mutton Suke as an add on.
Surprisingly, two Thalis landed on our table. One Thali with the bright Yellow Pomphret Curry and the other with Mutton Suke. Seeing the confused look on our faces, the server explained that if you order only the Mutton dish, it’s for 250 and jusst for 260 you get the Thali. So ‘he converted’ our order to a Thali. Very thoughtful of him, though we were almost scared with the amount of food on our table.
One Thali consisted the main dish say, Pomphret Curry, a bowl of Rice, one big sized Bhakri (rice flour Roti) though one can choose Tawa Roti instead too, one bowl of Sol Kadhi, extra bowl of gravy (in case of Mutton Suke Thali), sliced onions and a lemon wedge. Uff !! Too much to enjoy.
The bright yellow coloured Pomphret Fish Curry was a delight to look at. Had a reasonably big portion of fish peeping out of a smooth sauce. One spoonful of the gravy and my palate told me it was simply awesome. It was smooth, had that flavour of creamy coconut milk, mild spices and was a bit tangy. The flavours were so blended with each other that no one flavour dominated. Mostly, the coconut is prominent but no, not here. The fish was soft as ever. We weren’t able to decipher the source of the tang. When asked, the server said the sourness came from Tamarind soaked water. This was a bit difficult to believe as the dark colour of the tamarind was no where to be found.
Next was the turn of Mutton Suke. A dark brown smooth gravy interspersed with pieces of Meat was inviting enough. Gave a whiff of mild spices. The first spoon on the palate, once again, told me it was a bouquet of well blended flavours. Was not very spicy and had an aftertaste of my favourite Maharashtrian Garam Masala. The meat was tender and succulent. The gravy was neither runny nor thick.
While we enjoyed the Mutton Suke with the well bodied Bhakri, the Fish Curry was enjoyed with the rice. Although we tried the vice versa combinations too.
The amazing experience was yet not over. I am fond of Sol Kadhi but try to avoid it. One, it’s overloaded with coconut flavour and two, it washes out my stomach. However, here it looked different and the quantity was relatively small as was served in a katori instead of a glass. So, tried a sip. Ola !! It was different. The coconut flavour was mild and was blended with a sour flavour similar to buttermilk. A few more sips and it was amusing. Again, on asking the server the source of sour flavour, we were told it was Amchur Powder besides the regular Kokam. Was a delight to wrap up a hearty meal.
The restaurant serves authentic Konkani Cuisine, at reasonable prices and a huge amount of items are on offer to enjoy. We had a very flavourful experience here and I must visit this place many times.
This was a sort of a Thali trip of mine to Mumbai and I loved it. Thanks to my colleague Shruti Prasad for being the partner and the sounding board. What are your experiences of such authentic cuisines, do write to me.
Bon Appetite !!