Feb 23, 2016
So, which are my favourite Indian restaurants in Mumbai?
Well, when it comes to the food of the core Maharashtrian community, I like to go to restaurants such as Aaswad, Prakash and Madhura in Dadar’s Shivaji Park area for vegetarian food. My must-haves are the misal and thalipeeth at Aaswad, puri bhaji at Prakash, and poha at Madhura. Other interesting eats at any of these places are the sabudana vada and kothimbir vadi. Wash them down with some super sweet piyush.
For Malvani food from coastal Maharashtra, and Gomantak Hindu Goan food, I quite like Sadichha for its Bombay Duck fry, spicy mutton masala and the flavourful prawn curry. Kshirsagar at Lalbaug has a lovely sukha mutton, which you must eat with the puri-like vade. Malvani Aaswad near Buta School in Andheri East has a nice pomfret fry thali and their prawn masala is pretty good too. If you want to eat in air-conditioned, comfort places, head to Sindhudurg near Shiv Sena Bhavan.
They say that Mumbai’s restaurant history started with restaurants set up by the Iranis, who came here from Iran via Gujarat. My favourite Irani bakery to go to is Yazdani bakery in Fort for the Irani chai and bun maska and brun maska. Within Irani restaurants, I like Ideal Corner for their dhansak, akoori, railway mutton and salli boti, Jimmy Boy in Fort for the lagan nu bhonu or wedding meal for Parsi food, and the nearby Military Café for kheema ghotala and caramel custard.
Talking of history, you cannot miss the puris at Pancham Puriwala, which was opened in the 1840s by a gentleman named Pancham Sharma. Apparently he walked all the way from Uttar Pradesh making it possibly the oldest running restaurant in the city.
Mumbai is quite popular for its Gujarati and Rajasthani thali joints. I am not a big fan of Gujarati thalis, but would strongly recommend the 11-year-old Soam, which is located opposite the 250-year-old Babulnath Temple for some seriously good a la carte vegetarian options in clean environs and air-conditioned comfort. Try the gatte ke sabzi and satpadi paratha, handvo and palak cheese samosa here.
The biryani of Mumbai is heavier on masala, and wetter than what you get in other parts of the country. Having been brought up on the more demure Kolkata biryani, I am not enamoured by the biryani here. If I was to eat a Bambaiyya biryani, I would go to Olympia in Colaba or Lucky in Bandra (and ask for extra aloo or potato and less masala). Or for a takeaway, Jeff’s at Bandra’s Bazar Road would do.
Talking of Muslim food, I would recommend Bohri Mohalla for the Khiri kebabs and kofta kebabs at Haji Tikka, and the slow-cooked bara handi at Surti Bara Handi. For a sit-down meal, you can go to Noor Mohammadi. For the famed kheema pav, I would recommend going to Grant House near CST, though it is not a Muslim or an Irani joint.
There’s not much Goan Catholic food available in the restaurants here. However, the hole-in-the-wall joint, Martin’s near Strand has some delicious Goan sausage fry, steak fry with chips and pork sorpotel. The landmark would be Theobroma in Colaba. I also like the Goan prawn and fish curry, the sorpotel and mutton potato chops and mutton puffs at Candies.
For East Indian fare, try the pan rolls, East Indian sorpotel and ox tongue moile bagel in the new menu at the Bagel Shop.
There is a fair bit of South Indian food on offer too. Matunga is very famous for its bevy of vegetarian restaurants. I find Idli House to be interesting, although I’d go to Swagat near Strand Book Store in Fort for my dosa fix. Most of Mumbai’s seafood joints are owned by Mangaloreans, and my favourite among these is the family-run Apoorva in Fort for its honest and simple fare. My recommendations are the gassi and neer dosa here. For Keralite food, Deluxe in Fort wins my heart with its sadya (vegetarian meal served on a banana leaf) and karimeen fish fry. Sneha in Mahim is a good bet for its water buffalo dry or sukha and parotta.
I rarely go to Punjabi restaurants to eat, but often call in for black (Lucknawi/ Punjabi fusion) dal, tandoori chicken and jeera chicken from Khane Khas in Bandra.
Also, do check out the kulchas, kadi chawal and papdi chaat at Lashkara on the first floor of Punjab Sweets in Bandra for some joshilay Punjabi vegetarian food. For Punjabi home-cooked food, Crystal at Girgaon Chowpatty is a good bet with its sukha alu, paneer bhurji, rajma, maa ki daal, fresh roti and chilled kheer. The huge queues outside speak of their consistent quality and affordable prices.
For a good and homely Bengali food in a no-frill surrounding, I would highly recommend Bhojohori Manna in Oshiwara. Try their vegetarian thala with alu posto, luchi with chholar dal, Borishal ilish, doi maach (with rui or bhetki). I buy my sweets from Sweet Bengal, and call in for Calcutta biryani from Peetuk Caterers.
What about the new lot of restaurants? I would recommend you go there if the ambience matters to you, and you don’t mind paying for it. Social and SodaBottleOpenerWala present some good renditions of classic Mumbai food. The food in The Bombay Canteen is presented in a fresh manner and often in innovative ways. I have enjoyed most of what I’ve eaten there. If it has to be classy and cool, Masala Library is a good pick. The food in most of these places is quite bankable.
This is a very personal list. Many of the places had been recommended to me by folks who eat there regularly. These are places I have become a regular in now.
I would love to hear from you on your favourites too.
WATCH: Pancham Puriwala, Mumbai’s oldest running restaurant
Kalyan is a Mumbai-based food blogger and columnist who loves to travel in search of local tastes. He is at his happiest when eating at small, family-run places. His blog Finely Chopped won the Best Food Blog Award in 2013, 2014 and 2015 at the Food Bloggers Association of India awards. He is the lead critic for Mumbai at EazyDiner and is a columnist for Femina. He is also the Chief Chowzter for Mumbai, and conducts food walks in the city.
Follow Kalyan on Twitter @finelychopped
Photos: Kalyan Karmakar