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The stand-alone Indian restaurant scene has got really exciting in Mumbai and it is interesting to see how these restaurants are getting positioned.
The new wave started with Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra in Bandra Kurla Complex, which is considered to be a fine-dining place by many, partly because of high price perceptions. Folks are normally at their best behaviour when at Masala Library. It is a place for grown-ups, people feel – rather different from the more youthful and buzzy Farzi Café, from the same company, in Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub.
The restaurant that could be credited with making Indian food sexy among a younger crowd in Mumbai would be The Bombay Canteen. With its eclectic menu, moderate pricing, the youthfulness of the folks who are front of house and the uncomplicated food, The Bombay Canteen has created quite a buzz around it. It still runs packed during meal times and on weekdays as well. At nights, the crowds spill to the bar and to the steps, making the mood even more casual.
What The Bombay Canteen has done is made Indian food interesting to people who would not go to old Mumbai eating neighbourhoods such as Fort, Bori Mohalla, Kalbadevi or even Colaba to try the local food there. It taps into the crowds who would otherwise flock to European and Asian restaurants in the city.
The name ‘Bombay’ Canteen is a bit of a misnomer, some would say, as the food served sees its origins in regions across India and is not just Mumbaiyya. Some would argue though that this is the essence of Mumbai, a city where people come from across India to settle in, bringing their food along with them.
Some of the good dishes to try at The Bombay Canteen are their take on eggs kejriwal (if you don’t mind a coconut hit), the pork thepla tacos and the new introduction of the fantastic, really juicy, peppery quail 65 and snapper steamed in a gassi-like marinade. These dishes are not very ‘Mumbai’ though, apart from the Willingdon Sports Club inspired eggs kejriwal. They do have a dhokla, which you can find across Mumbai and, unlike their version of the kejriwal, doesn’t show much innovation when compared to your neighbourhood dhoklas.
A place which is more ‘Mumbai’ than The Bombay Canteen is the newly opened SodaBottleOpenerWala, though the name and the positioning makes people feel that they serve only Parsi food.
Well, that is not true. They also serve Mumbai classics such as vada pao, Goan chorizo pao and Bhendi bazaar seekh paratha along with the Parsi kolmi patia and dhansak. They do serve a berry pulao as well, which is technically more of an Iranian dish made popular by Britannia than a dish you will find in Parsi houses.
So, The Bombay Canteen is not just about Mumbai and SodaBottleOpenerWala is not just about Parsi food, but they surely have brought the oomph back into Indian food in Mumbai.
Follow Kalyan Karmakar @ Finelychopped
Kalyan Karmakar authors the popular award winning blog, Finely Chopped and is an authority on the food of Mumbai. His extensive knowledge of the city's food scene has been featured in publications such as Femina, Mumbai Mirror and BCC Good Food. He was one of the founding critics of EazyDiner's Mumbai team.