Mumbai masala

Last Updated: Fri, Apr 27, 2012 19:41 hrs

While pacing the streets to make his sales quota, a sales professional must pause to refuel. Experienced salesman Samil Malhotra identifies 10 eateries in Mumbai not far from major office areas where the food is good, varied, plentiful, quick to arrive and, above all, light on the pocket: no more than Rs 100 for a full meal.

Hotel Matruchaya
In a lane opposite the old passport office in Worli is Hotel Matruchaya, the perfect salesman’s eating-out experience. Matruchaya is a grubby, 30-year-old, two-level restaurant run by Prashant Bhingarde and his father Prakash. Stick to the non-AC hall. Yes, you still get better service in the non-AC hall.

Also stick to basics. Avoid everything “tawa” (for Mumbaikars anything done on a tawa is something special). Matruchaya has quick service and almost-readymade food. My fellow salesmen and I try a vegetarian meal/thali, a prawn masala thali and a mutton masala thali and, as add-ons, a surmai fry (seer or king fish), a bombil (Bombay duck) fry, a prawn fry, a dish of fried, hard Malvani puris, and jeera drinks.

The food is flavourful and fresh, though similar to all coastal food restaurants in this range — one almost feels as if this food comes from a common central kitchen and is merely garnished on site. Our meal is Rs 120 per head.

New Royal Lunch Home
New Royal Lunch Home near Paragon Centre in Worli, next to Mahindra Towers, has been around for decades. For lunch it offers a lovely prawn thali, soft chapatis, subzi, rasam, gravy, a tiny portion of fried fish and a choice of prawn koliwada (fried) or prawn masala (gravy or masala). The prawn options are great at just Rs 70-75.

Bar hopping
The Churchgate Stores and Bar, at the roundabout on Jamshed Tata Road next to the Cricket Club of India, has a pitcher of Royal Challenge (five or six mugs) at Rs 140 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday and Sundays. Other days it is Rs 190.

Next stop Leopold Cafe, where London Pilsner is at Rs 180 per bottle (expensive because of the bestselling Mumbai novel Shantaram and terror tourism after the 2008 attacks in which this cafe was targeted). The staff is friendly and chatty.

Next, Cafe Mondegar. Its low prices bring in young, dating advertising executives, Western tourists and shoppers.

These are three decent bars near the downtown commercial area of Fort where a group of salesmen can drink for under Rs 100 each.

Bagdadi Restaurant
After the bar hop try Bagdadi Restaurant behind the Taj Mahal Hotel and next to the famous eatery Bade Miyan.

At Bagdadi, the Rs 30 mutton qorma is a forgettable meat-and-potatoes dish. The fried chicken (they serve a very large bird) is served with a fried potato. A chicken plate, one piece, is Rs 50. The best dish is the chicken masala chilli fry, and we focus on that, with enormous khabooshi rotis — one roti is more than enough. A meal for three is Rs 150.

Stadium Restaurant
Stadium Restaurant is next to Churchgate Station. Try the kheema pao, kheema fry pao, egg bhurjee pao, mutton biryani, vegetable pulao and maska buns. Specials (chalked onto a board) include bhindi masala for Rs 35 and bhindi gosht for Rs 70. The food is amazing, and is served by a smiling waiter. Straightforward, simple, eat-pay-leave. The bill can work out to as little as Rs 80 per person.

Jai Hind Lunch House
Jai Hind is at the foot of the Dadar bridge on Tulsi Pipe Road, while coming from Dadar West. It used to be called Shardha Restaurant. I ate its dal khichdi for lunch every day when I worked close by. What was once a vegetarian restaurant is now as non-vegetarian as it gets in Dadar West.

The food is very good, especially the bombil stuffed with prawns, prawn hara masala, prawns Mangalore masala and mutton sukka with chapatis and solkadi. I top it for old times’ sake with dal khichdi. The staff is fantastic, unobtrusive, caring and smart. The owner is attentive and courteous. Four people can eat for Rs 600, which crosses Rs 100 per head, but the food is worth the extravagance.

Satkar in Goregaon East is a quaint place on the first floor. It is simple, authentic fare: a thali, with accoutrements. A basic thali is Rs 45, with add-ons like a prawn fry, a small crab fry and a mutton fry for Rs 45-50 each. Satkar’s food has been great for over 30 years.

Sahiba is in Bandra, at the mouth of S V Road while coming from Mahim. M F Husain used to walk in here together with his entourage, a long paintbrush held in his hand. I have visited this institution dozens of times since the late 1990s. It is co-owned by a real sahiba, a lady income tax officer.

Sahiba won’t let you down whether it is a meal for one or a party of ten. The rawa fried fish (rawas or Indian salmon, surmai, mackerel and pomfret), never lets one down. The small crabs are curried and juicy, the chicken hara masala with thin chapatis is to die for, as is rice with a complementary fish gassi (curry). The appetiser/aperitif is a magical solkadi drink.

The trick, as a salesman, is to stick to the regular menu and stay away from the specials. They are a trap for the uninitiated — pricier, unproven and inconsistent. A meal for one can be under Rs 150, though a luxurious one is Rs 300. However, there is a good thali at under Rs 100.

Rajasthan is next to the Ramee Guestline hotel in Khar West. With a name like Rajasthan, you will expect Rajasthani food. But no, it is Mughlai food, like that at Bagdadi but cheaper. I suspect it is named because of the Khemkhani Muslims.

The shami kabab is decent. Different red meats have different prices (“chatta” or “badda” sizes). The chicken dishes are entirely edible. The food is cheap, robust and garnished with fresh mint — it is the kind of food you order in the last week of the month. A full meal is less than Rs 100.

Hotel Sunraaz
Another interesting place for affordable Mughlai food is Hotel Sunraaz at Khar Danda. The dal chawal is very good comfort food for any time, and priced well below Rs 100. As every salesman knows, dal khichdi with a cup of packaged curd is a saviour when he craves comfort food.

This is the first of an occasional series

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