Mumbai On Invitation

The Bombay Canteen

Wednesday, May 10, 2017ruthdsouzap

Not too long ago, I did something quite exciting. I was invited by Living Foodz Channel to be on their panel of judges for their newest property The Epicurean Guild Awards. I was among the 6 judges for Bangalore and the effort took around two months to complete. The awards ceremony was held at the Grand Hyatt, Mumbai and was quite the night - the formal awards night, gave way to a dance floor that we were on till the wee hours of the morning. It was certainly a night to remember. 

Now post this event, I stayed back a few more days to meet friends and work acquaintances. Amidst all the socializing, I did manage to head to one place that had been on the cards for a long time. I was happy to be invited try out the Bombay Canteen with a friend and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The Bombay Canteen is located in Kamala Mills and is placed a little on the inside, away from the chaos of the main road. Stepping in, you almost instantly are cut off from the sultry Mumbai heat and the wooden interiors with their pleasant yellow lighting immediately soothe any crankiness away. While waiting to be seated, I overheard the receptionist mention that they were already full up and that they were now only taking reservations for dinner, which is a really good sign for a restaurant that has been around a while now.

I have had the pleasure of interviewing Chef Thomas Zacharias for a story on restaurants going local with their produce for Smartlife Magazine. The idea, he said to me during that interview, was to replicate homestyle cooking which does not really use exotic ingredients and make a good restaurant quality dish out of it. The dishes he explained to me on his menu back then put this restaurant at the top of the list for me if I ever visited Mumbai and here I was now, seated a table with a clear view of the open styled kitchen.

Just like the dishes here focus on prominence, the bar menu has 9 new additions to it that are inspired from the art-deco buildings that are an intrinsic part of Mumbai's landscape. I began with the Soona Mahal, which, from what I read up was once a space for the elite and was also home to a jazz bar. My drink inspired from this building was a Pandan-infused Tequila with Triple Sec, Fresh Pineapple Juice and Lime. Served with a frozen alcohol infused pineapple in the center, this one has the alcohol seep into the drink slowly thanks the frozen element. A lovely drink to begin the afternoon with. 

My dining partner had the Sea Green Whiskey, which is inspired by the famous Sea Green Hotel. This one is for the slightly adventurous and those who like their coffee. The drink is whiskey based and has an additional spike from Apricot brandy. What elevates it is the House Espresso and Caramel Syrup that is included. The drink is quite potent and borders on being on the bitter side, so that is something to think of if you don't like that flavour in your drink. I personally loved this drink, being a newbie to coffee, as things stand right now. This is one I would nurse as my last drink at a meal.

Our meal began with dishes from the Chhota section - small sharing portions that allow you taste more if you are a couple or dining solo, or if you just want to experiment with as much as you can. The Goan Pulled Pork Vindaloo Desi Tacos and Kali Mirch Desi Tacos are what Chef sent out to the table first. An eternal follower, prostrating before the altar of the porcine Gods, my tummy was very happy with the Goan Pulled pork Vindaloo rendition - a lovely balance of heat from chillies and tartness from vinegar made this vindaloo a great one. The Kali Mirch Chicken Tacos was also the perfect hit of pepper and soft chicken, which made my partner very happy since he was not a pork eater. What I loved was that the masala from both meats had not seeped into the thin theplas making them soggy and our fingers greasy. These were served open-faced, but rolled up easily and were the perfect three bites.

Also from the Chhota section was the Barley & Jowar Salad with puffed grains, pomegranate seeds with spicy hung curd, which perhaps was my favourite dish of the day, and something I will definitely go back for. With restaurants across India now resolutely bringing the focus back on grains that have long been forgotten, it is a very happy tummy that welcomes innovative salads such as these that have a plethora of textures - from soft, to crunchy, to slightly chewy; and a melange of flavours from spicy, to tart from hung curd to the bursts of sweet juice from the pomegranate to the pickled flavours of the capers. A must-order when you visit, if for nothing, then for the freshness that this salad is all about.

Continuing with the Chhota section was the Chettinad Prawns 'Ali-Yoli' cooked in prawn oil with ginger garlic and tamarind. Happy size prawns, which retained the crunch, something usually sacrificed with long times on the fire. The take on aglio olio, with simple ingredients of prawn oil, ginger, garlic and tamarind give this dish a distinct flavour that takes you back home, yet makes you feel like you are kicking it back on some Southeast Asian island. And boy! was I happy to see the buttered pao that was served alongside. Saved me from embarrassing myself and digging into the bowl with my fingers to lick it clean (not that I would truly have been embarrassed!)

The Kerala Fried Chicken with Curry patta Chutney took me back to the "touchings"that are such an important part of the Kerala drinking experience. While in Kerala we always stuck to beef and seafood, this crispy batter coated chicken bites were right off the pan and into the paper lined bowl on our table. And that curry patta chutney - Adipoli!

Chef Thomas himself came out with this dish, which he said that that time was still in the experimentation stage - The Crispy Soft Shell Crab with Green Chilli Pachadi Chutney. Always happy to try out something new that a chef is toying with this one had the Soft Shell Crab coming in from Andhra Pradesh on that date. This fellow was deep fried with an interesting batter that I can't really break down for you and served on a Green Chilli Pachadi Chutney. The combination was brilliant - the crispiness of the crab, with the coconut chutney with its pachadi like consistency rather than a dry chutney, gave us something to dip deep into. What I would have loved was a stronger touch of citrus, which Chef agreed with and said that he would probably introduce into the stuffing and batter for the crab. I hope to get back there soon and try this again.

My partner went the tried and tested way of beer while I went for my second drink from the regular drinks menu called the Tar-Booze with Vodka, Watermelon Juice, Kala Namak and Pomegranate Juice. The balance of juices and alcohol was great but it was the Kala Namak that wove that magic wand really well for the drink.

I appreciated the fact that though this was a tasting, Chef Thomas paced our meal really went and did not overload tummies with a slew of dishes. His selection was great and made for a perfect showcase of a meal at the restaurant. Main course was the My Uncle's Mutton Curry and Pulao - slow cooked boneless mutton with Madras cucumber, petha and fried onion masala, served with Beryl's Sunday Pulao. A lovely Sunday meal with the family kind of combination that we polished clean, despite being stuffed to the gills already.

Beryl's Pulao

And how can we not end of a sweet note. A Coffee Rasgulla with salted caramel ice cream and peanut chikki. The Coffee rasgulla packs quite an explosion of a coffee infused syrup, which is well balanced with the salted caramel and the added crunch of the peanut chikki.

Our meal at Bombay Canteen was one that does not overload your senses or your stomach but leaves you well satiated and ready to come back for more. This is a feeling that is increasingly becoming difficult to get at restaurants. The focus is purely on good, hearty food and that is what makes Chef Thomas rocks all the way. An average meal for two with alcohol is around Rs 1500 approximately.

The Bombay Canteen
Cuisine: Modern Indian
Parking: Valet
Accepts Cards: Yes
Reservations: 022 49666666
Location:Ground Floor, Process House, Kamala Mills, Near Radio Mirchi Office, S.B. Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai - Map 

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