November 25, 2009
Cafe Noorani: Experience the Aromatic Pleasure of Cafe Noorani.
This evening, I propose you drive from the Haji Ali Junction down the Tardeo Road. Switch off the air-conditioning, if your car has one, put the glass down, you will experience the aromatic pleasures of fragrant biryanis, moist kebabs on braziers and meats in tandoors. Almost immediately you enter the Tardeo Road, on the left, you will see Cafe Noorani. You can’t miss it, it is as busy a restaurant as you may find in Mumbai. Right at the entrance, there is a tandoor grilling full pomfrets, chicken tikkas, kebabs on the spit, baida rotis frying, a man making Chinese fast food. A moving neon sign spells out the menu: Kheema Baida Roti, Chicken Noorani Special, Mutton Tomato Fry, Brain Egg Masala, Malai Kofta, Vegetable Makhanwala, like one of those old time waiters in a chilia restaurant broadcasting the day’s specials. Park the car, the baharwallas will come to you, ready to take the orders and serve you in the car, no extra charge. But it is more fun to eat in the restaurant.
There are two Cafe Nooranis, side by side, two long restaurants running deep into the building. The food is the same, and the service, but one of the two is air-conditioned, the price difference, hardly five per cent. Apart from the cooking in the front, which Manager Nasirbhai admits is more for advertisement, there is a large kitchen in the rear of the two restaurants, one of the largest I have seen, also one of the cleanest, with two dozen cooks working.
I have been hearing about Cafe Noorani for some time now, outside Mohamedali Road, it is the best Mughlai restaurant in town. Its speciality is biryanis, and it has a large collection of these, made with fine-grained Delhi rice, meat on the bone, roast potatoes, a touch of fried onions. You have to decide which biryani to eat. I suggest the reshmi tikka biryani, partly because it is good, and partly because you would not get it anywhere else in Mumbai. At least, Faridbhai Abdul Latif Noorani, one of the proprietors, thinks so. “We experimented and made it here, but I do not know, others may have picked it up from here and may be making it, as we picked up some things from them,” he says modestly.
It is a gentle biryani, delicate in taste, the masala is on the malai side, cream and caju gravy, crushed badam, a touch of saffron. The chicken pieces, boneless, since it is a tikka, are marinated in the white masala, then grilled, then cooked in the biryani. The rice is not put on dum and it does not stick to the meat, which makes it oily. It is not spicy, but not bland also. Mr. Noorani describes it as Bombay taste. It costs Rs.75 in the non-air-conditioned, Rs.80 in the air-conditioned. The chicken tangdi biryani, of course has the tangdi bone, and the chicken tikka biryani is spicy, with red masala (Kashmiri chillis, garam masalas). There is also a chicken biryani, Rs.30 for a half plate, and you cannot get it any cheaper, where all parts of the chicken are used and it is done in a brown masala. Then there are mutton biryanis, fish biryanis, egg biryanis, vegetable biryanis, various pulaos, a paneer tikka biryani, jeera fried rice, and an Arabian biryani, made for our Arab friends, very bland, Rafique, with cream and tomatoes.
One day, I will do an entire piece on Noorani’s biryanis and pulaos only, but not today. There is more to eat.
Next to the biryani, my favourite food here are the baida rotis and meat rolls. The rolls are like Mr. Tibbs’ Frankies, only they are closed at both ends, so the meat does not fall out and make things generally messy. What they do is make a sort of an omelette, with kheema, with chicken, even bheja, I like that best, spread it on atta, like a paratha, and roll it. They wrap it in silver foil and serve you, not plastic bags. A chicken or mutton egg roll costs Rs.25, a brain egg roll Rs.45. I prefer the baida roti to the roll, if sitting at the table, it is more comfortable to eat. And always make it a point to sit at the table and eat. You enjoy you food better, you digest it, you make conversation while eating, it is the civilised thing to do. So, sit at the table and order the chicken baida roti. Service is fast, remember that. And you may watch them making it. The preparation is same as at Bohari Mohalla, the atta is a maida and e gg batter, placed on the hot tawa, and chicken pieces, onions, masala put on it. It is fried in oil, and as it is cooking, it is made into square rotis. Eat it while it is hot, slicing through the egg and meat with a knife and fork. You taste roti, egg, chicken, onions, the maida holds the whole thing together. It is priced at Rs.30, the kheema baida roti the same. The brain egg roti, where the brain is cut into small pieces and cooked with masalas in egg like a bhurji, costs Rs.50. It is light and almost fluffy, better then having brain and roti separate. Though that also you may have, a brain egg fry, or a brain masala fry, with a spicy tomato gravy, both Rs.35.
Perhaps, I should give out the secret of Noorani. Mr Noorani also owns the famous Haji Ali Juice Centre, which is almost diagonally across the restaurant. (To give a more definite location of the restaurant, it is behind Heera Panna, on the Tardeo Road.) The fruit centre, as you would know, has a reputation for fast service, efficient baharwallas, exotic combinations, long hours, the same principles apply to the restaurant. There was a time when it was open till two and three in the night, a great boon to night birds, to young people returning home from the pubs. But the new and rather thoughtless dispensations have forced it to close down at 12.30 a.m. Still, it covers a long day, from 5 a.m. to 12.30 a.m. At 5 a.m., when the doors open, you get kheema, omelette, bhurji, dal fry, alu gobi, alu mutter. By 10 a.m., all the 100-odd items on the menu. And that goes on through the day.
Among the early morning customers apart from those on morning shift, are the people going to the Haji Ali dargah. In the dargah itself, as you must have noticed if you have visited it, there is a small restaurant. This is also run by Noorani, basic foods at rates comfortable to the people who visit the dargah.
To return to the food, the fish tandoori is a whole pomfret, Rs.50, and the fish tikka masala is square cut pieces of ravas, Rs.55. Mutton Bombay Dish comes with boiled eggs, and there are Chicken and Mutton Noorani Specials, which are on the same line as those excellent Metro Specials at the Metro Restaurant at Dhobi Talao. I haven’t visited that for a long time.
You can’t eat everything, but have the Dabba Gosht, Rs.50. This is the classic Bohra gosht, though Noorani may not be a Bohra restaurant. If I tell you how it is cooked, you will know how it tastes. The boneless mutton is cooked in a small steel dish, the kind you use to make your baked custards. As the meat, with a nice thick gravy gets ready, an egg is scrambled and put on top of the meat, evened out, and hot oil poured on it. What it does is glazes the egg and completely covers the meat and gravy. The customer is served the meat in the steel dish, he has to spoon through the egg, which is now an omelette, to reach the meat. You may take the Dabba Gosht home also, as a parcel. For this, it is cooked in aluminium silver.
And the Dal Gosht, I must mention. Parsis make dhanshak dal, Muslims make dal gosh, both have mutton cooked with the dal, thus allowing the juices of the mutton to spread in the dal, Paris put pumpkin and spinach in the dal, and mash it, Muslims put pieces of dudhi in the dal and do not mash it. Finally, Parsis use tur and masoor dal, Muslims use channa dal. I do not know which tastes better. You have Noorani’s Dal Gosht, then have Ripon Club’s Dhanshak Dal, then tell me.
There is a large Chinese section, Indian Chinese, and more to the point, Bombay Chinese, but I will not deal with it here. Instead, one important piece of information: Noorani provides home delivery of all orders, from Colaba Dadar. According to young Zahir Khan, who manages the restaurant, it is an absolutely free service, no charges for delivery, and you don’t have to order in bulk, you may order just two rotis, and they will deliver. One hour for Colaba, 30 minutes for Napean Sea Road. Telephone Nos. 494 4753, 494 3054, 497 2619. Check it out.
November 21, 2009
I’ve been really busy with school and so I haven’t really had time to update my blog. I was youtubing and I came across another one of Kunal Vijaykar’s reviews from his show – The Foodie. Kunal visits Paradise, one of my favourite restaurants as part of his episode on Food Treasures in Mumbai.
November 15, 2009
UTVi news did a bit on Tote on the Turf that gives us a good look at how the restaurant turned out. I wouldn’t take the review too seriously though.
November 14, 2009
Poush appears to be a very popular restaurant and has more reviews than any other restaurant on Burrp. I have always wanted to go there but I’m not too sure where it is. Anyways Kunal Vijaykar vists the Kashmiri restaurant on his show – The Foodie
November 10, 2009
Moving next door, Busaba celebrated it’s 8th anniversary recently. Nikhil’s Chib’r journey to become a restauranteur is pretty interesting and I would love to do a post on it sometime soon.
Miss Malini’s blog has done a pretty good job covering the event.
Image Source – http://www.bollywoodmantra.com/picture/busaba-lounge-s-8th-anniversary-bash-12/
November 5, 2009
I don’t really read much but have read and enjoyed some of Behram ‘Busybee’ Contractor’s articles. My uncle bought a book featuring a collection of his articles that I picked up one day and read through. I recently came across his website and was delighted to find that he also wrote a column on Eating out in Mumbai. Interestingly the only articles written by Busybee that are om his website and can be accessed for free are his articles on eating out in Mumbai. I would like to feature some of these articles here starting off with one of my favourite restaurants in Mumbai – Indigo. I know I’m a bit of a fanboy, but I can’t help it.
Indigo: Bombay’s first gourmet restaurant.
Rahul Akerkar’s Indigo, on Mandalik Road, off Colaba Causeway and behind the Taj, is Bombay’s first gourmet restaurant. I mean, outside the restaurants within the five-star hotels, they don’t count. For instance, there is a potato crusted rawas that is at once crisp and buttery. It is a nice big chunk of rawas, and it is packed top and bottom with grated potatoes. It is pan-sautéed, the potato becoming crusty on the outside, but at the same time acting as a heat shield for the rawas inside, keeping the meat moist and flaky. The contrast is tremendous, you crunch into the potato and meet the yielding meat inside. And it is accompanied (it is a plated meal) with two vegetables and an unusual sauce. The first vegetable is a puree of ginger and carrot, the second is spinach fried very crisp. You can pick it in your hand and crumble it between fingers. So there is a balance between the vegetables also, a puree & a crunch. And finally the sauce, the executive chef calls it ‘kairi curry’. It is a recipe from his grandmother, a mango curry, he has extracted the flavour from it and created a sauce. The dish costs Rs. 260 and it is one of the entrees at the Indigo, a restaurant that has opened more than a month now and if you have not dined there yet you are not living to eat. Sorry.
The executive chef is Rahul Akerkar himself. He is also the proprietor, the inspiration, the idea behind the restaurant. Some time back, I had the opportunity to list the city’s best restaurants, I had put Under The Over at Kemp’s Corner as my No. 1, also started by Akerkar.
The present restaurant replaces Vintage, a Hyderabad food place. Akerkar has redone the insides completely, from top to bottom, or dining room to kitchen. It is designed on clean, contemporary lines, an ambience of restrained elegance. The walls are bare, the table linen plain, the upholstery in the lounge done with suit fabric, the only decoration sprigs of fresh lilies. There are separate areas, a long bar, a lounge, two dining rooms, downstairs and upstairs. There are no rules, you can eat anywhere you like. There is piped music, a mixture of jazz, some African, some Latin, electic music, no disco or heavy rock, but it is not a stuffy place, overbearing or formal. It is nearest to a bistro that you find in the French countryside, the waiters wear white shirts, dark trousers, ties tucked in, long aprons. The cooks wear bandanas on their heads. They have all been trained by Akerkar. First, you have to untrain them of what they learnt, then train them in new methods, he says.
The food. Yes,that’s the main event. The menu is limited, a minimum a la carte menu, appetizers, entrees, desserts. Like all great restaurateurs, Akerkar believes in a small menu that can be changed frequently. But still, there are many flavours, tastes, textures. Basically, the food is European, and the techniques and workings of the kitchen are classic European (50 litres of stock reduced to a ladle of demi glace), but the expression is contemporary. Flavours infused with a little bit of Indianisation. I shall move directly to the appetizers:
A cold carrot and orange soup, Rs. 80. Not many Indians care for cold soups, but for the Indian climate it is appropriate. And a lobster bisque, traditional, no magic in this, except perhaps that it has floating in it bits of crisp okras. Rs. 150. You want to skip the soup, try the mushroom flan. It is a combination of mushrooms, button, black, morel, oyster, sautéed with herbs and a rough puree made of them. This is then mixed in the cooking cement of eggs and cream, put in the oven, and baked so that it firms up and becomes a flan. Served with a lemon mushroom sauce. Rs. 120. Also a gnochi, potato and flour dumplings, with chives added to them, done in a white wine cream, with leeks and saffron. And a fresh tangy roasted lobster salad, with tomatoes, black beans and greens in balsamic vinaigrette. More interesting is the ‘raviolo’. It has been explained to me that raviolo is the mother of ravioli. The latter, as you know, is sealed packets of pasta, but in raviolo you don’t seal the pasta, they are sheets of pasta, you put one at the base of the dish and one at the top, and fill the space between with prawns and roasted pumpkin, and have it with a roasted pumpkin, and have it with a roasted tomato pesto. The tomatoes are roasted in an oven and this is an innovation, they are in place of sun-dried tomatoes that you get at Italian restaurants. Try them. I am told the oven roasted are better than sun dried, not that I agree. The raviolo is Rs. 160, the lobster salad Rs. 180, excellent for the price.
Finally, my favourite, the grilled cinnamon quail. The quail must be the most tender bird of all, the meat picks off the bones with great ease and even the bones can be chewed. In the wild, it is a protected bird, but you are allowed to buy them at quail farms. At Indigo, it is flash flame grilled, very quickly, and it is treated with cinnamon powder, giving the meat a peculiar flavour. The dish comes with a pickled carrot pomegranate and leek salad. So there is the cinnamon-treated meat, rather sweet, and the tart, somewhat tart. After that, have a shorbet, mango and green chilli, or lichee and ginger. Now that peaches are coming in the market, Akerkar is trying another shorbet, of peaches and plums.
Akerkar says he is not trying to change people’s food habits, he is just truing to introduce new tastes. And he is adapting Western food to Indian tastes. For Indian tasted, the food does not have to be spicy, but it must be strongly flavoured. That accepted, at the restaurant they are cutting no corners, everything has to be authentic. If the right ingredients are not available, remove the item from the menu. Basically, everything is cooked in olive oil, and there is a generous use of olives, capers, things are cooked in wines, sauces are prepared overnight. Take a stock of 20 kilos of bones, reduce to two litres of demi glace, add wine, port wine, put on a plate and it coats the plate, glazed like thin honey.
If you are going to the restaurant tonight, I suggest for the entree you have the black pepper crusted tuna. Rs. 260. The meat is taken exclusively from the loin of the tuna, the fillay mignon, the thick muscle above the central bone. The fillay is covered with fresh crushed pepper & sautéed, & served with what they call a capotana, a Mediterrean combination of egg plant, celery, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers in red wine. A warm salady capotana. With white beans & oregano topped with a warm dressing of coriander red wine vinagrette. The chef will cook the tuna for you medium rare to rare, do not instruct him otherwise. The inside has to be underdone, pink, like having a medium rare stake. This is how tuna should be eaten, not overcooked & dry.
There are grilled tiger prawns, with beetroot couscous, pak chori & lobster butter, Rs. 525, but this is usual, do not waste your evening on it. Instead, if you like lamb, go for the braised & stuffed leg of lamb. It’s a baby lamb, the leg deboned & stuffed with mint & basil, then braised. It is served with baked rice, aromatic with dill & peanuts, & root vegetables. There’s a prune chutney that comes with it, to provide the occasional sweet-sour taste to the lamb. There are two chicken dishes, one grilled, with a mushroom ragout, plusw corn and spinach, the other crisp roasted, with lemon put under the skin of the bird.
A dish already popular is a tortellini made with gram flour (besan atta), with roasted pumpkin and pine nut, and a cream of oven roasted tomato. Or you can order a huge vegetable platter, with an assortment of baked, sautéed, roasted and marinated vegetables, with plantain chips, mung dal pancakes, and three sauces to dip them in: Thai style peanut base, a Latin sauce made from capers and parsley, and a sweet red chilli sauce.
Desserts include a warm banana-walnut-chocolate strudel, a caramelised apple tart, also warm, fruit cheese cakes, etc.
I have referred only to the dinner menu. Lunch service has just started. I have not experienced it, but I am told it is different, lighter, more salady, different prices. For dinner, it is advisable to book in advance, if you don’t want to wait in the bar, especially at weekends. Get on the phone for tonight, call: 285 6316, 202 3592.
I’m assuming this is one of the first reviews Indigo got and I’m glad to see that Indigo was just as good then as it is now. Another thing that I really find interesting is what occupied Indigo before it became what it is today. I was of the impression that Rahul Akerkar and his wife converted an old bungalow into the restaurant but I guess another restaurateur had already done that. Also the difference in pricing is pretty amazing.
November 2, 2009
This summer I finally visited Olive’s property at the racecourse. I had been to their Bandra branch long ago but this was my first visit to the race course branch. A lot of people talk about how Olive is one of the best restaurants in Mumbai and some even rate it as good as Indigo. Rahul Akerkar’s Tote on the Turf is now open in the same area that is being developed to house a number of restaurants.
Olive is located on one end of the race course parking lot and if you aren’t familiar with the restaurant, the lack of signs might just make it quite difficult to get there. The driveway however is pretty impressive and due to the fact that the entrance is not on a road, you get enough time to get out of your car.I made sure to make a reservation as I knew that it got pretty busy on the weekends. I got there on time but was made to wait for a good 30 minutes before being given a table. The hostess guided us to the bar area which was really crowded and there wasn’t enough bar stools or counter area for us to hang out. Another thing I didn’t appreciate was how the bar was not properly seperated from the rest of the restaurant which made it really awkward to wait for your table. Also waiting at the bar in a way forces you to buy a drink or two. A better idea would be if the restaurant had a separate waiting area or enough space where you don’t feel like you’re making someone else stand and wait even more awkwardly than you. Another thing that bothered me was the loud house music playing in restaurant. I guess it’s OK for the bar area but the bar and the outdoor seating area were the same and the music was a bit too much while eating. As you can tell I was already a bit pissed off with the wait. I would understand being made to wait if I didn’t have a reservation but being made to wait after a booking is a bit ridiculous. After we were finally seated and handed the menu, I tried asking one of the waiters for a recommendation. The waiter tried to help me out but the loud music made it a little difficult for me to hear him. Also I could tell that he was a bit stressed and couldn’t talk comfortably. I was there on a Saturday which I imagine is one of the busiest nights of the week and so I’m willing to accept a bit of a slip in service but it was my first time at Olive and I really needed some help. They had a wood fired oven and so I decided to order a pizza as I imagined it would be something they made well. Although I was sitting in the outer dining area I did manage to have a look at the inside section as well and wasn’t too impressed to be perfectly honest. The outside section is a lot better and had been enclosed and airconditioned. One thing I really liked about the inside is the view of the stables. You can look at the horses in the stable next door which I thought was kind of a cool thing to watch when you’re eating. I hate to be so anal about this, but the window had blue tint over it which would have been fine in the day, but makes the horses look really blue at night when the tubelights are on in the stable. The food took some time to get there which again I was willing to forgive considering how busy it was. However the three orders got to the table at different times. My pizza got there first and by the time the other two orders were completed, I had finished my pizza. The pizza was OK and even if it would have been great I probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it because of the atmosphere. When the time came to order desert, we decided to head to Indigo Deli instead so I can’t really comment on their deserts.
On the upside however Olive did seem like a nice place to go to if food isn’t a priority. I somehow got the feeling that it was more of a place to spot people and be spotted, something that a lot of the people there seemed pretty comfortable with. I guess if that’s the kind of person you are, you’re going to really enjoy Olive. Olive describes itself as a rustic hideaway where good food, laughter, culture and conversation come together in a Mediterranean melting pot. A place where beautiful people meet to enjoy life’s simple journey. Although I’m not too sure about the simple part, the last line really summarizes Olive for me – more of a place to meet if you are a beautiful person than a place to enjoy a good meal.
EDIT – My mother and aunt who had been here earlier liked the place a lot more than we did and so maybe we were just there on a bad night.
I’ve made a list of airports at the International terminal in Mumbai. I hope this is useful.
- Bombay Blue Bar
- Pizza Hut
- Indian Paradise
- Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf
- IIFA Buzz Cafe
- US Pizza
October 24, 2009
Mad over Donuts opened up their 5th outlet in Mumbai recently right next to Theobrama on Colaba Causeway. Here’s wishing Chef Kishi Arora best of luck with this new branch. I haven’t eaten at Mad over Donuts but have heard a lot of positive reviews about them.
October 21, 2009
In my previous post I spoke about Vir Sanghvi’s previous show – A Matter of Taste with Vir Sanghvi. Vir Snaghvi discusses food trends that have emerged across India including the birth of Indian-Chinese food and the wine boom in India. I don’t think too many episodes were made although I really enjoyed watching whatever was made. This episode talks about how Udipi restaurants came to Mumbai. Udipi restaurants can be found across the city and feed most of Mumbai’s working class and are therefore probable the most important type of restaurant in the city. The menus are pretty standard as is their customer base. Watch the episode for more.
The episode is available to watch here.
October 21, 2009
Vir Sanghvi’s new show revolves around him getting things made just for him – custom made. I really liked his previous show – A Matter of Taste with Vir Sanghvi, however I found this show a bit pretentious. In this episode Hemant Oberoi dines at Chef Hemant Oberoi’s chef’s table at the Taj- Casablanca. I’m not sure what a custom made meal is, and I didn’t see Vir Sanghvi specifying exactly what he wants to eat and how he wants it cooked, but apparently this meal was custom made – just for him. Anyways the footage gives us a nice look at the chef’s table at the Taj that overlooks the sea. The second part sees Vir Sanghvi eating at Gajalee with the owner – Chandrakant Shetty. Again nothing really custom made with his order of butter garlic crab. Sanghvi then heads to Taj Lands End where Chef Rohit Sangwan makes him a souffle. I hate saying this again but I don’t understand what was custom made about it.
The episode is available to watch here.
October 21, 2009
Looks like Tote on the Turf is finally open after all the delays. I can’t wait to get back home and try the place out.
September 29, 2009
Chilli’s and The Great Kabab Factory are opening up opposite Papa John’s in Powai. Chilli’s is part of the American restaurant chain and is owned by the same company that operates Papa John’s and The Great Kabab Factory in India. Three properties on the same road…Not too shabby eh?
July 31, 2009
I came across Alps when I was walking around Colaba the other day. I love the way the restaurant hasn’t changed itself over the years. Everything from the font used on the sign, to the type of material used, to the text on the sign – all take you back a couple of years. I definitly want to try this restaurant out someday.
July 30, 2009
93 lakhs a year according to Mumbai Mirror. That translates to about 7.75 lakhs a month after working for the Taj since 1974.