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Eating in Mumbai (Bombay)


Benedict Jenks
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Answering that question is as difficult as answering the same question about New York or Paris!

What kind of dining were you hoping to do? If you're talking about fine dining, there is something of a consensus about the top restaurants. No surprises: You'll find the same ones mentioned in Fodor's and the other guidebooks, and on the various Bombay Web sites. If you're looking to get into the less elaborate stuff, that's another situation entirely.

Give us as much information as you can about your trip, your preferences, where you're staying, etc., and we'll try to scare up some people who can help you.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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I guess that if I was in New York - I'd be asking which of the famous places such as Le Cirque, Daniel, Lespinasse, Jean George are really worth it.  I'm likely to be staying in a 4 or 5 star business hotel for inside of a week and really want info on where to go eat really good Indian Food rather than just eat in a hotel or take guide book pot luck.

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Bombay, now called Mumbai is a melting pot of cultures in India.  You can find in Bombay foods from all parts of India and also many other countries.  

The highlights of any food venture into Bombay would be the Indian food, Indian Chinese Food and Thai food.

For sea food you can count on Sheetal Samudra, Mahesh lunch house and Trishna, all in Bombay to give you the best you can find in India.

For Gujerati Thaali (a platter with assorted dishes to be eaten at a meal) you can count on Panch Ratna.

For a vegetarian thaali you can also make a trip to Purohit or even Kailash Parbat.  Kailash Parbat has many offering from the wide range of street foods that come from Bombay.

Swaati is a new restaurant that has offering from Gujerato snack foods.

Khyber is a fine dining Indian restaurant in Bombay.  It would have food more familiar to one accustomed to Indian restaurant fare in US Cities.  Bombay Brasserie is another such restaurant.  Again, your concierge will be able to give you names of other new ones that are in this league.

China Garden is the highest rated and most well respected Indian Chinese restaurant in Bombay.  Lings Pavilion is a somewhat less expensive higher end Indian Chinese restaurant.  Indian Chinese food is very different from Chinese food as we are familiar with it.  It may well be worth a try.  It is amazing as a food by itself.

Sardar Pav Bhaji stand is a local Pav Bhaji stand in Tar Deo area of Bombay.  Pav Bhaji is to Bombay what chili is to America.  Sardars has the best Pav Bhaji you can find in Bombay.  Pav Bhaji is addictive and soulful.  You will yearn for it long after you are back in the US.

You could have a lunch at the Bombay Gymkhaana or the CCI Club to get a taste of the famed Parsi cuisine that thrives in the city of Bombay.  Parsi food is the food of the Zoroastrians that fled Persia and made a safe home in India.  Their food is a long past fusion of the middle eastern and Indian styles of cooking.  The concierge of the hotel you will be staying at could help identify an easy solution for you to taste this food.

Bombay houses one of the best Thai restaurants anywhere in the world.  It is at the posh President Hotel.  The name escapes my mind now, but again, your concierge will assist you.  If you want to enjoy fine Thai food in a most beautiful and perfect setting, this is your safe bet.  You can also see produce getting carved by masters of that craft, and if you are lucky, you will be given one to take back with you.

To experience  the foods of the very diverse Moslem community of Bombay, you can make a trip to Mohammed Ali Road.  There are many cafes and restaurants that serve the many dishes that celebrate the culinary diversity within this community.  The life around the streets of this area is brimming with celebration at all times.  Especially in the evenings around now.  Ramadan, called Ramzan in India makes for the ritual of breaking the fast in the evening one celebrated by all.  The streets in themselves are fantastic and you will be fascinated by the abundance of foods and cheer.

On Colaba Causeway you will find a fair sampling of Baghdadi cafes and restaurants.  Cafe Leopolds is one such place.  There are several of them scattered no more than a few store fronts away from one another.  These serve cafe foods as we are familiar with.

Just off the Colaba Causeway, one of the side streets houses Bade Miyaan, a hole in the wall that serves grilled meats and tandoori breads.  It is a refuge of the late night hip crowd as also the locals that live in the area.

If you need a break from eating all these ethnic foods and want a refuge in a comfortable familiar setting, Shamiana the coffee shop at the Taj Palace Hotel at Gateway of India is just the best place to retreat.

Bachelors, is a late night ice-cream joint that serves countless varieties of fresh fruit ice creams made at home.  You can also get a wonderful bowl of strawberries and cream when in season.  They are sublime.  You may want to ask if they are.  At Bachelors, on Marine Drive, you can also get the best Idlis (steamed lentil and rice cakes) with a most delicious Coconut Chutney.  While a snack to southern Indianers, this makes for a great treat at any hour.  

The famous juice stand at Haji Ali serves amazing fresh juices of all kinds and also the cities sweetest strawberries when in season served with cream.  You can also partake in Falooda, a drink made with ice cream, noodles and nuts.  A very Bombay drink and cooler.

If you have a desire to try out Indian desserts, you must make a trip to Mishti Bela, a temple of Indian sweets in Malabar Hill.  At this beautiful boutique selling the finest Indian desserts, you will see Indian desserts in a manner you never thought possible.  And the tastes and textures and forms that these desserts have, will thrill not only your palate, but awaken the senses in all ways.  Indian desserts have had a very poor representation in the US.  Simply because they are not always easy to prepare.

I hope you enjoy your trip to one of my favorite cities.  It never sleeps.  And food is abundant.  Have fun.

(Edited by Suvir Saran at 12:17 am on Dec. 1, 2001)

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Thanks Suvir! Nice post...

I'm curious about the Indian Chinese food. I would think that would taste a lot like Malaysian food, since that has heavy Indian influences.

Got any solid recommendations for NJ Indian restaurants in the Edison area? there are so many to choose from. Please post in the NJ forum if you know of any... so far my favorite is Kinara, in Edgewater, which got really positive reviews in the NY Times.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Jason,

Indian Chinese is actually a world by itself.  Very different from Malaysian food.. and a pity no one has thought of doing it here.. I know in Jackson Heights there are a few places that do some dishes... but Alas!  Poorly at best.  While Malaysian food has many curries and coconut and other Indian spices, in Indian Chinese cooking, one sees less spices but somewhat more heat.  I think what they have added to Chinese cooking is the Indian plethora of  deep frying and sauteeing and love for chilies and then with the huge repertoire of Chinese expertise in the same group, created a cuisine many decades ago, that is at once very different and yet very close to authentic Chinese cooking.

I once met a lady who as Chinese born in India, she now lives in Jackson Heights and dearly misses  that food.  I was pickpocketed and with that, lost her contact information.  She had offered to teach me some of that cooking.  Now, I wait running into another person from that community.. to know more about the roots of that cuisine.

As for Edison and Indian restaurants, I will do some homework before make any suggestions.

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Interesting. Chinese food with heat... like sichuan on major steroids I guess? I'm most impressed with Grand Sichuan International Midtown's (50th and 9th) ability to handle the heat authentically... some of it is off the scale actually, such as in their Kung Pao which we have talked about often here. Unusual for a US chinese restaurant.

As to Edison... there are no fewer than 100 indian restaurants in that area alone... chat houses... snack places... vegetarian... non vegetarian... south indian.. moghlai... very overwheming, it would take me years to go through it all and find the good ones. BTW I think they do have Indian Chinese there, and Indian Pizza if I do recall.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I wonder if Indian Chinese might be more like the Peranakhan ("Straits Chinese") cuisine found in Singapore. Suvir, what you're describing sounds a lot like what I had at Jolly Wee's place over there. Fascinating. Thanks so much for posting. Steven said you knew your stuff, but I wasn't quite prepared for the seriousness of your response.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Jason,

Indian Pizza has become a more reliable dish in the tri-state area.  

The Indian Chinese food is far from authentic yet.  The chefs making it were mostly not trained in it.  They are like me, trying to re-create it by taste.  It still lacks the finesse one finds in the Indian Chinese restaurants in India.  But it certainly is a most welcome start.

As for the word Kinara - it literally means corner in Hindi.  Not at the river.

India has at least a dozen languages ... I think, am not certain, maybe as many as 17..... and then there are hundreds of dialects.  Hindi is the national language of India.  And many people across Indian can speak it.

English can bring the educated masses more closely together than most any other language.  

In the south of India, there are 4 languages, changing from state to state.  But curiously enough, even people living in a state where one language is spoken, people often speak Hindi and also the other three southern languages.  

Similarly those living in Bombay often speak Hindi, Marathi (language of the people of Maharashtra of which Bombay is the capital) and Gujerati.  Many also speak Urdu, Farsi and Arabic.  And certainly English is the medium of instruction at schools and colleges and business in most parts of the state.

Calcutta is the capital of Bengal.  Bengali is the mother tongue, but again, people speak Hindi, Bengali, Urdu and also some Gujerati and Marwari.  

In Delhi most people speak Hindi and Urdu.  Punjabi, Tamil (language from southern India), Marwari and many other languages are spoken in the capital of India.  And of course, English is the language used in most schools and places of work.  

While there has been a trend in promoting Hindi, it has been correctly seen as the agenda of the right-wing ruling party.  They are similar to the right wing Republican party in the US.  Their issues often are ones espoused by their fanatic religious affliliates that are a major chunk of the power base.

Thus, language is a tough one to speak about in the Indian context.  There are more languages in India than in Europe as we knew it for centuries.  Then there are those dialects that change from village to village.  We are talking about 1 Billion people.. and people with a very rich cultural heritage dating back to time itself.  Even as the poverty laden masses are illiterate, they often speak in many tongues.  It is that wealth in their person that makes traveling through India, even as one seess immense poverty interspersed with immense beauty, a celebration of life and living and culture.

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Suvir--thank you for sharing so much with us.  I have enjoyed your writing in Food Arts magazine for some time and look forward to hearing more from you--like, have you ever deep-fried Snickers bars wrapped in a naan-like bread?

Steve Klc

Pastry chef-Restaurant Consultant

Oyamel : Zaytinya : Cafe Atlantico : Jaleo

chef@pastryarts.com

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Steve,

Maybe I need to have you make them for me to try.  They sound like they would be amazing.  I love sweets... my favorite part of a meal is the dessert course.  

I could live for sweets and sweets alone.  Scary.

I have seen your own work in Food Arts and all over... hope I can sample it  very soon.

I often tell people I learned to bake from Julia... from her book on French cooking.  I have spent many late nights making Tarte Tatin, puff pastry and other pastry.. with her book as my teacher and my mistakes as my experience building guide.

It is encouraging to see chefs like you take time to comment on what is posted by others like me.  Rather generous and kind.

Best to you and yours this holiday season.

Suvir

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I have a feeling Benedict is going to check in on this thread and be completely bowled over by the responses thereto.

Hi Benedict. :)

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Yes, I am bowled over by the response - especially Suvir's detailed information.  Also amused by the side comments on Indian Chinese or even Peranakhan cuisine.  I'm just waiting to find out whether my (business) meetings are going ahead but on the basis of your posts I'll be trying to tag on a day or two for culinary exploration.

I'm amazed at everyone's generosity and the way you all want to share your knowledge and experience.

Thank you

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Benedict,

Wish you well if you do end up going.. and do plan a few extra days.  R.T.I (I think it stood for Ratan Tata Institute is a great place to have Parsee food).  There are a few locations in Bombay.. your concierge will be able to tell you of the nearest one.  I forgot about it as I talked about Parsee food.

Enjoy your trip.. and do keep us posted on your experiences.

Suvir

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Benedict,

If it's not too late, I reccomend that you try kulfi, an indian dessert sort of like icemilk (i''ve also heard it described as a semifredo).  There some vendors on chowpatti, the beach along marine drive (close to the marine lines railway stop) who are legendary for the variety and qaulity of their kulfi.

I heartily endorse the kailas parbat and china garden reccomendations--both are fabulous in their own way.  Given exchange rates, i believe china garden is an immense value.  

I would also add a reccomendationn: the badshah (i believe it's on Princess Street not too far from the flora fountain) they make an amazing falooda, another dessert with ice cream and a kind of noodle as well as the street food one can find at kalish parbat.

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Stephen,

You feel ignorant about what?  Woof!  I don't think so... you know a lot.. and write very well about things you know about.

And Bombay (Mumbai) has so much to offer.. one could spend a lifetime there and not know it all.  After having written so much about Bombay, I still feel there is so much more I forgot.  But that would be true also for NYC or London or Paris... so no one person could ever do any of those metropolises justice in mere words...

Thanks for all your postings... and for your site... they are great inspiration for many.  And I hear that from many people I respect.

Suvir

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Thanks, Suvir. I even think I write well about some things I know nothing about! :) But really, I feel ignorant about India and Indian food in general.

If I were to make a list of the world's most important cuisines, Indian would be right up there alongside French, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. Yet of those I know the absolute least about Indian. I've never been to India, and I know for sure the Indian restaurants I've visited here have not represented the best of that great culinary tradition. Nor have I had any knowledgeable Indian friends cook for me in their homes. So when I hear people on this site saying, "Oh, go to this street in Bombay and eat such-and-such," I feel ignorant. Indeed, I am ignorant!

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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we can change that Steven... you should plan a trip.. and I would love to be your guide.. and get you to the restaurants and also homes.... India like most countries, gives you as many different scenarios as there are moments in life.

We are all ignorant in certain parts of our lives.. and it is just fine.

Keep writing.. as you help others make themselves less ignorant.

Suvir

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