It was an impulsive decision to go out for some nice juicy non-vegetarian food on Monday. We put our thinking hats together and Mom exclaimed, ‘Amar’. Amar was a restaurant less than a five minute drive from my home and served awesome biryani, kebabs and Indianised Chinese. But just as we reached where Amar proudly once stood, we were shocked to see a bank! Thanks to my new found health freak avatar, we haven’t been there in the last year or so, but to see the place shut!
So we drove down to Churchgate to eat some Rogan Josh at Gaylords. Over dinner, we thought about all the places that used to dish out amazing food at amazingly low prices and I couldn’t help but write about them. This time its not about my memory eroding. These lovely places have been erased from the memory of Mumbaikars and I want to try and make a small effort to immortalize them by writing about them.
So here goes:
Amar Restaurant and bar, Wadala:
Amar was one of the few places in the Matunga east area to serve non vegetarian food. It did go veg for a bit of time but, it bounced right back with chicken tangdi kbabs, butter chicken and more! I remember going to this restaurant as a small kid. They always gave me a cushion, and a special plate full of candied cherries. I felt special. Mom was relieved, the cherries and butter rotis nourished me!
Crystal Punjab, Dadar (W):
I remember the brown and crème SunMica décor. I remember the fancy wall fans which left a blue or red blur as they turned side to side, sweeping with them the pungent aromas of biryani, rotis and rich Punjabi curries.
The owner was a lovely soul. He sat at the counter, talking to his customers and making sure that the food was great. My mouth waters as I think of the delectable bheja masala fry. The brain was cooked just right, soft enough to bite into and tender enough to melt in your mouth. The masala was a brown concoction of onions, garlic and some secret spices. Wow!
The modest restaurant was replaced by leather apparel store more than a decade ago. But the taste of their Bheja fry continues to live on.
PS: I haven’t tasted Bheja fry ever again. I don’t want my taste buds to ever forget the tastes of Crystal Punjab.
Gupta Dhaba, Dadar (E):
This place was just a large hall, with fans and radio on. The customers were mainly cab drivers, truck drivers or transit passengers from Dadar Station. The first time we went there, me and my sis screwed up our snobbish noses and said, ‘Yuck! We can’t eat here!’
Dad asked us to shut all these things out and just wait for the food. And he was damn right. The chicken tandoori, palak mutton and Chicken bharta arrived and that’s how our love affair with Gupta’s began. The food was so good, that we didn’t care about the mediocre surroundings or anything. We would eat there at least once a week as a family.
Of course, the rich bhartas and parathas made sure that I needed to go on a diet. But then one fine rainy day, my dad and I were craving for some chicken bharta and we drove to Gupta’s and our favourite eatery was now the office of Republican party of India.
Farmer Bros, Khodadad Circle, Dadar (E):
This one was a cool place. A fancy bike stood parked right at the entrance. The place did fabulous Chinese food. Roast Lamb chilly, egg fried rice and fish in hot garlic sauce was to die for. The owner was a cool dude, who was a foodie and a biker. He was a good friend of Dad’s. We’d ordered some kebabs once and he stopped by. “Without the coal grille, they just don’t taste right,” I told Mom, who was saygn that she could make tandoori chicken at home or something like that.
“You’re right, often the charcoal adds to the flavor of the meat. It’s not about the marinade so much,” Mr. Kersi said. And he ordered something for us. It was a big tuna fish in a honey mustard sauce, char grilled to perfection. If there was a heaven on Earth, I am sure I peeped into it at Farmer Bros. that night.
I also remember having a grand dinner out there once. My whole family, I mean WHOLE family, went to see the movie- Titanic. And after the movie, we enjoyed an elaborate Chinese meal at Farmer.It was me, my parents, my maternal grandparents, my maternal uncles, aunts, my cousins, my paternal grandparents and of course, Nani- my younger sis.
My maternal grandfather wasn’t much of a restaurant lover, but that night, he actually enjoyed a meal and it wasn’t cooked by his wife!
Mr. Kersi had a fatal bike accident that year and the restaurant shut shop. May Mr. Kersi’s soul rest in peace. He’s one of the coolest dudes I ever met and his restaurant was the coolest one ever.
I have loads more to write about… Maybe I will some other time, but for now these are the restaurants that are irreplaceable. No amount of new restaurants with snazzy interiors and fancy dishes on the menus that you can’t even pronounce will fill the void left behind by them!