Thursday, 11 September 2008

Bagels & salads..

The innumerable visits to the reviews on Burrp & the countless attempts at actually locating the place, today (another day in my life) finally resulted in moments of joy.

After reading the review for Gloria Jean, I was most curious to step in. Call it serendipity or just my strong desire to visit the Bagel Shop, I bump into this friend in Bandra (I was on my way to GJ mind you!) who goes “hey lets go to the bagel shop, its AWESOME!”

For the benefit of those who have been attempting to locate this place & haven’t quite managed there are two ways of approaching it. Either take the turn where Basilico, Papa Pancho, Mia Cucina (all those who haven’t – please do go – amazing!) etc. are, then a right, and then a left (the road slopes upwards) and then a left again. If you take the right one reach the Fab India on Pali Hill. The alternate is to take the turn where the Police Commissioner’s office is on Carter Road – drive slowly for two reasons, the pathetic road; two, lest you miss the Bagel Shop! Once there - the place has a lovely Goan feel to it, despite being in a congested by lane of Bandra. But I can’t help say that the overall feel is a bit cramped.

All bakers & bread makers will probably want to shoot me for saying this, but I think a pretty good job has been done at glorifying regular bread in various shapes and sizes, fancy names, but with pretty much the same taste. One such example would be the bagel. However, I did read that a bagel is the only bread that is boiled before being baked resulting in a crisp crust & light spongy interior.

With this review restricted to the vegetarian assortment on the menu, the only comment I can make on the non-veg selection would be - given the way my friend was chomping on the sausage bagel, am pretty sure it was amazing. The bagel by itself was anything but spongy, but crisp it was (& a tad greasy).

I had the herbed cream cheese bagel with sun dried tomatoes. The cream cheese just oozes out of the bagel, spilling it on clothes, floor, table, basically all over. It’s also available without the herb, with herbs it varies from pepper, mixed herbs etc. There was also a garlic bagel & one with oven roasted veggies. In the sweet varieties there’s honey & banana, nutella, jam (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry). There were the more exotic varieties with goat’s cheese, however didn’t think it worth spending something like 200 bucks on a bagel. Had the lemon ginger tea – quite nice. Don’t add sugar.

Overall a 3 star experience – I thought it was a tad expensive. The total bill of Rs. 442 consisted of:
1 Non-veg bagel
1 Herbed cream cheese bagel
2 lemon ginger teas
1 blueberry jam bagel

Also, the way the jam was served separately from the bagel, was something I didn't quite appreciate.

If you thought the bagel meant a quick bite then this is not place to swing by. Take a leisurely 2-3 hours (atleast) and given the service turn around time, this is the minimum amount of time one would spend!

Not so Italian job…

My review if written more than two years ago would have placed it fairly high in a list of must visit Italian eateries in Mumbai – after my visit today, it’s been knocked off that list.

For starters (pun intended) the choice is just okay. The bruschetta has gotten progressively soggier by the day, although I would still like to maintain that it is quite tasty. Lots of extra virgin olive oil though. The dips that accompany the grizzini are very flavorful, worth a try. The soups hardly deserve a mention, and hence I won’t.

There is a fair bit of choice for vegetarians, although it only covers the stereotyped definition of Italian food pizza & pasta. No polenta, linguini, gnocchi etc.

If a place is named such that people can judge the specialty of the place, it should have gone by the name of Pizza Kitchen. Then again, if you are one who likes the Dominos variety of pizza with the thick base, then you should stick to the not so good pasta. Confused eh? I don’t think so; the waiters would beat anyone on that front. Most of them are clueless on what the dishes contain & the others try your patience in their attempts to explain what the dishes are.

The spaghetti aglio olio was far too oily even though the name of the dish translates to spaghetti with oil & garlic. Order any pasta with a tomato based sauce, and they all taste the same except with the variation of the type of pasta used. The pasta alla Siciliana is also just okay.

I’ve always loved their tiramisu, which I will maintain continues to be pretty good, the pretty bad part if is that the quantity has been reduced by half. Boo hoo!

Looking back maybe I’ve given a scathing review, but my opinion I think stems from the fact that this place has gradually deteriorated over the two years I’ve visited them.

Overall, an okay okay experience.

American Express Bakery - Small pleasures

Theobroma, is the only bakery/patisserie I had heard of before moving to Mumbai. My love for it could run into pages, but I’m not going to dwell on that here. My first two wonderful (in retrospect) years in Mumbai were spent in the posh area of Bandra West.

Once walking on Hill Road, which doesn’t posses any posh-ness that one would associate with Bandra, I came across a modest looking place called ‘American Express’ Bakery. At first, was a little wary of entering this place as there is a laundry right door bearing the same name! The bakery is open in the evening and shuts at 8:30. Never been able to figure out if they are open mornings as well.

An ideal place for the health conscious, they have a wide range of breads & biscuits in the whole wheat variety. The USP of this place I would say is some fairly fancy stuff at very affordable rates.

A limited variety of tea-time cakes & pies are available. The Hungarian Coffee Cake is definitely worth savoring; very moist with just the right taste of coffee. The quiches are well-made with a fair choice for non-vegetarians as well (I’m veg. so can’t comment). The wraps are tasty, but usually soggy, hence avoidable.

The basil & sun-dried tomatoes loaf is worth a savor, and makes a good accompaniment with a salad. Or just heat in the oven and have it as is! The garlic bread with a whole wheat base, shaped like a loaf of French bread (du pain) with a lovely soft garlicky centre.

The blueberry cheesecake has a lovely fresh taste to it. Although, I’ve never tried the chocolate based delights, as that’s reserved for Theobroma (darn! I was not to mention the name) they all look delectable.

Owned by Goans, it’s a fun place to visit during Easter, X’Mas etc. Easter eggs, hot cross buns, marzipans, christmas cake, guava jelly, the list is endless.

On being asked why they called themselves Amercian Express, I was told it was because they catered to American ships that visited Bombay, and the service they rendered was speedy or express. The baking is done at Byculla, and the owner proudly added we’re a fine example of communal harmony; we’ve got Hindus, Muslims, Christians working under the same roof since we’ve been in operation (that’s nearly a century) and have had no problem till date. It helps if the owner is around; she's always glad to suggest something new, which once may miss.

Best of the South in Central Mumbai

Café Madras is a tricky destination if you don’t know your way around Kings Circle, Sion. Everytime we end up doing atleast 2 chakkars before we zero in on its location. This time around, I found a landmark – an eatery which has its name on a bright blue neon board with Reliance Communication written on it is where one takes the left.

Waiting before you get a table seems to be an accepted norm here. The young man at the door smiles sweetly & confirms that we should be seated in the next twenty minutes, which you so want to believe. Breakfast is easier to catch I guess, with less of a wait, depending on when you arrive.

Etched on the stone walls at the entrance are the words, Café Madras, open since 1940. Timings: 7am – 2:30 pm, 4pm – 11pm. It also says the establishment is shut on Mondays.

Fifty minutes later, out of which about forty eight were spent with my sister & I staring at the young man, came our table. Thoughts on ambience etc. etc. should all be discarded before you enter.
The staff is extremely friendly, including the gentleman at the door. I liked the fact that they recommend stuff, rather than routinely take one’s order down.

Move over all you Udipi-style restaurants. The food is out of the world, and since I was brought up in Chennai, you can definitely take my word for it. This is probably the only place in Mumbai which serves authentic mulagapodi (commonly referred to as gun powder by most North Indians). We had a Raagi Rava Dosa, which makes it a tad healthier than the regular version made out of maida. The servings are not big, but enough to fill a normal appetite as most of the items are made with ghee.

We skipped desert, but ended the meal with lovely filter coffee, excessively sweet, but heavenly. Aaah!

The bill for four of us was Rs. 255/- and the following was what we had:

· 1 plate upma
· 1 plate rasam vada
· 3 rava dosas (one of them ragi)
· 2 ghee dosas
· 1 ginger lemon cooler & soft drink
· 2 filter coffees.

Only drawbacks:
· You guessed it, the waaaaait…
· The parking, our vehicle was at the other end of the world. If in a group, its best that atleast one gets off to get their name on the list, while the rest look for parking.

Overall the experience, as a true Chennai’ite would say, voray soopera!