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A look at Mumbai restaurant menus after the beef ban

Now that it’s been over a month since the beef ban was implemented, we speak with people from the food industry across Mumbai on how they’ve tweaked around and adjusted their menus to retain their customer base

On March 2, 2015, President Pranab Mukherjee gave his nod to the Maharashtra Animal Preservation (Amendment) Bill, 1995.

According to this amendment, in addition to the ban on slaughter of cows (Maharashtra Animal Preservation Act of 1976), it will now be illegal to slaughter bulls and bullocks. Those in possession or involved in sale of the meat will also face a fine or jail. The act allows the slaughter of water buffaloes for carabeef.

Steak with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and Jus at Palladium Hotel
Steak with Roasted Rosemary Potatoes and Jus at Palladium Hotel

Cause and effect
While this move has adversely affected the families involved in the slaughter of bulls, the restaurant industry seems divided. “Since the ban on beef, there has been a hue and cry among our clients.

Habanero BBQ Chicken Wings at Asado
Habanero BBQ Chicken Wings at Asado

We lost 15% of our customers. For the beef lover, any other meat cannot replace the taste and superiority of beef,” admits Shaival Chandra, Owner, Hopping Chef, a gourmet home catering service. They have now introduced dishes such as Ginger Honey Pork Belly, Herb-Crusted Lamb Roulade, Lamb Shank with Rosemary Potato and Pan Gravy.

Double Cheddar Beef Burger at Woodside Inn
Double Cheddar Beef Burger at Woodside Inn

Mangal Dalal, co-founder of Cellardoor Hospitality, which organises Chef’s Table pop-ups and the currently-on Restaurant Week, feels that it won’t lead to big losses as Mumbai has never been big on beef/pork as Bengaluru or even Delhi.

Chicken has replaced Beef in Kothu Roti at The Bombay Canteen
Chicken has replaced Beef in Kothu Roti at The Bombay Canteen

“In terms of pop-ups, each event is customisable, now, we just have to avoid beef. It is a beautiful ingredient that restaurants in Mumbai cannot play with anymore, and it makes things tougher in a market where quality ingredients are already an issue,” says Dalal.

He feels that many establishments were serving water buffalo, and will continue to do so. Pankil Shah, co-owner, Woodside Inn echoes Dalal’s thoughts: “We have always used water buffalo at our outlets since consistent availability of cow at a commercial level was always an issue; hence, one would import Wagyu or Brazilian beef.

But this has also become illegal now. Because of the beef ban and the strike by beef traders, we faced a problem with supply but it is now back on track.” Chef Paul Kinny, group director of culinary services at Palladium Hotel, Mumbai, echoes the sentiment: “Honestly, there hasn’t been any negative impact; at least, when it comes to the hotel.

While plenty of people have started eating red meat in the city, especially when it comes to burgers, the fact is that there still remains a larger percentage of seafood, vegetarian and poultry takers. We will continue to serve steak and burgers using carabeef, and will compensate by using deeper flavours in the marinade,accompaniments, etc.”

Rohan D’Souza, lead chef at Silver Beach Hospitality (Silver Beach Café, Nom Nom, Treesome Café) feels the ban has hit upscale restaurants where typical beef preparations were sold at a premium. One such restaurant is Latin American specialty restaurant Asado, which had several beef dishes in their previous menu.

“The first week after the beef ban, we recieved several requests for beef items at Asado, which we had to politely decline. Now, nearly 50% to 60% of these regular clients haven’t returned. Our suppliers want us to use buffalo meat but the quality is not at par,” says Trimaan Chandok, owner Asado.

“People have a mental block against buffalo meat. Many of our customers were sad about the ban; they don’t find our burgers as juicy now. Earlier, we would sell about 35 burgers on weekdays and 50-60 on weekends. This has now dropped to 15 during the week and 30 on weekends.

The steaks have been doing well, however,” cites Bruce Rodrigues, owner of meat speciality restaurant, Imbiss. Rodrigues adds that meat costs have risen while the prices of dishes remain unchanged.

Mind the menu
To fill the vacuum in the menus after the ban, several restaurants have added new meat dishes. D’Souza has scaled up the number of lamb dishes while Rodrigues is planning to explore emu. They also serve rabbit on weekends.

Asado has introduced a lot of vegetarian options, apart from lamb and pork dishes to their new menu. “It’s difficult to replace a Fillet Steak in terms of tenderness and popularity. We have developed ‘Cooking in a Hot Water Bath’ techniques to tenderise the lamb or pork through a unique natural system.

The good sign is it’s gaining popularity among meat lovers. Pork Ribs and Lamb Chop from Lava Stone Grill are our signature and best-selling dishes now,” shares Chandok. Recently opened hip eatery, The Bombay Canteen, which served the popular Sri Lankan-style Beef Kothu Roti, has replaced the meat with chicken.

At Restaurant Week, there will be more lamb and seafood, says Dalal. “Since carabeef is leaner and gamier, we would need to combat the gamey (distinct to wild buffalo) flavours and texture by using stronger flavours through the use of spices and sauces. I advise using additional fat and not mince the meat too fine.

We will maintain a chunkier texture in the mix when it comes to burgers. This is a good time to focus on being innovative by complementing the patty with different breads and cheeses. Research and trials will be carried out soon to ensure that our patrons don’t feel the difference. At the end of the day, as chefs, we need to buck up and channelise our creativity to the optimum without focusing on the limitations,” reminds Kinny.

Pankil Shah co-owner, Woodside Inn
Pankil Shah co-owner, Woodside Inn

Trimaan Chandok owner, Asado
Trimaan Chandok owner, Asado

Mangal Dalal co-founder of Cellardoor Hospitality
Mangal Dalal co-founder of Cellardoor Hospitality

Chef Paul Kinny group director of culinary services at Palladium Hotel
Chef Paul Kinny group director of culinary services at Palladium Hotel

Official speak
“According the Act, the consumption of the meat of buffalo is still legal. The marketing department of Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika provides licences for slaughter. According to their license number, these animals are then slaughtered at the Deonar Abattoir and hence we keep a check on what animals are legally used for meat,” says Dr AE Pawara, general manager, Deonar Abattoir.

Numbers game
>> Cow slaughter has ban banned in the state since 1976.
>> Rodrigues tells us that the steak undercut, which would earlier cost about 260, now costs about 360.
>> Several restaurants in the city already used buffalo meat in the restaurants.
>> Asado tells us that 50 to 60% of their regular beef eating clients haven’t returned after the ban.

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