Mash-up served on a plate

Love pao-bhaji? Then, this eatery in Fort hopes to entice you with over 20 versions of the popular street-food snack. Some of the recipes, however, could do with less quirk and more re-work

It's hard to imagine finding an empty table during lunch hour at this busy commercial district, even more so given the modest pricing at this modest eatery (prices range between Rs 30 to Rs 85 per dish), but we walked in to Still Desi to find it completely deserted.

Still Desi
Food: Work in progress
Service: Good
Ambience: Simple

One of the two cooks at work inside the compact Still Desi kitchen.

"We've only been open three weeks," says 22-year-old proprietor Amar Soni, who along with cousin Siraj Zaveri, came up with the concept of providing a different spin to one of Mumbai's most loved street-food snacks.

Bruschetta Bhaji, the desi version of the popular Italian starter is a less
messy option than its inspiration.

"We wanted to play around with the recipe for pao bhaji, so soon after graduating college, we sat down to draw up a list of combinations that we believed would work," shares Amar.  Some of the recipes that evolved from that sit-down and made it on the menu include the Pav Bhaji Dhokla (Rs 40), Bhaji Burgers (Rs 70) and the Chinese Masala Pav (Rs 50).

Service was prompt, especially since there were two cooks hard at work in the kitchen, two attendants and no other orders to worry about.

Italian inspiration
The Pav Bhaji Dhokla was unavailable, as were the Bhaji momos so, we decided on the Bruschetta Bhaji (Rs 40), which was the first dish to arrive at our table. A delightful starter! The toast was crisp and the vegetable and sauce topping pleasantly piquant. It's also less messy than the traditional recipe
This was followed by the Paneer Shashlik Bhaji (Rs 40), which was good too, though the cottage cheese could have done with some salt. The Mexican Pav Bhaji (Rs 85), on the other hand, was ordinary. The dollop of Mexican sauce -- the reason for the 'Mexican' in its name, we were informed -- is barely discernible, as the flavours of the sauce are completely camouflaged by Indian masalas.

The menu lists two desserts right above the words, 'Okay Tata Bye Bye', but neither is accompanied by a description. Priced at Rs 45, the Chocolate Walnut Pav "is a desi doughnut." We opted instead for the Still Desi Dessert (Rs 50). What we got was a slightly modified version of the classic Shahi Tukda: The signature triangles of fried bread, coated with creamy Rabdi and a trickle of chocolate sauce. What the dish lacked in innovation, it made up for in taste.

Amar insisted we toot the horn at the entrance to show our appreciation, so as to encourage other diners to stop by. Should Still Desi get down to reworking some recipes, they might manage to pull in diners without any blowing of trumpets or tweeting of horns.

At: 19 Sonawala Building, Green Street, Fort (lane opposite Old Customs House).
Call: 9222230904
(12 noon to 4 pm; 6 pm to 11.30 pm; only dinner on Sundays) Still Desi didn't know we were there. The Guide reviews anonymously and pays for meals.

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