The evening promised to be one of exciting gastronomic discoveries. A new Bengali cuisine restaurant was tempting us with their authentic flavours. But it came at a price. Located in the rarely-tread environs of Andheri East it brought with it a circuitous, bumpy ride that one had to negotiate on the lone day off from work. Then again, foodie adventures are more delish when peppered with such unpredictability.
A cozy space laced with aesthetic elements from Bengal, with the City of Joy playing centerpiece, we were eased into the land of Tagore. The time warp was working fine. Now, to the food. It was a joyride all the way. The succulent Hilsa, the intense aromas of the mustard oil-cooked gravies, the malai-laced prawn curry...soon enough we were in culinary heaven. But instead of donning the food reviewer cap, we’d rather point out what impressed us even more. The owner was a self-made entrepreneur, a former advertising professional, who wanted to celebrate a slice of authentic food from his home state.
The ideas, the attention to detail, the charming interiors with a tinge of Bengal in every corner, had won us over, already, as we had stated earlier. But the food, and the determination to get things right on the city’s ever-changing, unpredictable food map, was inspiring, as much as it was heartening. We could tell, within five minutes into our chat with the owner, that he lived and breathed food. A must, for such relatively high-risk ventures. As we tucked into our sumptuous dinner, we noticed that take-away orders seemed to in big demand. Incidentally, they had started off as a take-away and now expanded into a full-fledged restaurant. The slow-and-steady, no-frills attached approach was refreshing.
Time and again, we’ve walked into restaurants riding on over-the-top publicity, overpriced, unnecessarily long menus set amidst glitzy settings. Add the corporate mumbo-jumbo that one is subject to. But a love and understanding for the cuisine(s) that they represent is often lacking. This, we believe, goes a long way in getting the pulse of a restaurant right. Get the basics wrong, and be ready to watch your ship to sink.
Mumbai could sure do with more such standalone restaurants with hands-on owners who have a pulse on the cuisine that they serve, and of course, loads of business acumen to survive in this stormy world. Then, even back-breaking autorickshaw rides to far-off corners can’t be a deterrent to great ideas around sumptuous, authentic food.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day