Bangkok Chicken Pao with Methi Masala pao
When we first heard of Pao and Bao, we imagined it to be just another eatery, trying to cash in on a current food craze, the bao — a fluffy steamed bun. But a visit to their takeaway kitchen in Lower Parel changed our view. In front of us was a setup that looks set to revolutionise the Indian food takeaway industry — a centralised kitchen that runs three separate takeaway brands — Pao and Bao, Indus Opus and Pan of Asia. We have heard of centralised kitchens before, but not with three different delivery services working in sync.
Asia in a Box from Pan of Asia. PICS/ BIPIN KOKATE
Located at Patel Building near the lane that leads to Mathuradas Mills Compound from Lower Parel Railway Station, the centralised kitchen can easily be mistaken for a warehouse; with chefs, dressed in three different uniforms running around their counters dishing out one meal after another. The setup uses the latest in food technology integrating apps, websites and a virtual dialing service (that route calls for the three kitchens to a centralised call centre) into an always-online point of sale system, and has tie-ups with food aggregators like Swiggy and Zomato. It is synergy at its best. But does it transpire to the food as well? We were to find out.
Chicken Dum Biryani from Indus Opus
Nearly two weeks later (after we visited the kitchen), we dialled one of the call centre numbers for our order: Anda Pav (Rs 140) in sesame bread, Bangkok Chicken Pao (Rs h Bao — Chicken (Rs 180) and Nirvana Bao (Rs 140). We also called for a meal box, Asia in a Box (Rs 225) from Pan of Asia and a single portion of Chicken Dum Biryani (Rs 195) from Indus Opus. The order was large, but it arrived within the promised one-hour slot.
Kali Mirch Bao from Pao and Bao
Take a bao
With a thick egg masala omelette and spinach-flavoured mayo, placed inside a thick sesame pao (methi masala pao is also available), the Anda Pao reminded us of the popular Mumbai omelette pao; except this version was larger and juicier. Likewise, the Bangkok Chicken Pao came with a filling of spicy chicken mince, layered with crispy onions and peanuts inside a Methi Masala pao. Both dishes make for a full meal and are more filling than an average burger.
However, if oil is a concern, we recommend any of the baos on the menu. We had ordered a Kali Mirch Bao in chicken. It came with chicken pieces tossed in a black pepper sauce, and a layer of crispy onion. Though slightly spicy, it added a peppery touch to the meal.
Looks can be deceiving, and the Nirvana Bao from Pao and Bao (also located in Powai and Marol) did well. Though not aesthetically pleasing, with caramelised banana, candied peanuts and chocolate sauce and stewed fruit salad sandwiched between a chocolate-flavoured bao, the Nirvana Bao is an absolute delight. As for the rolls, both the Big Apple Roll and the Moroccan Roll played spoilsport in our joyride until then.
Meals in a box
The Asia in a Box from Pan of Asia (also available in Andheri) came with the option of Rice and Noodles; ours had Noodles Stir-fried with Vegetables, Paneer cooked in Kung Pao Sauce (you can also choose Hot Garlic and Black Bean), a Mini Chocolate Brownie and Kimchi Salad. The noodles in the meal box were cooked well and went well with the Kung Pao gravy. However, the brownie was a disappointment. The salad could have been less spicy, too.
The Chicken Dum Biryani from Indus Opus (also in Chandivali and Marol) did justice to our expectations. It was satisfying to finally tuck into a biryani where the rice was mildly flavoured, with the aromas of spices complimenting the dish. This came as a much-awaited relief from the spicy, curried-rice base that most restaurants in Parel end up serving as biryani. The portion is sufficient for one person and comes accompanied with a gravy. We, however,
didn’t like the mint raita that came with it.
If you are a non-vegetarian working professional in Parel, who is fed up of Malwani options or takeaways refusing to head towards Lalbaug and Currey Road, this setup comes as a godsend.
AT Patel Building, ground floor, near Mathuradas Mill Compound, opposite Fish Market, Lower Parel (W).
CALL 65563100 (Pao & Bao), 65906666 (Pan of Asia) and 61646464 (Indus Opus).
LOG ON TO Paoandbao.com, Indusopus.com and PanofAsia.in
Pao and Bao, Pan of Asia and Indus Opus didn’t know we were there. the guide reviews anonymously and pays for its meals