A bone to pick
Though it still serves quality fare, we wish that Worli Kanteen hadn't transformed its menu into a pure-vegetarian one
Let's start with a disclaimer. We have never had anything at all against vegetarians. Never have we derided them as "ghaas-phoos" eaters. In fact, we have a certain admiration for the way in which they refrain from falling for the charms of a succulent piece of steak with pink insides, the juice from which oozes out seductively when you cut it with a knife.
The point is that it's a religious or lifestyle choice, and if their decision leaves them with a clear conscience and a good night's sleep, then hey, who are we to deny them that? After all, our motto as human beings should be to live and let (other humans) live, right?
Sindhi koki chole
That being said, here's where one of our greatest fears lies - one day, vegetarians will take over this country, if not the world. Meat eaters will be designated as second-class citizens, consigned only to ghettos, and though we have had ample reason in recent years to believe that this isn't just wild imagination, our apprehensions are compounded when we pay a visit to Worli Kanteen on a Tuesday night. For, when The Guide had first reviewed this VFM eatery, our colleague had extolled the virtues of the unconventional non-veg fare on offer. "The menu manages to intrigue us beyond the pricing," she had written, referring to items like the Sindhi mutton curry and chicken bunwich sharing space with traditional dishes like keema pav.
So, imagine our incredulity when we find a one-page, purely veg version this time around that lists humdrum stuff like rajma-chawal, chole bhature and pakoda platter. Thoroughly confused, we ask the person serving us, "Is this the entire menu you have?"
The Guide first reviewed Worli Kanteen in August 2018. We conduct select, anonymous follow-ups to assess maintenance of standards
He replies, "Yes sir, it is." "But you had all these non-veg dishes earlier. Have you done away with them?" "Yes sir, we have." "But why!" we exclaim in anguish, and that's when he drops the bomb.
"It's because we were losing business. Ninety per cent of our customers are vegetarian, especially given the number of Jains there are in this area. And since the meat dishes put them off, we decided to strike them off the menu. It just made more sense for us."
So there you have it. The whole if-you-can't-beat-vegetarians-then-join-them mindset that we are mortified about is already in practice. Too disappointed to be hungry by now, we ask the server what he'd recommend. "Our cheese pattice sells a lot, and the Sindhi koki chole is really good as well," he answers. "If you insist," we say silently, while giving him a downcast nod and adding a cold coffee (Rs 90) to the equation.
The pattice (Rs 120) arrives first in the form of two massive vadas with pav served separately. We stuff one of these vadas in between the bread and find the cheese three bites in, after making our way through a thick layer of lightly spiced potatoes. It's a laudable take on this Bombay staple. But as you can imagine, we'd have been a lot happier had the stuffing been, say, mutton keema.
Similarly, there's nothing wrong with the Sindhi koki chole (Rs 160). Koki is a somewhat flaky flatbread that has the density of a really thin pizza crust. The version here is traditional enough, and the chole, too, is delightfully non-oily. But it does nothing to lift our spirits, as is the case with the cold coffee, which, frankly, is a downright disappointment.
So, let us leave you then with a question that an organic farmer in Scotland had once posed when we had worked as volunteers on his land many moons ago. We had been sitting at the dinner table and he had asked another volunteer, a self-ordained vegetarian, "Tell me something. If the whole world decides one day to give up on meat, what would we do with all the chickens, goats, pigs, sheep and cows that are born every day? Where would we find the space to keep all of them while their numbers grow?" It's a question that had left the entire lot of us baffled. But if you, dear reader, have a logical answer, please feel free to write in because honestly, we'd love to find out.
TIME: 11 am to 11 pm
AT: Manjrekar Compound, Dr E Moses Road, Worli.
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