Fiona Fernandez: Bombay on the menu
A city as diverse as ours, with its heady mix of communities and influences, and hence, flavours, ought to flaunt a cuisine it can call its own
A while back, we had the opportunity to meet an influential and acclaimed US-based Indian restaurateur cum chef who was visiting the city to catch up with his team in the city, where he also runs a couple of popular and innovative restaurants.
Unaffected by all the lights, accolades and glitz of New York, he was still a pucca Bandra boy at heart. He hadn't forgotten his roots, and his mother and grandmother's recipes, evidence of which had peppered the warm chat, from a recent fish preparation that his mum had whipped up, to taking poee - those pillowy cushioned bread portions - to the West. We went on to discuss the ever-changing cityscape, from the Metro to a quaint abandoned bungalow near St Andrew's Church that had been razed since the last time he was home. Expectedly, there was a lot of 'Bombay' food that was discussed - a topic close to our soul.
The restaurateur-chef's passion for the city, his Goan ancestry, and the dynamic diversity of India are pretty obvious in the menus at his restaurants, and there were plans to go all out and celebrate it even more at these spaces. It made for an engaging afternoon, no doubt, especially when our favourite city's flavours and aromas were put on the table. It was a promising sign. At least, for Bombayphiles like us, who been yearning for more of the city on its menus, and has often been a topic-stirrer in this very same column space.
Around the same time, we had got wind that a restaurant in SoBo, coincidentally also owned by a Goan chef, and which was one of the earliest eateries to give the city a wonderful mix of food from Bombay and the sunshine state, was rechristening itself into all-out restaurant that would pay tribute to the city's food - from kheema pao and bombil fry (are you salivating?). The picture was getting rosier.
We jogged our memory a bit more, to roughly two months back, to another chat with a celebrated chef-restaurateur who had stirred many gastronomic revolutions in the city, and is now running a successful fine-dine. Turns out, the veteran culinary wiz would love to start his very own Bombay restaurant. Of course, there was nothing final to it but his wide smile made us do a little virtual jig about the possibility of his opening such a space. Food from the city had always impressed him, he told us, from Bohri Mohalla favourites to Maharashtrian staples, and the city's fresh catch. Like millions who arrived in this city and made it their own, he too was inspired with its variety, and was keen to celebrate it for the world to savour.
All these three instances - albeit borrowed from different scenarios - were adding up to something that should have happened a long time ago. The city's very own brand of cuisine ought to be put out there, a unique confluence of its thriving local inspirations, its migrant flavours and countless techniques from its many communities. Most world-class, cosmopolitan cities, from Toronto to Singapore flaunt it, so what has been stopping us so far? We'd love to see more entrepreneurial minds stir this melting pot and showcase Bombay's flavours, the way only we know of it.
mid-day's Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city's sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana Send your feedback to email@example.com
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