Head south in Mulund
A new South Indian restaurant hopes to stir things up and should work given the eastern suburb's Gujarati Vegetarian demographic
Despite a growing influx of diverse communities into the suburb, the foodscape in Mulund has been predictable over the years. Indian and Chindian dishes have dominated menus across vegetarian family-type restaurants, offering very little space for experimentation. The lone change has been a rise in the number of thelawallahs selling cheese-loaded sandwiches, chaats, desi snacks and breads in interesting ways.
However, the last few years have witnessed several openings in the vicinity of the busy railway station area, immediately after a fast food chain outlet had replaced a landmark Udipi restaurant. The crowded bylanes and gullies are now dotted with vada pav QSR chains, an outlet of Thane's Mamledar Misal, Pune's famous tea chain Yewale Amruttulya, as well as chaat and Frankie stalls, while old favourite Vishwa Bharati, a vegetarian restaurant, continues to thrive for over six decades.
Achari onion masala idli
So, the recent opening of Balaji Idli House with its bright green board caught the eye. Also, its menu, with a diverse range of South Indian items, seemed impressive. It included crowd-favourite cuisines like Chinese and North Indian and Indian fast food like pav bhaji. The prices are at par with the competition.
Appam with Malabar curry
When I visit them on a weeknight, I decide to skip the Chindian and Punjabi fare and stick to South Indian to see if they do justice to the large, tempting menu. On offer are sections dedicated to rava dosa, uttapam, sada dosa, idli, curries and even a few rice offerings such as bisi bele bath. I start with a tangy lemon rasam soup ('90), where the classic rasam gets a sour kick and makes for a great light start to our meal. Next, our amiable attendant suggests the Mysore kottu idli, where chopped idlis come coated in a spicy dal-based Mysore chutney, the flavour of which is very similar to the Chettinadu style dosa ('130) that's the next part of the sampling.
Mysore kottu idli
What makes the dishes stand out, despite the similar flavour, is the use of fresh ingredients that pack a strong punch of flavour, and the crisp dosa, which is made perfectly and doesn't get weighed down by the chutney stuffing. The achari onion masala idli ('170) is another favourite, with a rich onion masala gravy and a hint of pickle. Hungry for more, the hot filter coffee ('30) and appam with Malabar curry ('175) arrive next. The curry made with coconut milk has a pleasant mild flavour, but the vegetables seem undercooked and have not absorbed any of the flavour of the curry.
Pineapple sheera. Pics/Dhara Vora Sabhnani
The plan for dessert is to try the pineapple sheera ('80) as the payasam isn't available. The taste of the fruit in the piping hot sheera is discernible; it doesn't match up to the offerings at Matunga heavyweights Ayyappan or Ram Ashraya. Regardless of the average curry, the perfect pricing, authentic flavours and diverse range of South Indian food make it worth an encore.
At Bodke Building, opposite railway Station, Mulund West.
Time 9 am to 11 pm
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