Mumbai Food: How Parsi is Mr Daaruwala?
Mid-day's lone resident Parsi books a table at the city's newest community eatery and comes away convinced that Daaruwala is a counterfeit bawa
The difference between Rustom Sodawaterbottleopenerwala, and Mr Daaruwala, is more than a face profile. Rustom, the imaginary owner of AD Singh's chain of Bombay Irani cafés, prefers the side profile as is evident in a portrait that hangs in a yellow carved frame at the BKC outlet's entrance. Daaruwala, the mascot of Ankit Anand and Prashant Chaudhri's House of Daaruwala, likes a frontal shot, I realise from his line portrait in the well of the plates the restaurant uses. But when it comes to cracking authentic Parsi bhonu, Rustom races ahead.
At House of Daaruwala, a two-week-old Parsi cuisine restaurant in Lokhandwala, the biscuit ni bannis (jars) holding khaaris cheek by jowl, vintage lights and signage that speaks of the eccentricity of one of Mumbai's oldest communities, is more than reminiscent of Sodawater. As are the dishes prefixed with iconic bawa names.
Masoor ma gosh
The bentwood chairs here, synonymous with Irani cafés, are well, not bentwood, and so I hope that I find the authenticity I am seeking in the food, if not the furniture. Guns of Navroze (Rs 300), a cocktail of Sambuca, caramelised pineapple and tequila is strong, and tropical. One flew over Cusrow Baug (Rs 300) pays homage to Colaba's famous gated community housing, with a drink that relies on paan, elaichi, vodka and apple juice. If you like the saccharine sweet of maghai paan, try it. Bizarre, but an experiment, nevertheless.
The menu is a riot of choices, offering Italian (pasta, pizza), Indian (butter chicken), Bombay dishes (bombil fry) and a handful of Parsi eats. I ignore the generic dishes just as I do the grammatical inaccuracies in the Parsi-Gujarati phrases across the menu (not lagan nu patio, it's lagan no patio).
Most Parsi dishes are listed in the mains, under Shireen Aunty's Favourites. But before that, the small plates - chilli cheese on brun toast (Rs 295), mutton cutlets (Rs 275) and patra ni macchi (exorbitant at Rs 855). An interesting take on the chilli cheese toast, the brun dish is crisp and cheesy but lacks the kick of marcha (green chillies). I like the mutton cutlets - light, airy and piquant - although they are far from what's made in Parsi homes. The chutney coating the fish, which usually decides the fate of the patra ni macchi, is well made but lacks tang. The fish is fresh, and thankfully a mini pomfret cut into two, just the way we like it. Why they'd serve this dish with a crucible of pudina-coriander chutney that usually goes well with kebabs, I am not sure. I'd recommend instead, a simple side of sliced onion and lime.
Instead of the predictable salli boti (Rs 395), I order masoor ma gosh (Rs 395), an everyday lunch eat. The mutton chunks are soft but the lentil isn't marrying the meat. My grandmother would have called this "dorta masoor", literally translating to "running lentil" because the dal and broth are not "one soul".
Veg berry pulao
The kolmi no patio (Rs 425), a prawn masala relish best eaten with dhandaar (rice and yellow daal) or mopped up with rotli (rice flour phulkas), lacks the khaatti-mitthi (sour-sweet) kick it gets from the sarko-gaur (vinegar and jaggery), but if you didn't have anything to compare it with, it makes for a dish you'd want to try. It's cruel I know, to pit their veg berry pulao (Rs 315) with what my sister-in-law makes, or the one made famous by Boman uncle at Ballard Estate's Britannia & Co, so, I view it independent of a legacy. The portion is small, and the berries are sweet, not zereshk - the puckered, ruby delights that the dish is supposed to employ.
Patra ni macchi
But the big disappointment comes in a shallow white bowl that holds what they call saus nu fish (what they should have called saas ni macchi). A lagan staple made famous by late Parsi cuisine connoisseur and archaeologist Katy Dalal and firebrand wedding caterer Tanaaz Godiwala, it's a subtle fish gravy that usually uses chunky pieces of pomfret or rawas and goes well with yellow khichdi and saria (tapioca pearl crisps). Daaruwala's saas (Rs 495) is runny and comes with an unexpected tadka of curry leaves and mustard seeds. Did they leave out the maida and egg that give the saas its buttery texture and consistency?
Five of the 10 tables at the eatery are occupied the night I visit; a sign that this place might just do well, despite a mock-up menu. Sodawater is doing splendidly, despite what members of the community and I believe are signs of inconsistency and flashes of inauthenticity. There is enough room for a genuine, original Parsi restaurant to open doors and serve up more than stereotypes - both fine-dine, or a modest one that offers home-style kid-gosht, turia-par-eedu and papri-ma-kavab. As for House of Daaruwala, it does little else but reaffirm Lokhandwala's character as wannabe.
Time: 9 am to 1:30 am
At: 1, Green Fields Society, Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri West.
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