Mumbai Food: Eat a sumptuous Mangalorean meal near Thane station
A former news photographer opens a VFM eatery near Thane station that will have even the hurried commuter stop for a sumptuous meal
Two years ago, when Kistu Fernandes, a former news photographer with a broadsheet, started recceeing for locations to set up a Mangalorean eatery, he had a simple requirement: the spot had to be near Thane Railway Station. "Honestly, that was the toughest part," he recalls. "While there are tons of Malwani food joints in the vicinity, there wasn't a single restaurant selling Mangalorean cuisine.
The ones present are at a considerable distance," adds Fernandes, who incidentally hails from Malwan, but is a self-professed Mangalorean food junkie. Now, after a long hunt, he can finally heave a sigh of relief.
The prawn curry rice plate is priced at Rs 249
Shoutout to a classic recipe
Standing cheek-by-jowl with a juice stall next to the Railway Police Station, is the Fish Curry Canteen, the 49-year-old's new venture. With freshly painted white walls and a hand-scribbled menu on the white board, the place beckons with the wafting aroma of fried fish. The interiors are minimalistic with canteen-like seating. There's an outdoor area, but that is yet to be utilised.
Curious locals begin to saunter in for a meal by noon. The menu is restricted to a single page and contains four items. For Rs 99, you get Mangalorean style coconut fish curry, a fried fish (mackeral or mandeli), rice, appalam (papad). For Rs 149, a fleshy surmai is added to the platter, and for Rs 189, there's mackeral and a surmai along with rice, salad and appalam. If you're willing to shell out Rs 249, there's also the special prawn curry rice plate. The fish on the menu depends on the catch of the day. Our growling tummy, opts for the last option, which arrives in less than ten minutes.
The portions are generous, tailored to satiate somebody from a "khata peeta khandaan". The fish, fried with the lightest of the semolina coating, is crispy and fresh. But, for us, the gravy is the hero. With the occasional hint of asafoetida, it's mildly spiced, sumptuous and has all the elements of home-cooked gassi. "It's actually a 100-year-old recipe that a friend's grandmother would prepare. I remember being bowled over by the taste the first time I had it," he says. The friend, he adds, was generous enough to part with the recipe. But replicating the magic was a task that Fernandes and his team of cooks attempted with rigour. Trials were held every day. "It went on for months. It's only when we felt we had perfected it, that we went ahead with the launch," he says.
Barely a month old, the place is already witnessing traffic, mostly from call centre employees rushing to their jobs. "We wanted to keep it simple and affordable because the area demands it." The idea was festering inside him even while he was working as a photographer. "When I would go for food shoots, I'd observe how they would plate and present it. I knew some day, the knowledge will be put to use."
At the restaurant, he has deliberately avoided pomfret because that would only the up the cost of the meal. But other varieties like shark (mori) and prawns are offered depending on the day's catch available at Crawford Market.
Before leaving, we are compelled to ask Fernandes the reason for not summing up the prices to a round figure. "Actually, 9 is my lucky number. Even my birthday falls on December 9," he smiles.
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