Mumbai: SoBo eateries lock horns over menu plagiarism and poaching of chef, staff

Updated: 24 November, 2018 15:02 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

Meaty row erupts in Colaba's quiet Pasta Lane, as carnivore's haven Imbiss accuses replacement Karma of menu plagiarism and unethical poaching of chef and staff

If you were a regular at Imbiss on 4th Pasta Lane in Colaba and grieved on the day the restaurant shut down, there's another eatery that's trying to take its place, and we don't mean just the location. Imbiss's famous Eisbein (poached pork knuckle), the Slim Jims (air-dried fermented pork sausages) and several other dishes have curiously turned up on the menu of Karma, a bar and cafe that opened recently at the same spot.

While there are startling similarities in both menus, Imbiss's management said they have no connection to this restaurant, and has alleged that the management of Karma has copied their menu down to the T-bone.

After successfully running for five years, Imbiss, a self-proclaimed 'meating joint', shut down on June 30, with promises of opening another outlet at Bandra or Powai soon. In August, the German-themed restaurant owned by Peter Mawiong, was replaced by a new cafe: Karma.

Imbiss Colaba shut shop on June 30 and Karma came up in its place shortly after
Imbiss Colaba shut shop on June 30 and Karma came up in its place shortly after

Bone of contention
Not only did Karma open in the same gala, but the owner retained Imbiss's chef and allegedly, even some of its original menu. Few restaurants in the city serve dishes like Beef Rouladen (flattened meat strips rolled with pickled vegetables, served on a brown sauce and mash). Other dishes on Karma's menu, like ox tail pasta (cooked in a tomato gravy), braised beef cheek (served with potatoes and salad), Leberkaese (herbs and pork mince combined to form a meat loaf) and Beer Fisch (fish cooked in beer gravy with farmer potatoes) were all popular items at Imbiss. Apart from the above, Karma's menu also includes sizzlers, pastas, pizzas, Chinese and Thai starters, as wells as tandoor items such kebabs.

Almost every page from Karma's menu
Almost every page from Karma's menu

Riding the gravy train?
Members of Imbiss's management alleged that the landlord of the gala, along with the owners of Karma, came up with the idea to serve the dishes that Imbiss was known for, reaping the benefits of goodwill the latter had earned over many years. Interestingly, on Zomato, Imbiss is mentioned in the address of Karma Bar and Cafe.

What's worse, the Karma management allegedly hopped on to Imbiss's Zomato page, responding to praise from customers with misleading comments such as: "Dear all, we are happy to now serve you at our newly opened outlet at Colaba."

Features dishes that were among Imbiss's specials (right). Pics/Zomato
Features dishes that were among Imbiss's specials (right). Pics/Zomato

Dhiresh Verlekar, operations manager at Imbiss, said, "It has come to our notice that the owners of Karma have stolen the names of several items from our menu and are using the goodwill of our brand that we garnered in the five years that Imbiss was running at the same location. We have written to Zomato highlighting instances where they have tried to mislead our loyal customers. We hope that action will be taken soon."

Verlekar wrote to Zomato yet again yesterday, to complain about the issue. He added that Karma has retained staff that previously worked at Imbiss, including their chef, which has worked to their advantage.

The other side
Bala Biradar, owner of Karma, stood by his menu and pointed out that no rules had been broken. "They [Imbiss] don't have a patent on the dishes. We have the same chef who previously worked at Imbiss, and he suggested some dishes, which we included in the menu. I haven't tasted the food at Imbiss, but I guess the taste will be similar," he said.

He added that if the Imbiss management has a problem with their name being mentioned in the address on Zomato, he will remove it. Taking a similar stand, Manoj Engineer, landlord of the restaurant gala, dismissed the allegations.

He claimed that Karma serves Goan food, while Imbiss offered the German cuisine. "Imbiss's name is nowhere in Karma's premises or signboard. They are selling similar dishes because anyone has the right to sell meat and sausages. Karma also serves Tandoor dishes and chinese dishes. It has nothing to do with Imbiss at all," he said.

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Similar dishes
* Eisbien (poached pork knuckle)
* Slim Jims (air-dried fermented pork sausage)
* Beer fisch at Imbiss vs beer fish at Karma
* Leberkaese at Imbiss vs Leberkase at Karma (meatloaf)
* German potato salad and brats (bratwurst)
* Pickled Quail Egg
* Ox tail pasta
* Braised beef cheek
* Beer fisch at Imbiss vs beer fish at Karma
* Beef Rouladen (meat strips rolled with pickled vegetables)
* Rabbit terrine at Imbiss vs rabbit stew at Karma

Riyaaz Amlani,
'It is definitely unethical, though unfortunately not illegal. It shows lack of imagination. This is frowned upon in the industry. It is one thing to feature one or two dishes as a tribute, and a completely different thing to lift the menu'

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First Published: 24 November, 2018 07:25 IST

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