A version of this review was originally published on Lettuce Review.
Frankly, a restaurant opens in Mumbai every fortnight but not many create a stir and a haul as anticipatory as The Bombay Canteen, which recently opened in Kamla Mills, Lower Parel, Mumbai. Opened by returning New York chef Floyd Cardoz and Thomas Zacharias, the simplicity and intricate ‘Indian-ness’ of it all comforted us as we dug into our delicious staple food.
The menu resembles registers we scribbled on, commencing our tryst with everything Indian, as we observe buzzing tables and bar stools on a Tuesday evening. We spot Rahul Akerkar of Indigo being ushered in, as we perched ourselves atop their high chairs and browsed through their intrinsically Indian menu. Kept interesting and intriguing, the menu is not a barrage of endless pages with overbearingly “creative” dishes as seen in most restaurants, which just seem to try too hard.
The dishes aren’t, of course, your usual butter chicken and dal makhani, as the chef took an Indian road trip to discover dishes that define India, right from a Mallu drumstick soup, to a Tamil kuthu roti, and signature street dishes from the interiors of India have been thrust under the spotlight of the South Bombay fine dining scene.
Rarely seen at other Indian restaurants, you are served from an assortment ofchintus, more like farsan or chaknas, which are priced at 40 Rs (.62 USD), while you wait for the main course. The multigrain khichdi comes with the masaal daan (spice box) carrying an assortment of pickles, chutney, onions, and more. followed by the must try-Arugula salad. Paneer bhurji comes with pao, a Parsi typical, nudging me to stop writing and dig into this creative play of simple dishes. The food is exactly ghar-ka-khana (good, home-cooked food), as we try dish after dish without feeling heavy or bloated.
If someone comes to Bombay, this is one place I would really want to take them. Not because it’s totally Bombay, but because it’s completely Indian, in a city that celebrates and shelters the diversity which we call India.
Must try: Mallu drumstick soup, Kuthu roti, Paneer bhurji, and Gulab nut.
What to wear: Smart casuals.
Cost for two: 1500 Rs (23.30 USD), excluding alcohol and taxes.
Foodie tales from the modern Indian. Lettuce Review is a weekly capsule of food fables from the Indian subcontinent, our culture and hospitality. Join us as we give insights into our country, break myths about our cuisine, while welcoming you this colourful land of diversity! Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
The Bombay Canteen
Walking into Bombay Canteen in the evening is like stepping into a yesteryear ghetto pub. The people, the jabber, the unending bar, the music and the vibe all within the quite compound of Kamla Mills is invigorating. The restaurant offers you an eclectic mix of Mumbai’s favourite food and the city’s incomparable hospitality.
Undoubtedly, the best part about Bombay Canteen is the food. The menu is well thought through and has an item that every community in the city can associate with. The Crunchy Dried Shrimp reminds you of a walk past Colaba Market while the Methi Thepla topped with Pulled Pork Vindaloo presents a perfect combination of two very different cuisines. We also enjoyed the strong but smooth spice of the Kejriwal eggs and the well-plated Black Pepper Prawns. Main course was a mix of Prawn and Kairi Biryani, some greasy-in-a-good-way Kheema Bheja Ghotala and a very comforting Uncle’s Coconut Mutton Curry with buttered pao. A meal at Bombay Canteen isn’t complete without their signature cocktails. The Tar-Booz is my favourite the kala namak or black salt brings the water-melon based drink to life! Another great accompaniment to the food at Bombay Canteen is Gateway Brewery’s selection of craft beer. Nothing compliments greasy, spicy, flavour loaded Bombay food like a chilled glass of beer! The desserts were unconventional and interesting, from Old Monk soaked gulab jamuns to masala chai popsicles. My favourite was the Jackfruit Tan-ta-Tan!
Whether you’re a thorough bred local or new to the city, Bombay Canteen must be on your check list for the next month. It’s a melting pot of Mumbai’s culinary joys under one (big) roof!
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What the Hype is All About: Mumbai’s Bombay Canteen - Recipes
The ambience was great. Nice and bright with quirky display pieces around making it look like Bombay. There was auto-rickshaw with old candies, like Mango bite, Kismi toffee, etc. It looked like a place you could hang out with friends and not feel like you are in a hi-fi restaurant. Very casual, very relaxed, very energetic.
Sadly the food let us down.
Price wise I think it was expensive. Between the six of us, we ordered for four drinks, two desserts, five starters, and the bill crossed the 4k mark.
Vegetarian Tacos - This was basically methi thepla tacos stuffed with Rawalpindi chhole. This was tasty, but in the end was roti-sabzi with a different name. So, paying 300+ rupees for three mini theplas with sabzi did not seem worth to me. It didn’t even have a twist or Mexican touch or any fusion touch to it. Just basic indian food.
I discovered in the end that it was gobhi. Felt like aloo. It was mixed with a crispy poha chiwda which was tasty.
Cheese stuffed Grilled Chillies
Whole Bhavnagari chillies, not spicy at all, was reasonable tasty.
Apple Cider – Tasted likes some rotten fruit was forcefully juiced and served. Horrible.
Gulab Nut – Gulab jamun with pistachio cream and with old monk. Though I could not taste the old monk at all, I loved the pista cream. The gulab jamun was a bit too sweet.
Coffee Rasgulla – Tasted like Tiramisu served with apparently salted caramel ice-cream.
With overall average tasting food (all of which was too salty), very high prices, and average drinks too, I only wonder what the whole hype around The Bombay Canteen is. Absolutely not interested in another visit.
5 dishes to try at The Bombay Canteen
Mumbai's culinary landscape has a new entrant that celebrates the old. At The Bombay Canteen, regional dishes and traditional flavours from across India are the superstars. Using local (and often ignored) ingredients, the eatery celebrates the variety, diversity and richness of our regional cuisines and ingredients by cleverly designing a menu that suits the palates, lifestyles, and even our drink of choice today.
Indian-American Chef Floyd Cardoz, is the head chef at The Bombay Canteen. A winner of Top Chef Masters Season 3 and a notable chef in the New York food scene, Cardoz has led kitchens at North End Grill and Tabla restaurants, and returns home (two decades later) to give us a taste of what he has been up to in the kitchen all these years. Here he picks the five must-try culinary innovations:
Black Pepper Head-On Prawns.
Cardoz, who has roots in Goa, picks this dish for pure nostalgia—it reminds him of the fresh catch and beautiful beaches. The dish comes grilled over coal and is served with a grilled lemon. "Black pepper is a versatile spice from India and should be celebrated," says Cardoz. Try it for its balance of sweetness of Indian shrimp and spicy pepper.
A sophisticated take on the fried appetiser that we all love with our drinks. This crispy Sindhi favourite is presented in a chaat-variant, topped with spicy raita and mugri or rat-tail radish that is available in India all year. It represents the signature medley of Indian cuisine—spicy, sour, sweet and bitter.
Banana Leaf Wrapped Roasted Fish.
This dish celebrates the flavours of Kerala and the age-old technique of cooking in a banana leaf, "…A technique popular with the Parsis and in south India, but not used enough across the country," says Cardoz. He also deploys the technique of ɾn papillote' (wrapping of foil or oiled paper) to minimize the protein contact with the oil. The team uses local fish such as Pakat or Sting Ray, or a Snapper for this dish. We sampled the soft, melt-in-mouth Snapper, doused in buttery-smooth tamatar masala curry from Kerala.
Tandoori Pork Square Ribs.
This dish is a representation of Cardoz's eclectic and innovative style, and celebrates the flavours of Goa and Northeast India where pork is usually cooked with chillies, ginger and some form of acid. "Our ribs are characteristic of all this, with the addition of vinegar. When I was younger, I lived in Bandra and we used to barbeque and grill marinated pork. Here, we finish the cooking on a skewer in the tandoor," says Cardoz.
A street food favourite in Sri Lanka, this traditional Tamil dish is made with chopped pieces of Malabar parathas, vegetable (or meat), crisped on a plancha, and finished with a drizzle of coconut curry. It also comprises raw cabbage, chopped chillies, moong bean sprouts, onions, cilantro and a dash of lemon juice. Served in a bowl like a salad, this old dish is packed with fresh flavours and textures.
How The Bombay Canteen is helping Indian diners rediscover their roots
A new mini-series profiles three Himalayan Raw and Fine winners, from the first edition of the Condé Nast Traveller and Himalayan Top Restaurant Awards
If there’s one chef who’s made it his mission to visit the most disparate corners of the country, it’s Thomas Zacharias of The Bombay Canteen. Ever since the restaurant opened in 2015, it’s managed to carve a niche for itself as it reinterprets Indian food from all over the country. Just this year, Zacharias has travelled to Kashmir and within Maharashtra to Divegar and Kolhapur. During our interview, he mentions, “I’ve done two so far, and the idea is to do at least four this year.”
The Barley Jowar salad
Bhutte ka Khees
Inside The Bombay Canteen
Just as the journey of Himalayan’s mineral water is what sets it apart from other options on the market, it’s the food that Zacharias has had on the road that allows him to keep the restaurant’s menu innovative and seasonal. Consequently, the restaurant came in third on the list of Himalayan Raw and Fine Top 10 restaurants in the country. The Himalayan Raw & Fine Ranking is a curated list of 10 restaurants from the Top 50 that completely embody the philosophy of fineness. This list was created to celebrate restaurants that are working hard to provide wholesome yet delicious food to their diners. How were the winners picked? Basis a simple criteria that recognised restaurants and chefs for whom ingredients with a unique and natural source play a central role in providing a superior experience, much like the Himalayan Natural Mineral Water itself.
Over the course of three years, the food at the Bombay Canteen has lived up to its goal of giving a platform to local vegetables. Zacharias explains, “At Bombay Canteen, we’ve had this philosophy from the beginning, not just of regional cuisine but also celebrating ingredients as well. What was happening was any new restaurants that was opening was using what in Bombay we call English vegetables—which is like zucchini and asparagus, and then there was a kale frenzy and chia seed and all that.” At the Lower Parel eatery, you’ll find ingredients that go beyond the Gondhraj lime and black rice, and instead be served dishes that include tendli (ivy gourd) and parval (pointed gourd) as well.
Zacharias drive to spotlight local vegetables is mirrored in Himalayan making the most of the natural spring water that is bottled. It takes an indigenous, often overlooked resource, and packages it for today’s needs. That it has benefits, like naturally occurring minerals and more is an added bonus.
The food that is available on the menu then is seasonal, changing through the year and inspiring multiple visits by loyal customers. Indian millet khichdi, moras bhaji and arbi tuk are just some of the dishes that utilise the country’s indigenous produce, allowing diners to sample ingredients that are rooted in certain regions (like moras, a small green leafy vegetable that has a satisfying crunch) or then usually cooked at home, like arbi, which is known as either taro or colocasia root.
To ensure that the restaurant is able to source their vegetables in a sustainable fashion, the restaurant has an in-house person who works to set up a supply chain for each ingredient and ensure that farmers are paid a fair price for their produce.
Ultimately, Zacharias has found a way to create dishes that are reminiscent of home cooked fare, but that are elevated to befit the restaurant setting. Each visit leads to discovering more regional Indian fare and the chance to learn more about the country’s local ingredients, which have been discovered by Zacharias during his #ChefOnTheRoad trips.
What the Hype is All About: Mumbai’s Bombay Canteen - Recipes
While I’m always looking forward to trying new restaurants in Mumbai there is one place Ajay and I always love going back to, The Bombay Canteen. We’ve frequented this place since it opened in 2015 and have loved the offering ever since. Last night, after our fabulous Indian Christmas Dinner, we thought it was high time we wrote about it.
The entrance to the restaurant: The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
The Bombay Canteen is the place that serves seasonal dishes inspired by Indian regional cuisines and if there is one meal to eat in Mumbai, this is the place we recommend you should head to. It’s honest good food on a plate without any gimmickry such as molecular gastronomy or such.
The premise of opening this restaurant was simple, at the cost of repeating myself, get the taste(s) of India on the table, with local and seasonal ingredients. And that is where the Executive Chef, Thomas Zacharias stepped in to design a menu that makes us go, here, take our money, every month or three. While he is emerging as the face of the restaurant, there is a team of passionate restauranteurs who are all partners in crime.
The Indian Christmas Meal
The Indian Christmas menu at The Bombay Canteen
After a Christmassy meal we set up at home for family and friends, we also wanted to be left alone on Christmas day. Most places were serving the usual Christmas fare which we’d already eaten at home, but then there was the Indian Christmas spread at the TBC which we still hadn’t tried. We tried booking a table, but everything was sold out, so we had to make a Twitter wish to Santa to make it happen. It was a done deal in a bit.
We walked into Kamala Mills and right at the end, there stands this quaint place with a non-flashy neon board spelling BOMBAY. Kamala Mills has over 50 eating outlets and if you haven’t visited the place before or choose to ditch Google Maps for the day you could easily miss the entrance to this place.
We walk inside and are greeted by our name and the host walks us to the table. In spite of it being Christmas, the restaurant had kept its keeps causal look intact, decorated in a minimalist fashion.The only attraction was the inverted Christmas tree in the centre.
The Christmas at The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
Right from the time you enter, you feel nostalgia take over if you grew up in India. Advertisements from decades ago on the walls, Kismi & Melody toffees at the entrance, local Malad stones incorporated beautifully in the seating area and colourful tiles on the flooring.
Kismi toffee bars are placed in a bowl at the entrance: The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
Overall the entire place has a casual vibe to it. Not just that, even the menus come in the register format. This must be the only place I lay my hands on a rustic register, given all the fancy stationary we are used to now.
Our server also handed us over the special Christmas menu along with the regular menu that is printed in non-fancy old style ledgers. Every time the menu changes, the new additions are highlighted in neon so that you know.
The Indian Christmas Menu at The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
We almost knew what we wanted to start, so we did not waste much time in ordering the beef stir-fry. Our server suggested that it tasted better with the Malabar parantha, so we added one of those too.For a Christmas beverage, what better than to drink Mulled wine or Eggnog. We went with the mulled wine, which was served warm and had a very sweet spice smell topped with a star anise.
Mulled wine served as Christmas special beverage: The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
TBC serves an array of seasonal appetizers called Chintus which are brought to the table. I usually look out for the dried salted shrimps. This time, however, I went with the corn and ponkh chaat.
Chintus are small plates of seasonal appetizers brought on the table: The Bombay Canteen, Mumbai
The chaat is a mixture of charred corn and jowar sprouts with spices and green chutney. It was spicy and tasty enough for us to order seconds.
Chintu: Ponkh & charred corn chaat
The beef stir-fry turned out to be finger-licking good, melt-in-the-mouth meat cooked generously with spices and topped with onions and chillies. The Malabar paratha was a soft and flaky, good to go along.
Appetizer: Beef stir-fry with Malabar paratha
The famous Kejriwal Toast, a longstanding tradition at the Canteen was being served with compliments on all tables on the occasion of Christmas (or was it because it was the Chef’s Birthday, we don’t know?). Even though we had heard the story many times before, our server enthusiastically told us how the famous dish got its name from one Mr. Kejriwal, a patron at the famous Mahalaxmi golf course in Mumbai.
The Indian Christmas Menu included 5 mains that were inspired by different communities of India that celebrate Christmas. Apart from an offering from Goa, there was also a delicacy from north-east Nagaland. We ordered the Ammini’s duck curry with egg appams. This is a Malayali Christmas special and the recipe comes straight from the chef’s home.
Mains: Ammini’s Duck curry with egg appam
The Ammini’s Duck Curry was roasted duck breast with potatoes floating in a spicy-coconut based brown gravy. The Chef brought the dish over to tell us about it, and make sure we knew how to eat it. That is the thing about this place, it’s honest. And the people are approachable and on the floor all the time.
The appam, in this case, had a fried egg encased in the centre with the golden yolk oozing out when I digged into it. This was real comfort food on the table and it was good enough for two.
A closer look at the Egg appam
I kept my wine glass filled till I was a bit tipsy. But I was trying to be proper, eating with a fork and knife, while the husband rolled up his sleeves and let the hands do the digging in. It took us about three of those appams to get through the big plate.
We couldn’t have ended the meal without trying the Anglo-Indian Christmas special dessert, the carrot toffee pudding, which was plated in a lopsided fashion with whiskey-soaked raisins and toffee sauce. Our server guided us that the best way to savour this is to scoop every element on the spoon and then enjoy the medley in the mouth.
Dessert: Dilli Carrott Toffee Pudding
It was delicious and just when I didn’t want to ruin the taste in my mouth, Ajay called for the Guava tana-tan, which had just come back on the menu a month ago. While I was not going to share since I am not a Guava fan, I ended up eating over half of it. That beautifully crusted inverted puff baked with guava slices along with the hit from the chilli ice-cream was sort of irresistible you know.
Dessert: Guava Tana Tan with Chilli Sorbet
We’ve been here a countless number of times and can’t wait to visit the Canteen again. But if this is your first time, here are some house favourites that could get you started
Appetizer: Pulled Pork Vindaloo Tacos
- Red Snapper Ceviche: Fresh Indian Red Snapper floats like a flower in beautiful pink sol kadhi. The black and puffed rice add the nice crunch to this appetizer.
Appetizer: The Red Snapper Ceviche
- Whole Tandoori Red Snapper: Good enough for 4-5 people. Advise you to hold off further ordering till this is over!
- Chicken Poha Biryani: Who would have thought of replacing the biryani staple basmati rice with poha would have turned out so good? This is currently off the menu but may be back sooner than you know.
Mains: Chicken Poha Biryani
Mains: Bamboo Rice Khichdi
- Coffee Rasgulla: Coffee flavoured rasgullas served with salted caramel ice cream and topped with crushed peanut chikki.
Dessert: Coffee Rasgulla with salted caramel ice cream
Like you’d see, we tend to binge on the non-vegetarian menu. But there are quite a few vegetarian options as well. I’m sure you’ll be well fed even if you walk in as a Vegetarian.
Have you been to The Bombay Canteen? What has been your experience around here? What are your favourites?
+ Smiling Crew
+ Honest Food
+ No Chicken Tikka or Butter Chicken
+ Regional & Seasonal
- Access to the Kamala Mills can make you want to kill yourself sometimes!
Malai kulfis, biryani and chaat with The Bombay Canteen’s chef in Lucknow
The Bombay Canteen’s Thomas Zacharias is one of the Mumbai’s most well-liked chefs. He is one of the men behind TBC’s highly engaging take on food. The affable youngster, who hails from Kochi, in Kerala, has been in the kitchen at TBC ever since it launched early last year. Last week Zacharias, who has contributed to this website here, travelled to Lucknow. Now, a food trip to Lucknow is always a good idea, and the little time we’ve had in the city some years ago, we spent it eating and eating. Before he travelled to Lucknow, Zacharias called friends/well-wishers/Bombay Canteen patrons and asked them for reccos.
Check out this vid of Tunday Kababs in Lucknow
By the time he left for the city, he had a long list of places to eat at (we counted at least 30, thanks to a pic of the list he posted on Instagram). And last week, he was doing just that. Zacharias had Malai kulfi at Chanakya, galouti kababs at Tunday, Dahi Matar Chaat at Shukla House, kheema at Alamgir, imartis at Netram, Matar papdi chaat and a nihari and pay lunch with sheermal and kulcha at Mubeen’s. We followed him virtually to check out the kind of stuff he has been introducing his tastebuds to, and a quick look at the insta-pics below will make you want to stop whatever you are doing right now, and head to Lucknow. And, we won’t be surprised if we see dishes inspired by Zacharias’ Lucknow trip on The Bombay Canteen menu soon. The buzz is that the guys at TBC have also visited other cities such as Kolkata and explored the food scene, and all of these excursions should produce more delights from across the country on the TBC menu.
Why Bombay Canteen's Chef Thomas Zacharias wants to champion regional cuisine
The Bombay Canteen’s Thomas Zacharias spoke to TNM about his popular Insta cooking videos, running a restaurant during a pandemic and championing regional cuisine.
In his own words, Thomas Zacharias, chef-partner of the renowned restaurant The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai, was cooking during the lockdown to feed himself when he also began making videos of the process. He wanted simple delicious recipes, ones that he craved from his hometown in Kerala or others that represented the vast regional array of India’s expansive cuisine.
He cooked Mappila fish biriyani, from Kerala’s Muslim community in Kozhikode and Thalassery, Kashmiri Masoor Dal, Malvani mutton curry from the south Konkan coast, and Andhra Pradesh’s thotakura vepudu, a stir-fry of amaranth leaves. With each video, the 34-year-old chef from Kochi posted step-by-step instructions for home cooks, ones who were also stuck at home and wondering what to make for dinner each night.
It wasn’t long before both beginners and experienced cooks began to take notice of Chef Thomas’s selection of recipes, each highlighting a state, a community, techniques or ingredients that are often overlooked or worse, forgotten. Through what he calls the Indian Food Movement, Chef Thomas has long been championing regional cuisines to combat a widely-held perception that Indian food is any one thing.
Many posted their own creations of the recipes through the hashtag #CookingWithTZac, which now has dozens of posts. He has also hosted Zoom cooking sessions for charitable causes.
But even as he cooks at home, there’s still a restaurant to run, a feat that’s proven even more challenging as the country faces an economic downturn due to the lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus, and major restrictions are placed on eateries across India. The virus even claimed a member of The Bombay Canteen family — Floyd Cardoz, a celebrated chef and the restaurant’s culinary director, passed away in March after testing positive for coronavirus.
As he balances cooking at home and operating a restaurant during a pandemic, Chef Thomas spoke to TNM about his widely-shared Instagram videos, pivoting to delivery-only at The Bombay Canteen and using his platform to highlight regional Indian cuisine. (However, through a spokesperson, he declined to discuss the passing of Floyd Cardoz).
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
When did you decide that you wanted to create these kinds of videos?
I don't think I consciously thought about it. It just kind of happened. For me, I've always struggled with cooking just for myself. Even after a long day's work, I can cook for someone else, but just cooking strictly for myself has been something that's always evaded me. That's something I got over very quickly as soon as the lockdown started.
I thought it'd be fun to document the cooking process and share it as well. The fact that people responded to that first recipe, then recreated it and shared it, it got me thinking of sharing some more and that's kind of how it happened.
Before the lockdown, had you created any recipe or cooking videos like this?
No! I've been on Instagram for nine years and this is the first time I'm sharing recipes. But the response has been something else altogether. There are lots and lots of people cooking these recipes, not just from all parts of India, but across the world as well. As soon as I realised that people were starting to cook, then I started thinking about it more. I've always harped on wanting to get people to think differently about Indian food and start cooking regional Indian food, while using local seasonal produce. That's been my method for several years now. But to actually get people to act on it is something I've only been able to do during this period, so it's worked out really well.
What do you mean by getting people to think differently about Indian food?
For the longest time, even before the Bombay Canteen opened, people have always thought of Indian food as typically northern Indian food or North West Frontier cuisine, and the occasional south Indian dosa, idly, vada. But India actually has an incredibly diverse and rich cuisine with a lot of heritage and culture, which almost never gets represented on restaurant menus. Beyond the kind of food we grew up eating and these standard Indian restaurants that serve butter chicken and palak paneer, people don't really have much exposure to it. That was kind of the genesis of the Bombay Canteen. We wanted to celebrate the diversity of the country.
The other thing was that people aren’t cooking with local seasonal produce anymore. If you talk to your grandparents, you'll know that they would have cooked with maybe three- or four-dozen different kinds of vegetables. That's boiled down to just a handful now.
And so in the last four to four-and-a-half-years of the Bombay Canteen, we've been able to showcase about 150 different local seasonal indigenous vegetables. We do that through a seasonally-changing menu. Over time, through the restaurant, and then talking about it on social media, we've been able to push that message out.
And that perception of Indian food just being a handful of dishes — is that mostly abroad or in India as well?
Oh, it's both. I mean, it's probably stronger abroad. But it's all over. We've done pop-ups in Singapore, Sri Lanka, New York. And I've just travelled around a fair bit to know that it's the perception around the world. It is changing, but very, very slowly. But I think the fact that the perception exists in India is what's more jarring. It's one thing to get the rest of the world to take notice, but if people living in India are still oblivious to the fact that we have so much diversity, that's a bigger problem.
My motivation and drive to change that is because we are at the risk of losing a lot of these traditions and recipes in the next generation because they only get transferred orally. There's no written record of a lot of them. And even with seasonal indigenous produce, as the demand dwindles, the chances of those crops or those seed varietals surviving get minimised as well. That's my own driving force to push this message.
Chef Floyd Cardoz's Guide to Mumbai
Star chef and Top Chef Masters winner Floyd Cardoz opened The Bombay Canteen in Mumbai in early 2015. For the last year or two he’s been going to Mumbai every few months to spend time at the restaurant and to travel around India for food inspiration. His new cookbook, Floyd Cardoz: Flavorwalla, will be available April 5th. Later this year he&aposll open a new restaurant in NYC, Paowalla, which takes its name from bread sellers in Goa.
For too long, the dining options in Mumbai were either very formal or street food, without a lot in between. Lots of new restaurants have opened over the last year or two, however. Many are traditional, regionally focused Indian spots, but there are also some great Chinese places, as well as some modernist Indian, and European-inspired restaurants as well. These are some of my go-tos.
Fantastic Chickpea Fritter Sandwich: Ashok Vada Pav
Vada pao or vada pav (pronounced wuh-daah pow) is a popular street food dish. It’s a deep fried potato fritter or dumpling served with chutneys on a soft roll. At Ashok the dumplings are made with chickpea flour, and they’re topped with crispy chura (deep fried pressed rice). It’s absolutely to die for. Kashinath Dhuru Marg, Dadar, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Incredible Rice Pancake: Swati Snacks
Swati Snacks is really inspiring. All of the snacks are vegetarian. There are always long lines, but it’s worth it. I love going there for inspiration for menus. The panki chatni, a rice pancake steamed in a banana leaf, is incredible. Opp. Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo
Mutton Stew: Britannia Café in Ballard Estate
One of the last Parsi cafes left in south Bombay, it’s a family restaurant opened by Iranian immigrants and now run by the third generation. There are two things I particularly love here: the mutton or goat berry pulaos and the dhansak (mutton in lentil gravy). Berry pulaos with meat is a traditional Iranian dish. The owners import the barberries in the dish from Iran, but they make it spicier here, more like an Indian biryani. Wakefield House, 11 Sprott Road
Superb Seafood: Jai Hind Lunch
Jai Hind Lunch Home is one of my favorite seafood spots. I especially love the fish curries and the whole fish crusted with semolina. The neer dosa (thin rice crepes) are great too. Hill Road, Bandra
Killer Fish Curry: Hotel Highway Gomantak
Another favorite seafood spot is Hotel Highway Gomantak. It&aposs great for lunch. The fish curries are really good and the fish is limited to whatever they pick up from the market in the morning. It’s run by a husband and wife team the wife does the cooking every morning. 44/2179 Pranav Co-op. Housing Society, Gandhi Nagar, Highway Service Road, Bandra
The Mother of all Menus at The Bombay Canteen
There are very few restaurants in the city that manage to become so popular that, even one year later, it is a task to try and get a reservation, especially on the weekend. One such restaurant is The Bombay Canteen. There are many reasons for its success, but the main reason is that their food tastes good and is unique. They are not trying too hard and, in fact, this effortless ease with everything that they churn out is what is most attractive.
The essence of The Bombay Canteen menu is that they use local ingredients and take inspiration from dishes across the country. Their menus are constantly changing and evolving because they firmly believe in using seasonal produce. The latest menu change, however, is a special one. The restaurant is celebrating their first birthday this month and have launched what they aptly call &lsquoThe Mother of all Menus&rsquo.
Instead of their team of talented chefs brainstorming for this new menu, they have asked for some expert help and the entire menu is based on dishes from mothers&rsquo kitchens! Five talented mothers contributed two recipes each that have made this new menu. There are dishes inspired from Goa, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Agra, Kolkata and Cochin. Mums are always the toughest critics and everyone&rsquos mother is always the very best cook &ndash which means this menu is nothing short of being a stellar one. Some of the menu highlights include a Konkani Kolambi Curry, The Chicken Xacutti, Beef Cutlets (or B**F Cutless as they call it) and a wonderful dessert of &lsquoUlta Pulta&rsquo Pineapple Cake.
The &lsquoMother of all Menus&rsquo is a wonderful addition to their regular menu and is actually printed on a notepad and given to diners along with a pen, just in case they feel generous and want to share their mothers&rsquo recipes.
The food served is simple, home-style honest food with, of course, a slight Bombay Canteen flare, especially in terms of their presentation. The celebrations do not stop with this new menu. The restaurant has also teamed up with Gateway Brewing Co to brew an ale called Darling-Jee specially for them to celebrate their birthday. The brew is available till stocks last, as it is one of a kind. Apart from the beer, the other drinks on the menu include their Strawberry Tulsi Shandy, which is their version of shandy with strawberry purée, basil tincture, lime and beer.