In recent times, I have not looked forward to going to a restaurant, as much as I have wanted to go to “The Bombay Canteen”, Also, in recent times it has never taken so much planning for me to go to one either – Busy weekends, Traveling and the fact that it is open only for dinner, made it a little difficult to plan. My inclination to go there was definitely fueled a little bit more, because I knew the chef – Thomas Zachariah, and having followed his culinary journeys, I knew that the menu was going to be anything but Ordinary, or run of the mill.
Last Sunday, we decided to head there, and while we could not get a reservation in spite of calling at 5 , because they were all booked in, Samir assured us that we could sit at the bar (It would be comfortable and they would serve food) until they got a table where they could seat us. I have always been a sucker for places with personalized service, it’s great to see people who are involved with a restaurant at the restaurant, because their passion always comes through. That is one of the reasons, why I love “The Bombay Salad Company” and even Tangerine in Chennai. You will always find the owners there. Only place I cannot stand the owner is “Goa Portugesa” I am always trying to look away to avoid conversation.
The restaurant is in Kamala Mills, so you have to plan to be there, as there are only offices in the complex, You walk in, to be welcomed by a bowl of Kismi Toffees that you can simply pick up, that was the first wave of nostalgia for me. When the waiter handed me the food menu, I remembered my foolscap bound notebooks from school, the design on the bound menu, definitely reminded me of those. I think the tone for Nostalgia was set already.
The place is rather large, and on a sunday evening pretty packed, even then the service was impeccable and fast. There is a lot of thought in menu, be it the cocktails or their food. I think the mantra was, “Nothing Ordinary, Something Nostalgic & Keep it Local” . I would easily rate them as the most different menu, and the most important thing is that they do it with Indian Exotica – No Imported cheese / meat ingredients that I could spot on their menu.
So the cocktails of choice were the Royal Ginfield – which was Gin, Jaggery, peychaud and Amla with a pretty little Star Anise on the top, “The Silver Star” which had Gin, Maraschino, Kaffir Leaves, Star Fruit Juice, with Egg White and a pretty little star on top and Desi Whiskey Sour – with chartreuse, honey and star fruit juice. Can anyone remember Star Fruit being in anything in a restaurant? I dont!
They call their starters “Chota” I ordered the Eggs Kejriwal, because I wanted something spicy. I got a nice round piece of perfectly toasted bread, with a fried egg and cheese, with green chutney. For me the winner was the Green Chutney, it had a hint of coconut, which brought the flavor closer to home for me . Desi Tacos, which are nothing but little methi theplas, with a topping that you can choose, the boys chose Pork Vindaloo. You are constantly tempted with these little plates that are going around of devilled eggs and fried lotus stems, we gave in and took lotus stems, because we had already ordered the Eggs Kejriwal. We also got yummy tossed in spices Calamari, as a compliment from the chef, and it’s not on the menu, so you better make friends with the chef if you want to taste that 😉
Two rounds of drinks down, we finally got a table, and they serve water in Vintage (As I like to call them) Roohafza bottles.
I have a list of things that I definitely want to try from the List of “Bada” on the menu. But this time I ordered a dish which simply evoked so much Nostalgia in me – Raw Jackfruit, Kohrabi and Lotus Stem in Coconut Curry. Raw Jackfruit and Lotus Stems were rare delicacies in Chennai. My Mom was from Madhya Pradesh, and my family had moved to Chennai in the 1970s. If someone were coming down from the North, we would request them to bring us Lotus Stems, and because they have a very short shelf life it was always a big deal and had to be consumed as soon as possible. Also living in Madras, finding Raw Jack Fruit was next to impossible. So, my mom a vegetarian would be thrilled beyond words if we managed it, and often, it was from someone’s tree in the neighborhood .So for me largely having this dish was a no brainer, because it seemed like every exotic vegetable from my childhood was in one dish. The interesting clash in my book, was that all of this was in a coconut curry. Loved the clash of North and South that this dish represented, and needless to say the flavors blended very well together. I had this with Coconut Rice, that came wrapped in a banana leaf and was shaped like a Giant Pan. I am super curious about this one, because I don’t remember how the flavor came in the rice and frankly I was enjoying it more and being less of an “I will make this at home” Aunty that I did not think about it too much.
Say “Kothu Parotta” to a south Indian, and he is definitely imagining “food coma” moments from a local eatery.We ordered the Chicken Kothu Roti and that, and to my delight it came with a fried egg on top and a sauce that you had to douse the yummy Kothu Roti.Sometimes I think South Indians are like Ze french, they like an egg with almost everything – dosa, parotta, and also with a biriyani.
Some dishes seem like they are simply made for you, and I seriously felt that about the Guava Tan Ta Tan (Completely deserve the drum roll) and the Ice Cream Sandwich. The former my favorite my favorite Fruit and the latter my favorite ice cream and both Never Ever on any menu. I loved the burst of flavors, They serve the dessert with Red Chilli Ice Cream and Slices of Guava with a generous dose of Chilli and salt rest on a buttery puff pastry. I love the clash of flavors again, because it takes you by surprise but in a good way!
I believe because I have been eat out so much, I am soon reaching that place, where I am motivated to eat out only if the menu is interesting or different. The Bombay Canteen, scores highly on that, and is always surprising you and leaving you gleeful. I’m sure this is an experience that anyone who is looking at a memorable meal, in a great place at the right price will definitely enjoy. The place has an obvious sense of humor, and their menu refers to the all the taxes as “ghastly” which they are.
I’m already looking forward to my next trip there and making mental notes on what I should eat, that I cannot wait to go back!