For most people, it was a day of forced introspection, mulling over life and it’s meaning while stretched out on the couch. For others, it was a day when you almost got around to sorting your budgets and expenses for the month (or year!) As foodies, on this forced public holiday with all shops, transport and even the milk and paper delivery shut, we could think of little else but foooood! So, our group of 4 hungry hearts decided to venture out in search of some adventure… read ‘lunch’ 😉
Driving around the hushed streets of a ghostly Mumbai was an eerie-nice experience… the dizzying pace was gone, and a city that could easily run a marathon without breaking a sweat, seemed to be lounging on a hammock under the mellow autumn sun, maybe even sipping out of a ‘spiked’ coconut!
Hungry as we were, any of the zillion options around town would have done… But we drove dolefully around the bend of Babulnath Dosa Centre with its tiny counter, otherwise frantically doling out crisp dosas by the dozen, now firmly locked, past the Bhavan’s area, the empty stall still letting off the aroma of cheesy Indian street pizza from the night before, onward past Crystal’s rickety wooden doors that regretfully separated us from the delectable home-style dishes within, and then forlornly past Cream Centre’s unmoving silver shutters that kept us away from the piping hot Stuffed Parathas inside.
After a long, winding drive, with frantic phone calls to friends in the area (“No, we don’t have enough leftovers to feed FOUR people!”) we walked into Taj President, or Taj Vivanta, and got completely engulfed by a chatting, laughing, lunching crowd, brimming with life, radiating energy. Were we still on planet earth, I thought to myself, and actually peeped outside to make sure before entering the hallowed gates of Thai Pavilion that welcomed us with open arms, and a promising aroma of lemongrass and ginger.
Hunger had made me lose all sense of propriety, and I jumped on the menu card, spotted the Foie Gras under starters and placed an order with the amused waiter before the others could even open their red velvet cards! That done, we decided to be a bit adventurous and ordered the Yellow Tofu wrapped in Betel Leaf as a veg option. The warm Foie Gras arrived, generous steak-like portions of it laid out lovingly on the plate. We ate in lip-smacking silence. I was about to gobble up the last savoury piece, when Teddy, having suspiciously taken a bite off the little Betel rolls, was quietly pushing it to one side of his plate, with a pretty shocked look on his face. Curious, I picked up one, unraveled the mish-mash of yellow tofu and fresh rice noodles inside, rolled it back and bit into it… Wohoow! That was one confusing, untamed dish! The sharp tartiness of the ‘Paan’ or Betel Leaf was completely overpowering, and you could barely taste what was inside. We all agreed we needed to ‘up’ our sense of adventure to appreciate such contrasting textures and flavours, but steered clear of the green rolls. Luckily, I still had that one tiny slice of Foie Gras with which to normalize my palate. Aaah!
On to the main course! After a brief and interesting interaction with Chef Subodh, we realized that the Spare Ribs were sadly not available, (sob!). He recommended we try the all-time favourite (and an unmoving constant on the menu since it’s opening), the Crisp Fried Sea Bass. A portion of the Pad Thai noodles with Seafood was also highly recommended, considering they made their own noodles fresh everyday. Finally, one could not escape the Green Thai Curry with Steamed Rice. What’s a Thai meal without the Green Curry, eh?
The fish was perfectly done and lovely… crispy skin, soft in the centre and beautifully flaky. The noodles were pretty good too. But the Thai Curry was absolutely gorgeous – it was thick, creamy, sensuously aromatic, with just the right hit of chilli, and it made you want to keep going at it with a spoon, directly from the earthenware serving pot!
Hunger satiated, mercury down, now I looked around to take in the exquisitely carved wooden wall and the bright masks invitingly lining the wall on the far side, complemented by the colourful jars and earthen pots lined up along the spotless open kitchen. We leaned back in our seats and browsed the dessert menu.
As often happens, we could not reach a consensus here, but thankfully the menu had just the solution for such sensitive moments brimming with undercurrents… the Dessert Platter, an array of all desserts on the menu in smaller portions, to please all tongues and ease all situations! 🙂
Plate-Licker’s Wisdom : A few lessons learned that quiet, sleepy day – One, go for the tried, tested and loved dishes in a place that is known for its tried, tested and loved dishes. And two, an unplanned public holiday is the best day to put your friends’ hospitality (and their leftovers!) to test… 😉