© Ravi Wazir, 2020

5 Signature Dishes of Bandra Restaurants in the Last Decade

For over a decade now, restaurants have been offering newer dishes than pasta, burgers, tikkas or biryani within both the International & Indian culinary space. Many of the international dishes that have been garnering the interest of patrons at restaurants in Bandra were simply not available during the growing years of half our population.

Bagels: Though the bagel is believed to have its origins in either Poland or Germany, it is more associated with the Jewish populations and clearly established as an American breakfast food. The Bagel Shop came along and made this chewy-crusty bread with a hole their signature dish. Their most popular bagels are the fresh mozzarella and also the smoked salmon. The one that’s their most original however, is their chorizo bagel made simply of cream cheese (which they make themselves) layered with Goa sausages sourced secretly from an eccentric Goan villager who smokes them in a lazy forgotten village there. For the Bagel shop owner who grew up in the vicinity, it made sense to start in a locality he understood. It also made business sense when he noted the evolution of expats and others – young, creative, enlightened about world affairs. It is for that reason that the Bagel Shop team nicknamed their bagel “bread for the head”. Till a while ago, they even supported that name with books they stacked within, though their books have been “borrowed” and are now scanty; their intellectual patrons just use their laptops a little more these days.

Cheese Fondue: From the rustic mountainsides of Switzerland and France, this melted blend of cheeses and sometimes wine in which bread, meat or veggies are dipped, travelled across the globe and has gone down rather well with its Indian patrons too. Guests don’t seem to hesitate in consuming calories that are shared from a communal pot over a spirit lamp. Out of The Blue might possibly have been the first standalone restaurant in Bandra to have offered fondue on its menu, a little over a decade ago. OOTB makes 9 types of cheese fondue from a Crack Pepper Fondue named by one of their guests made with black pepper, garlic and nutmeg to a Beer Cheese Fondue made with lager beer and dry oregano. Their most original however, which they’re almost embarrassed to speak of and have even got trademarked on account of its popularity... is their Desi Fondue. The story goes that once when the chef was on leave, a director ordered the dish and a kitchen apprentice overcome by the nervousness of refusing him, created it with all the wrong ingredients. When the chef returned, he found a new item on his menu.

Wood fire Oven Pizza: Before you think about making a pizza of this kind, you first have to make the oven. Now it’s not rocket science to build a wood fire oven, but executing it well – particularly in India, is still quite a code to crack. Then there’s the firing of wood within the dome inside and finding wood that would smoke it just right. Finally, comes the making of the pizza itself. Cafe Mangii offers Napolitana thin-crust pizzas from a traditional wood fire brick oven as its signature dish. Baked before you, with a blend of International ingredients and local produce, their pizzas have quite a following. Fired with mango and rubber wood, their oven like others of this kind, needs judgement to manage temperatures ideal for pizzas. Seven to eight minutes at 450°F or 230°C and it’s done, sporting bubbling cheese and slightly smoky crusts. Their most popular Veg Pizza is the Capriccioso with pesto sauce, fresh herbs, jalapenos, and sundried tomatoes while their favourite Non-Veg Pepperoni spreads a tomato sauce with black olives, Napolitano spicy salami and fresh mozzarella. For good measure, they offer all their pizzas in whole-wheat versions as well.

Crispy Duck with Pancakes: Getting a duck dish cooked crispy yet juicy, requires an understanding of timing, temperature and moisture from flashing it into boiling water to roast drying it and hanging it to drip off fat. Royal China serves up this dish as one of its specialities and I understand it has retained a few native Cantonese cooks to prepare the duck, along with other items on the menu. The pancakes are simple enough in terms of ingredients like rice flour or corn flour but can easily go wrong... again, a matter of expertise. Royal China serves 10 pancakes in their half portion accompanied with a plum sauce, cumber sticks and spring onions. Duck is invariably an expensive dish, one of those things you’ve got to like, to order. Some gourmets insist that duck is an ingredient whose flavour (taste, smell, colour etc.) rather than just taste deserves appreciation. But I believe that this is true of all dishes. In fact, I’d say look for an organoleptic experience (colour, appearance, hand-feel, mouth-feel, pliability, aroma, taste etc.) in all foods. Having said that, I must admit I quite like duck and I hope to see it more widespread and more economically available than it is today.

Churros with Chocolate: Whether you know Churros as Mexican fritters or Spanish donuts, they are simply flour batter fried till golden brown and are delicious when hot; particularly when served with chocolate... whether dark, milk or white. Chocolate most often has that un-ignorable quality about it, which is possibly why Chocolaterias are springing up all over these days and Bandra is no exception. One Australian chain – San Churros – recently seems to have caught the fancy of many foodies, particularly for its chocolate experiences from Spanish hot chocolate to chocolate truffles. They have a distinctive looking extruding machine which casually drops the batter into a fryer. Then, with an interesting story about Spanish monks secretly manufacturing chocolate strictly for Spanish aristocracy and some rather engaging pictures and attractive display counters, they deliver these treats to those who care to indulge. They even offer a tapas platter with everything from fruit to marshmallows for dipping.

Now you may say that you like some of these dishes, but prefer them at other Bandra restaurants; for instance the Roasted Duck at The Tasty Tangles, the Churros at Sanchos or loads of other options... and you may be right. But wouldn’t we as customers, all be so much happier, if these restaurateurs all fought amongst each other to stake their claim as to which one of them is better at which dish? After all, isn’t their pursuit of culinary excellence partly what makes gourmands of us all?