Grilled at last…

Bombay (yeah I know…but I don’t like saying Mumbai) – supposedly a haven for eating, dining, breakfasting, brunching…lunching…teaing and all that. I say ‘supposedly’ because I haven’t really had the opportunity to explore more than 10 eating joints in the last six years of my stay here, so going by what I’ve read and heard, that’s what it is – a haven. I should be ashamed of calling myself that with my fantastic record. But in my defense, of the limited joints that I visit, I am pretty much, a patron.

This post comes in the light of a slight deviation from the routine of six years. My very vegetarian in laws (just sis in law and hubby), my preferably vegetarian husband and the purely non vegetarian me decided to meet for dinner last Saturday. We almost entered the restaurant where we went to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, first Sundays of the month, buying a new lampshade, getting all traffic signals green, …basically anything. Anyway, just as we were entering, my SIL said she’d heard of a grill house nearby that we could check out. I was thrilled since the last time the four of us (or even just me) went to a grill house was two years back, soon after my marriage. That was something that had undergone more planning than the marriage itself…hey come on, we were going to ‘Kebab Factory’ (in Noida I think) for the first time and it was a big deal. We have been planning to go to Barbecue Nation near Bandra for the longest time but in vain. That’s another story.

Anyway, in less than five minutes we were out of our favoured restaurant and outside ‘Grillopolis’, in a place called Oshiwara located in the western suburbs of Mumbai. The name was about as far Greek as the place could get. Can be surer of that as my husband and I went holidaying in Greece last year and are pretty sure no façade there inspired what we saw in front of us. But I did not let that bother me…food (read grilled meats) was what I was waiting for and I was sure it would beat the ‘oh so famous’ (dunno why) Greek salad. Being a Saturday, we got a table in a record 10 minutes. Obviously we did not go for the a la carte since the buffet had five non veg and five veg starters, just as many dishes per category in the main course and desserts. Not bad. I didn’t even bother with the veg…and I’m not sorry. First up, I dug into the chicken kebabs that had some sort of a rice flour coating – soft and juicy on the inside, crisp on the outside. Lightly spiced but delicious. Then came the grilled fish with baked beans (didn’t know that could be a combo). It certainly wouldn’t have qualified for Masterchef Oz coz there were BONES!!! Did anyone watch the episode where Gary cooked a fish dish in a Masterclass and Callum found a bone in it…what a slap (or should I say prick) that was! Anyway, the grilled fish was decent. Found no more bones after the initial bits. Then followed some delectably soft mutton shammi kebabs served on tortilla chips (huh???). Didn’t bother with the tortillas but the kebab was lovely. It did not have the hit smell or taste of the original shammi kebab but it was fragrant and really really soft. Probably that’s why they served them on the tortillas so that they held shape. Then, dhan ta tan…grilled prawns. Was having prawns after eons. Didn’t mind how they were served…except raw of course. Spicy, well cooked. Very nice. Four down, one more to go. As I waited for it, I wondered what they could possibly serve – chicken’s done, so is fish and goat and prawn. Hmm…and then it came…chicken again!!! Well, that’s about as big as the non veg circle went. Pretty orthodox for a place called Grillopolis eh? But this time the chicken was quite interesting. It was a seekh kebab. Indian notes of garlic and earth spices in the beginning and then a kick of soya in the end. Sounds odd but it made for a pretty interesting combination. Quite nice, quite different. Had several helpings. Some of the names of these dishes may have sounded Indian, but they all had a pretty western hint in their tastes. A little here, a little there. If you go there expecting to find Karim’s kebabs’ copies…mmm…not that good an idea. The name of the place actually helps putting such expectations at rest.

Anyway, by now I had had my fill. But after a walk around the buffet counter for the main course I felt some empty spaces spring up out of nowhere within me. How else was I to stuff in the masala crab and fish and mutton biryani and drunken chicken and butter chicken??? (These guys really know their way around with chicken) Ah! Is there a cloud number 10? Well I was beyond that. Yeah I had to struggle a bit to maintain dignity while eating the crab. And that was not it. I had to make a pretence to my family (veggie, remember?) that eating crab was just like sucking on drumsticks (no not the chicken ones…the green ones you put in sambhar). But how…with crab…how??? Finally I found recourse in the wall of glasses and salt n pepper cellars that I created around my plate. Couldn’t eat the crab as much as (I mean to the last shred) I would have wanted to but that sufficed for the time being.

No more space left to create space for dessert! But the brave soldier marches on and the sight of those gooey, creamy, chocolatey delights made me brave enough to run. I had two helpings of dessert…hah! Strawberry pastries, chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream, baked Alaska – layered sponge and fresh fruits topped with soft peaked whipped cream and lightly bruléed. They didn’t do it too well as quite a few grains of sugar met their end between our molars. But what the hell…it tasted great and the attempt can at the least be appreciated. And the bottomline is…all good things come in sweet packages…

With a sumptuous meal down, we got discussing whether they served the same menu everyday. We said obviously not. I’m sure they know more than four chicken dishes. When will they serve those? Might go and find out soon.

Bercos, Dwarka – Comfort Chinese (at home)

Metropolitan India is undergoing a global cuisine revolution. Descriptors such as niche, artisanal, authentic, creative and fusion now apply to numerous new restaurants in Mumbai, Bangalore and even Delhi (where the hippest restaurants are often found in its oldest villages – subject of a couple of posts previously). Foodies throng to these new places, discovering new cuisines and improving their geography (can you now identify Hunan province on the map of China, and do you know Jamaica through your jerk chicken or is it the other way round?).

Apparently all this is happening. Because if you live in Dwarka, you only see glimpses of this through excited reviews and colourful weekend planners in newspaper supplements, blog posts of friends, or lifestyle shows on TV that help you plan exciting evenings and weekends. Dwarka is a new-ish large suburb at Delhi’s south-western extremity, but its adjacency to Delhi’s airport hasn’t helped fly in global cuisine or far flung-regional cuisine (such as Konkani, Chettinad, Bengali and.. umm.. anything beyond Delhi and Punjab actually) here yet. Most of Delhi’s great culinary traditions find representation here however – Punjabi-tandoori, kabab-shabab, Mughlai, Punjabi-Chinese, Chhole-chaat-jalebi, with a few idly-dosa and pizza joints thrown in. Of these, Bercos is among the most famous of Delhi’s stalwart restaurant brands to have set up shop here (Golden Dragon is here too, but that’s another post).

Bercos has been one of Delhi’s greatest purveyors of Indian-Chinese cuisine, and an institution at Connaught Place (sorry, Rajiv Chowk?). At Dwarka, except to step in and pick up their ‘home-delivery’ menu once a couple of years back, I haven’t been inside the establishment and so cannot talk about ambience, service, seating and such like. But their food has been a regular and reliable visitor at our home for over two years now. Berco’s doesn’t mess much with new-fangled concepts – their ‘dimsums’ are called ‘momos’, and they offer all the old reliables of a Chinese menu – chilly garlic fish, chilli chicken, shredded lamb / diced chicken / slice fish in (choose 1) hot garlic / black bean / szechwan sauce et al. While little of it is authentic in the new-age way, the Bercos kitchen manages restraint in not going too far over to the ‘Punjabi’ way either. And so most of their food actually achieves a satisfying ‘marriage’ of robust taste and discernible flavour.

With Bercos, what you think is what you get. What comes to mind when you think chicken Manchurian? Or hot and sour soup, American chopsuey, fish in black bean sauce? Yes, that’s how Bercos makes it. And their order-taking on phone is reassuringly familiar –
Self: hello
Bercos: hello sir goodeveningthankyouforcallingbercos, you want veg or non-veg
S: non-veg
B: chicken or fish
S: fish
B: ispicy or non-ispicy
S: medium spicy
B: ok sir then you take sliced fish in black bean sauce, will be medium ispicy.
S: what about gravy?
B: do you want dry or gravy?
S: what will this dish be?
B: semi-dry, you can have it with isteamed rice.
You can only have a vague idea of what you want when you dial in, Bercos will guide you through their menu and help you decide dinner quite skilfully. And they are among the rare joints in Dwarka that deliver well within the promised time, even on a weekend evening. All of this probably doesn’t sound like much, but many restaurants in Dwarka will show you how easy it is to get these wrong.

All is not Manchurian and black bean sauce at Bercos either. Their Thai options, again inspired by Thai cuisine 101 (red and yellow curries, tom yum and tom kha for soup), are worth the occasional order as well. A Thai holy basil chicken was quite nice the last time we ordered. A segment called ‘Chef’s Special’ on the menu promises much and doesn’t deliver too poorly either. The chefs do seem to extend themselves here. A sliced fish in mustard chilli sauce tastes very un-Indian-Chinese and is quite lip-smacking. Combine this with their lovely aromatic Moon Faan rice, and you can end up with an unexpectedly good meal. I’m afraid there is no evidence to report of the soups or the vegetarian selection. Ordering from home, somehow those pages on the menu have been a blind spot to me so far.

Which reminds me, we haven’t ordered their starters in a long time either. Sorry to be abrupt, but it’s Friday evening now, and time to decide between Crispy Fish (as you like it with pepper-salt, pepper-garlic or butter-chilli-garlic) and Singapore Wok Fried Chicken!