Food

For a taste of old Bombay in Chennai

From Irani cafés’ berry pulao to Kolivada fish curry, Via Mumbai brings Maximum City’s favourite treats to Chennai

Nestled in a quiet bylane of Anna Nagar, overlooking Tower Park, is Via Mumbai. As we step in, the black-and-white chequered tiles and red-and-white tablecloths envelope us in a warm hug. The hustle and bustle of the traffic two lanes away fade out, and strains of old Bollywood classics filter through.

The aim, clearly, is to recreate the charm of the old-world Irani cafés of Mumbai. Black-and-white pictures of life in Bombay adorn the walls; a skylight roof with a towering tree providing shade sets the mood for the meal.

It is a weekday, and the lunch crowd is sparse. The menu proudly displays a number of Mumbai favourites: bun maska, keema pav, Nana’s poro, patra ni machi, roti boti, dabeli, vada pav, chicken on khari, eggs kejriwal and variations of berry pulao. There are also classic Bombay sandwiches and some Maharashtrian numbers like Kolivada fish curry and Colaba prawns.

The choices are many and I am tempted to try most of them; my love affair with Mumbai and its food goes back a long way. We begin our meal with a chaat platter, a Bohri keema pav and chicken on khari. A wholesome mix, if you ask me.

Back to the streets

The chaat platter has on offer sev puri, dahi puri, pani puri and bhel puri. The mix gets most of the factors right — crunch, medley of flavours and tartness — but falls just short of being satisfactory. Perhaps it is the tamarind sauce that is just not chatpata enough, or the mint sauce that lacks the zing of chillies: a staid version of Mumbai street food.

The Bohri keema pav is a delight in every way. The minced meat is packed with flavour, and notes of roasted garlic and green chillies sing through. Paired with well-buttered pav and crisp onions, this is a winner, especially with a dash of lime on the keema.

After this explosion of flavours comes crisp khari, topped with delicately-flavoured minced chicken and melted cheese. It will make for a great snack with evening tea. Or you can wash it down with chilled masala lemonade, or a kala khatta mojito.

But we aren’t done yet. For the main course, we order a portion of Colaba prawn curry, served with steamed rice and fried potatoes.

The latter turns out to be a side of french fries, and is entirely passable. The prawn curry, however, hits it right out of the park. The freshness of the seafood sings through and through, spices are delicate and the gravy redolent with coconut. It pairs well with steamed basmati rice, but I wouldn’t have minded some good old sona masoori rice instead, to complete that “taste of home” feeling.

Admittedly, we are stuffed. But what is a Mumbaiyya meal without dessert? We opt for the malai kulfi which comes in a pretty glass that reminds us of the fancy sundaes we enjoyed as 1990s kids.

The kulfi is rich and creamy; but before dipping our spoons into that creamy goodness, we have to fight off strands of sticky chocolate sauce; a completely unnecessary addition. Some things are best left untouched and unchanged; malai kulfi is one of them.

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2020 1:49:06 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-taste-of-old-bombay/article29929783.ece

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