My name is Maneck and even though I am not a Parsi, I do believe I might have some “Bawa blood” in me, because like them I also can’t have a meal without some form of meat. So when an invite reached my place for the pre-opening party of Soda Bottle Opener Wala part 2, henceforth referred to as SBOW2, I was thrilled at the thought of tasting some amazing Parsi food. The glutton in me was already salivating looking at the “Steel Tiffin” sent along with the innovative invite and the goodies packed in it.
The plethora of eateries that have opened in Khan Market is no surprise to me. Very recently branded as the most expensive commercial space in Asia, I am amazed how Khan Market has managed to attract so many restaurants, while demanding high rentals. No complains however from a food lover like me who is spoilt for choices, and now SBOW2 added to this mélange makes the deal more attractive. SBOW launched itself and the Parsi food in Delhi almost a year ago, to some rave reviews in DLF CyberHub, Gurgaon. I must truthfully admit that after eating once I never did go back there, coz the first meal left me unimpressed, due to lot of reasons, which I diligently addressed at the restaurant. So technically this being my second visit to SBOW, they did turn the tables around (pun intended) and I came out much satisfied this time.
Launches are supposed to be a big exercise in marketing and public relations where one gets to rub shoulders with Page 3 celebrities, senior bloggers and media personalities. Fortunately for me, FOOD takes precedence over these and as soon as I walked up the stairs to the restaurant, I found myself a nice spot to park myself with some friends and wait for the food marathon to get started. The staff was on their toes, since it was launch, and the servers immaculate in their mannerisms and service. I hope this continues on regular days too, which I am sure would, coz the owners are “serial restaurateurs” and know the art of charming a customer.
I have not been to too many Parsi homes, but as an architect have always noticed the character and the history attached to the ones I have visited. The clutter and the pictures on the wall always tell a story about the occupants of the house and the designer of SBOW2 has caught on well to the fact while doing up this place in Parsian styled interiors. An obvious choice to copy a Parsi home, I would not term the décor to be very innovative, but the attention to detail is something I admired in this restaurant. From the staircase with extra-high risers, arches to doorways and the colors all add up to “make you feel at a Parsi home”. The exposed beams in the ceiling around which the electrical conduits snake to culminate into the ancient black and white ceramic switches on a wooden box, the flowery concrete pattern on the floor, the wooden tables with equally rickety wooden chairs and the black board menu board definitely took me to a dying but beautiful era. Seemingly detached artefacts on the walls along with framed pictures of people from the community, complete the canvas and the designer, which I am told is an architect Clement Desylva and the owner AD Singh’s wife Sabina, could not have done a better a job to keep the heritage alive in form of this quaint little restaurant.
I do say that it’s in my second nature to observe the design of a place, but in all honesty, it is just my way to pass time while waiting for my food. So if you think my description of interiors was not too elaborate, it was because Mohit and his team did not make me wait too much for my food. Bawaji Nu Thullu (inspired from the famous comedian’s action) is what I got to start with, an Irani take on the Long Island Iced Tea, with a few spices added to a similar concoction of LIIT. I took a sip and heard the server mention Masala Pepsi and promptly changed my loyalties. Masala Pepsi had all the right ingredients to tickle ones taste-buds especially after a hard work day and the Delhi heat. A chilled glass of Pepsi with lots of ice, lemon juice and some hard hitting Indian spices is what makes this a potent drink, a drink which never left my side throughout the entire evening and I downed 5 of those.
The real meal however, started with the Chicken Baida Roti. For the uninitiated, this is a combination of Chicken cooked in spices, egg which in typical “Bambaiya” language is called Baida and a parantha style roti which covers the chicken stuffing. Crispy, flaky and soft is how I would describe it at SBOW2 and though I have tasted many versions of it in Mumbai and with different meats, this stood high on the pedestal. And as proof of my statement I should let you know that I happily managed to devour two whole plates alone on a table of 4. I stopped only because I wanted to taste the other stuff which was arriving at our table.
The Vada Pav, staple food of Mumbai streets was around and I did took a few bites but nothing to beat what you get on the streets of Mumbai. Not a fan of sitting in a café and eating, though in Delhi the choices to get a good vada pav are negligible, so this does serve as a saving grace.
Dukkar gali Egg Sandwich was next and another treat for Egg lovers, sadly I am not too much of one and more so because I was ambushed by the lovely plate of Chicken Farcha right next to it. A well known appetizer in the Irani cuisine, it is also referred to as the Indian version of Southern Fried American Chicken. Cripsy on the outside and tender inside, served with the onions and green mint chutney, was much juicier than any fried chicken. I loved it and a plate of Chicken Farcha at SBOW does do justice to the phrase “You just can’t eat one”.
But, the Bheendi Bazaar Mutton Seekh Parantha, which I could smell from a distance (see again the Parsi lineage in my habits), made me finish the Chicken Farcha plate fast and literally grab the plate of Seekh Parantha from his hand. By now the servers had realized the gluttony that was happening on our table and secretly were happy that someone was enjoying so much without inhibitions. I couldn’t be bothered if a celebrity was standing next to me with so much meat on my table. A small bite sized parantha styled bread topped with a Mutton Seekh, nothing special but a great snack for a meat lover like me. The Seekh was ordinary, but I will now make it a point to visit Bheendi Bazaar and try this, there.
Mushroom on Khari was loved by my vegetarian friends, and you who read my food blogs regularly know better than to ask me about how it was. Tareli Macchi (in the Mumbai street slang) and literally fish fried in spicy batter and rich on cumin flavor was quite munchy but came nowhere near my favourite Chicken Farcha.
Now this was all being eaten non-stop and the SBOW team with the expertise of their talented young Chef Anahita Dhondy made sure the table was never devoid of food. The downside would be that I had to get up every few minutes and take a walk around the restaurant to keep digesting what I was eating and making space for more. I was full by this time but certainly not out.
Mutton Roast with an amazing blend of spices and condiments looked very appealing but I was disappointed when I tried to tear away the meat from the bones. Either it was not well cooked or I was the unlucky one but unless I would have forgotten all my manners, there was no way this mutton was gonna come off the bones. Like a good diner, I kept it to one side, but will definitely be going for more.
The softness of Bun Muska maar ke (Muska being butter) was a welcome break from all the hard chewy meat I had been feasting on. Save the best for last and lo arrived the Mutton Dhansak in all its glory packed in the steel dabba. Mohit came along with it and was kind enough to explain to an ignorant person like me the history of Dhansak along with how it’s made. I would not get into a history lesson though and bore you, as Google baba can help you with it. He did mention that the Dhansak was supposed to be had with kachumbar salad and the rice topped with caramelized onions. It tasted “different” but a taste that would probably evolve next time I have it. But, I loved the gravy and what better way to polish it off with the Bun Muska … that was delicious.
The 5-star Brownie and the Toblerone Mousse were served after I was sure that not a morsel would enter my body with the height of overeating I had done. Now, I am a modest person but the way I downed 2 brownies and a portion of mousse was no ordinary feat. I felt like a food Superhero. But, seriously speaking the brownie made from 5-star (no prizes for the right guess) was probably made more gooey because of India’s favourite chocolate and tasted better than the assembly line brownies we get. The mousse made from India’s favourite Duty-free chocolate (I am sure you get the joke) was equally good and served in the age old “chai ka glass” again will win many a sweet-tooth if not hearts.
The surprise package of the evening Danesh Irani, the good looking stand-up comedian has the guests in splits with his mono-act of a play called “The Last Parsi”. Laughter and food go hand in hand and SBOW did a great job in taking care of both these areas effectively. I would highly recommend this place to the Mumbai population staying in Delhi, who wants to experience nostalgia from time to time. Of course for a meat lover like me, a restaurant like Soda Bottle Opener Wala ranks very highly.