brings with it Irani café culture
We HAD lamented when the only Parsi restaurant in town recently pruned its menu to make way for more contemporary and stylised fare. So it was with much happiness that we trooped off to Sodabottleopenerwala (SBOW), a new restaurant which pays tribute to the Bombay Iran café food and atmosphere with typical Parsi dishes and Mumbai street food specials. SBOW has chef manager Anahita Dhondy at the helm along with Mohit Balachandran (aka popular food blogger Chowder Singh) with owner and restaurateur AD Singh playing mentor. We arrived for a weekday lunch to find the eatery jam packed. There is no laid back sitting around here, reading a newspaper and sipping your chai. Instead the décor and the packed house only add to the hyper energetic buzz. Beautiful Art Deco tiles on the floor, gilded mirrors, old brass switches, booth style seating, even vintage meter boxes, and a battery of Irani-
style dos and don’ts with SBOW’s cheeky twist (no outside food, no talking to cashier, no flatulence and more) add to the charm of the place. But the décor thankfully doesn’t take away attention from the food.
What comes first
Our first orders of Bohri style kheema pav and the Tomato Papeta Par Eeda (baked eeda or eggs on papeta or potato and tomatoes) arrived with a Parsiana, a cocktail of vodka, plum and oranges garnished with fresh mint and a raspberry soda, SBOW’s own take on the very popular Parsi aerated drink Duke’s. The soda, unlike Duke’s is made from real raspberries and instantly perked us up. The Parsiana reminded us of a Long Island iced tea. But we couldn’t get enough of the mildly spiced mince, which retained its delicate meaty flavours that a good kheema is supposed to. The egg dish was comfort food.
We obviously had to order the mutton berry pulao, a tribute to the famous one offered at Mumbai institution Britannia. While the original berry pulao uses barberry imported from Iran, SBOW’s version uses sweet black currants heaped on a moist fragrant mutton pulao along with cara
melised onions and plenty of nuts. We tried it with the Sali Boti and Aloo Aunty’s Cutlets, a mixed vegetable cutlet recipe gleaned from chef Dhondy’s mother. The boti and pulao was definitely a marriage made in heaven and the cutlets, the perfect snack-alongs. A shoutout goes to Breach Candy Awesome Okra, a crispy okra dish served on a bed of tomato and onion masala, a special from the Breach Candy club in Mumbai. It went well with the veggie dhansak that arrived as a complete meal in a brass tiffin carrier with kachumbar salad and pulao.
Dessert was a wobbly caramel custard and a lovely Toblerone mousse, but we need to talk about the mawa cake, which you can pick up per piece to take away from a glass jar topped counter along with Shrewsbury biscuits and Nan Khatais. The cake was rich, moist and buttery thanks to the mawa or khoya (dried milk solids) with just a dash of cardamom and we could imagine eating nearly half a dozen of these to cheer us up on a bad day. The portions at SBOW are generous and the price points are well thought out, but we wish instead of the terrible 90s pop, we could have some old fashioned Hindi film music to complete our Irani café experience.
`1,500++ for two with drinks.
At Lavelle Road. Details: 7022224850
— Amrita Bose