Kebabs on the beaten (but not by tourists) path

Sarvi Restaurant been in Mumbai for 90 years and supposedly has the best kebabs in the city, a claim worth a visit. A crazy taxi ride across town takes us to an insanely busy single lane street off Nagpada Junction. Our only reference point is the local police headquarters which is simply a gateway into a dusty overgrown yard with barracks and ancient British buildings.

Sarvi restaurant looks burned out, and has no signage, so we’re not sure we have the right place until we get confirmation from the manager working the cashier desk. He tells us to take any seat, so we grab the corner for people watching. Four cats wander the dining room, and traffic tears by with horns blasting. Signs on the wall warn us in two languages to pay the cashier, not our waiter. It is utterly disconcerting and alien.

The waiter speaks almost no English, but brings us a menu with items and prices clearly listed. He latched on when I say I heard they have good kebabs, and points out the Seekh Kebab and Chicken Seekh Kebab, and warns they take twenty minutes to prepare. Feeling. no rush, we order one of each, plus the butter roti (flatbread). The wait gives us time to people and traffic watch.

When the food comes out, we’re surprised. Given the prices I expected undersized portions that we’d have to order more. But instead we get a perfect portion of each of the kebabs, and two huge flatbreads that fill the table.

The kebabs are like Persian koobideh, meat that’s been minced and mixed with spices before being grilled on a stick. The Seekh Kebab turns out to be lamb, perfectly tender with a slightly crunchy exterior. The spices complement the meat, and its not dry at all like I was expecting. Rumor has it they mix papaya into the meat, but I’m sure it’s a secret family recipe.

The chicken kebab turns out to be even better. It doesn’t have as crispy of an exterior, but assuming it’s the same herb and spice mixture, the flavors are much more enhanced and contrast the chicken nicely. There’s just a little bit of heat, and the herbal flavors with moist chicken are simply amazing.

On the side was a minty spicey sauce, some fresh mint, red onion an and tiny little lemons. A dash of each on the flatbread with the kebabs makes for an amazing dish I’m anxious to replicate at home.

Now, the best part, the bill. 226 rupees. Even when you throw a generous 30 rupee tip on that, we’re still only out of pocket less than $4 US. This was well worth leaving the tourist path to find.

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