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.

Too Hot for School

Upon recommendation of a local cousin, we tried School Food on a leisurely rainy afternoon. The nearest location of this modern Korean fusion restaurant was just steps from our Hong Kong hotel.

The menu was overwhelming. Not a single dish was familiar, and those could identify had a distinct twist. Eager to see how hey would interpret LA’s street truck mashups, I selected the Bulgolgi Quesadilla. It was decidedly different and I’m not sure if I liked it. Ground bulgogi with a little bit of jack cheese in a crispy tortilla and drizzled with a sweet teriyaki sauce. It needed something more, something spicy or tangy like sirracha or kimchi.

Always a sucker for soup, my wife went for the fried chicken ramen. The sauce was very thick, really a Japanese curry, but spicier. The fried chicken was tender, but didn’t add much to the dish.  

To drink on such a hot day, we had a pitcher of Mango Athie (portmanteau of icee?), an iced mango juice and soda mixture that was very refreshing.

Was it great? No, but definitely a place we would try again to explore more of the bizarre menu! If only schools actually served food like this!

…. Update…. There’s a location on Western and Wishire in LA. We must visit after returning home.

High-altitude air fare

How jaded are we that the incredibly avanced technology that lets us hop around the globe in less than a day leaves us complaining about the quality of the food en-route.

Remember when airlines used to feed you? Well they still do on international flights. Here’s Cathay Pacific’s LAX to Hong Kong economy plus lunch lineup. A roll, some microwaved veggies, half a grilled potato and a small piece of steak. The beef had decent flavor (if a bit dry and overdone) and the veggies aren’t worth writing about. The shrimp and quinoa salad was different and reminiscent of tabouleh.

The Mrs. had a lactose free special meal which was mango chicken over rice with grilled veggies and a side of pineapple. Her salad was a basic one but with more grilled chicken and a vinaigrette. I guess they assembled her meal from others? I think she got the better meal.

The best part was real silverware, including this cute little demitasse spoon for our coffee. Oh, I almost forgot. Ice cream! And since the wife is avoiding lactose, I get two individual servings of Haagen-Daz vanilla!

7 hours later we picked up with dinner. I had a spicy pork and tofu dish with rice. A side of fruit and a red bean mousse finished it off. Not the most visually appealing dish, but it was tasty.

What I didn’t understand was my wife’s meal. Agains it was specially prepared and was items not on the regular menu. An excellently prepared fish dish with a spicy salsa served on mixed rice. What’s weird is that she easily could have had my meal – no dairy except for the desert. Either way it was quite delicious and worthy of being a regular item.