Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Mera Pyar, Shalimar

Mutton (gosht) has always been the "special" food in our house. In my family, fish is a staple, and chicken, thanks to aggressive marketing and consumer friendly availability, is slowly becoming an everyday sort of thing. The elder generation of Saraswats, surprisingly, however, do not eat chicken but only eat mutton as an alternative to seafood. The rationale behind this is that while chickens peck at all sorts of unmentionable things on the ground, goats, who eat only grass and leaves, are a "purer" meat.

Good mutton, like all good food, is hard to find. Most meat connoisseurs will wholeheartedly endorse the joys of "Muslim" meat cuisine, and so, Bhendi Bazaar it is.
The excitement of the narrow lanes of Mohammad Ali Road and Bhendi Bazaar are completely missed thanks to the JJ flyover, which isn't such a bad thing considering the traffic situation in Mumbai. Still, a walk through the Mohammad Ali Road, especially during the late hours of a day during Ramzan, is a meat lover's delight. On Republic Day, the area was uncharacteristically subdued, except for the bustle around Shalimar Cold Drinks, a must visit for a carnivore in Mumbai.

Shalimar has very little to do with Cold Drinks. It's a mammoth three storey structure and is all about food, food and more food. We were made to wait for a table in a courtyard of sorts which had a water fountain surrounded by counters of sizzling meat it was quite like heaven.

Roomali rotis were being tossed, meat was being pounded on a tava into a thick gravy, and deeply marinated kebabs were being skewered. Finally, after much salivating, we were led to a table.

After the first few items we asked for were declared "khalaas" (including the Saturday special Dabba Gosht and a few kebabs), we managed to order seekh kebabs, bhuna gosht, gosht do piyaza and gosht masala. As you can see, we had a one point agenda. The Seekh Kebabs were well done with a generous helping of spices and pudina.

(Clockwise from lower left corner: Gosht Do Piyaza, Gosht Tava Masala, Bhuna Gosht and Dahi Kachumber)

When everything was brought to our table, I was apprehensive that the Do Piyaza and Tava Masala looked too similar. I was pleased to find out that appearances can be deceptive. The Masala was loaded with cardamom and cloves, while the taste of the spiced browned onion paste gave the Do Piyaza a unique taste. The Bhuna Gosht was meat in a thick onion-tomato-garam masala paste that clung to the meat. In every dish the meat was well cooked, yet tender, slipping off the bone easily and quite often, melting in your mouth. Along with the meat we enjoyed some dahi kachumber and some fluffy naans which were just right when made the way Naans should be - with eggs and sugar.

We rounded off with a sample of their desserts - soaked shahi tukda with cream, caramel custard and the "yahan ka famous" shalimar falooda. But the star of the show was the creamy and cold firni.

Shalimar also does sizzlers, chinese and chaats. They also have a nice selection for the vegetarians. Just so you know.

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