Lock, stock, and two smoking sections

21 Jun

Hello people. This post is meant to be an introduction to the Food and Travel section and what kind of articles you can expect from me.

Food

“Forget love, I’d rather fall in chocolate.”

I was probably 8 or 9 years old and I ate my first butter chicken with butter garlic naan and that is when I lost my food virginity. I had the first food orgasm. I now live to eat and love cooking up awesome new recipes. The food section is for anyone who enjoys eating and cooking sumptuous food. I will regularly post food recipes and restaurant reviews. I plan to visit new restaurants every month– everything from roadside ramshackle restaurants to the best fine dining ones– and review the food, ambiance, and service.

And like every other guy who is a foodie, I have a big crush on Nigella Lawson.

Nigella Lawson

Let’s get on with the first restaurant review.

Masala Mantar

1st Floor, Mohid Heights, Lokhandwala Road, 4 Bungalows, Andheri West , Mumbai

Landmark: Opposite MHADA Lane, Near the Andheri RTO

11:00 AM to 3:30 PM, 6:30 PM to 12:30 PM, Cards accepted

Masala Mantar is from the same group that owns the very popular restaurants–Pop Tates and Urban Tadka. I first went to Masala Mantar 4 years back on my birthday and I am now  a regular there.

Ambiance and crowd

It is located on the first floor and as you climb the steps, you will be greeted with photographs of celebrities who are regulars here.

The restaurant is divided into two main sections—one has huge tables for big groups and the other section has a mix of small and big tables. The latter section has a bar at one of the corner that serves a wide array of drinks.

The management has put in a lot of thought in the design and architecture. The restaurant has a rustic feel to it. Every table has a theme; one table top is a carrom board with glass on it, one has dried Indian spices, another one has glass marbles. The wooden chairs have an old world charm. On the walls you will find photographs of farmers and villagers, which I think are shot by the famous Indian photographer Jagdish Mali.

There is instrumental music playing in the background, which is never too loud, allowing you to have good conversations.

The crowd includes everyone—office goers, families, page 3 and Bollywood celebrities, couples, gang of girls, and even sports fans as they have huge screens that show the latest football and cricket matches.  However I don’t see a lot of college students here.

During one of my visits, Jitendra, Rakesh Roshan, Sanjay Khan and other Bollywood stars were sitting on my next table. So if you want to rub shoulders with Bollywood celebrities, this is one of the places to hang out.

Menu and Quantity

The food selection is mainly North Indian and Muglai. They serve a wide array of veg and non veg starters. I am a meat lover, but I love their paneer starters. The tender, juicy paneer melts in your mouth! I have tried most of the chicken starters and loved all of them. I recommend the White Paneer Tikkey ( paneer cubes in white sauce) and Murgh Kaali Miri Kebab (chicken kebabs flavored with black pepper). For main course they serve lip smacking gravies. For veggies, try the Pahadi Subzi (mix vegetables with a green base) and Paneer Makhni (paneer in red gravy with butter). I have tried all the chicken main courses and order anything blindly and I am sure you will enjoy it.

A must try is the Butter Garlic Naan made from wheat flour and not maida (refined flour)—one of the best naans I have ever eaten. The Roomali Roti is also recommended.

For desserts try the Gajar Halwa and Gulab Jamuns.

Portion sizes are huge. One starter, one main course and two naans are more than enough for two people.

They also server Jain items but the options are very less.

Some of their main courses tend to have a lot of masala, so if you are not used to eating spicy food, tell them to tone it down when you order.

Service

The service is prompt. You won’t have to wait for ages for the food to arrive. The waiters are friendly and have good knowledge of the menu, which is very important. In fact, I have befriended one waiter and whenever he is there I get free desserts–jalebi and rabdi!

Price

This is the best part. Although the restaurant is frequented by celebrities and is always crowded in the evenings, the prices are very reasonable, especially with the portion sizes they serve. Starters and main course range from 150 to 250, Tandoor items from 30 to 40, and desserts are around 80 . A meal for two would cost around 400 to 500.

Conclusion

Menu Recommendations: White Paneer Tikkey, Murgh Kaali Miri Kebab, Pahadi Subzi, Paneer Makhni, any chicken main course,Bbutter Garlic Naan, Roomali Roti
Food and Presentation: 4
Ambiance and Decor: 3.5
Quality of Service: 4
Best Suited For: Anyone
Kid Friendly? Yes
Vegetarian Friendly? Yes
The Bottom Line: One of the best restaurants for North Indian and Muglai food. A must visit!
Overall Rating: 4

Travel

“The traveler sees what he sees; the tourist sees what he has come to see.”

The travel bug caught me when I was in school. My dad is an avid traveler and we travelled across most of the districts in the Indian state of Maharashtra. My first trip outside Maharashtra was a school trip to Shimla, Kullu, Manali, and Chandigarh. After that the usual happened—10th grade exams, 12th grade boards, entrance exams for engineering, 8 university semester exams of my engineering degree, and I didn’t go on any long vacation for 7-8 years.

I finally got a job and got the freedom to travel on my own with my own money. Started travelling again–went on a long trek to the Valley of flowers in Uttarakhand, then a backpacking trip across Madhya Pradesh, another backpacking trip to McLeodganj and Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh. I also did a couple of bike trips in Maharashtra. And of course Goa! On the card is a big motorbike trip to Leh Ladakh in July 2011.

As a traveler I like to explore an area on my own rather than following a tailor made itinerary. I do make a tentative schedule but once I reach the destination, I try to do things on my own pace. Travelling has opened my mind, introduced me to new cultures and cuisines, and given me lots of patience.

I hope you enjoy my travel experiences on this blog.

Some snaps from my trips:

The valley of flowers

The Valley of Flowers, Uttarakhand

Orccha

Orrcha, Madhya Pradesh

A view from the Mumbai Goa Highway

Auli

Auli, Uttarakhand

The photographer is Nikhil Bangera. He uses a Nikon D40.

And for all my posts, appreciation and brickbats, both welcome.

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5 Responses to “Lock, stock, and two smoking sections”

  1. Swapz June 21, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    Masala Mantar was an awesome way to start off dude. The food is scrumptious and every bite of the chicken they serve simply melts in your mouth – a reason to go there again – soon!!! I would like to add another starter to the Menu Recommendations btw – the Safed Haathi, I have fondly renamed it as Elephant Chicken :D. People who enjoy white sauces and savor light aromatic flavors would surely want to try this out. To describe it – it is chicken tangdi kabab, charcoal grilled, dipped in this aromatic white sauce that is absorbed by the chicken, making it softer and juicier – you just wouldn’t want to get over with it…. damn I am going back right away – hope to see you there!

    • Amey Kanse June 22, 2011 at 4:53 am #

      Thanks, Swapna! I will try this starter on my next visit.

  2. Andybhat June 21, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    Great pics,(Specially the foodie one):p, and am comming with you the next time you visit Masala Mantar .

    • Amey Kanse June 22, 2011 at 5:11 am #

      Hey Paramanand, I will give you a call whenever I plan to go at Masala Mantar.

  3. Alina June 23, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    Loved the pics. especially Uttarakhand’s..And free jalebi with rabdi! Even I want to be friends with that waiter..

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