Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Lots of food options in BKC these days

- by Deepa Krishnan

I wrote earlier about how the food scene in BKC is changing, with more options coming up. Recently I went to The Capital, and was happy to see a very smart-looking Theobroma there. A nice option for a weekday breakfast. Or a quick stop with friends over the weekend.
They have a soup and salad offering on all weekdays; which is popular with people working in BKC. There's a Lunch Box for Rs 250, which is also delivered to offices. And of course, there's all the usual stuff - breads, lavash, muffins, tarts etc. I took home their olive tapenade, which was good.
The dining scene in BKC is improving day by day. Lots of new options have come up in The Capital itself. The Good Wife and Cafe Sabrosa are around 5-6 months old; both are stylish places where the 'finance types' from BKC hang out in the evenings. This photo below is from The Good Wife: a typical BKC weeknight, people relaxing over drinks after the working day.
The Capital building also has a Starbucks, which is good if you want a place with wifi. But the most exciting thing in The Capital, for those who love Chinese food, is Wok in the Box. After a successful innings at Carter Road, they opened their second outlet at The Capital in Sep 2014. They let you pick and choose ingredients, sauces and the type of noodles (or white rice) that you want. It is stir fried immediately and handed over.
Wok in the Box even offers a Jain version of its sweet and sour sauce. It's on the 3rd floor of The Capital, so they have to shut at 6:00 p.m. But it's a great option for lunch, they make deliveries to all the offices in BKC. If you go at lunch, you'll have wait times. But if you go a little earlier or a little late, then you'll have a smooth experience.

Speaking of food deliveries, there's also Box8 near the Trident BKC. It has Indian food, which works better for me at lunch time than Chinese. I must confess that anything and everything in plastic dabbas tends to put me off, but if I don't take food from home, I'd rather order this no-fuss delivery than anything else.
Masala Library at the Citibank building in BKC (the official name of this building is First International Finance Centre) is still going strong. For the past couple of years, Masala Library has been showing Mumbai what stylish, innovative Indian cuisine is all about. It's super tasty too, not just some poncy stuff that you wonder why you put in your mouth. The staff is well-trained, and enjoys presenting and explaining the food. Which is a big asset.
The same Citibank building also has a Smokehouse Deli, and a Pizza Express and another Starbucks. I've always liked Smokehouse Deli. The Pizza Express is pretty decent, always has a couple of free tables, so I go there when I don't feel like hanging around waiting for tables.

There are lots of other places also in BKC that I should write about, especially Tiffin Box, and lots more takeaways, including some more in The Capital. But maybe another time! Off to work now.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Spotted: Alibaug Che Gaavti Kadve Vaal

- By Deepa Krishnan

I was walking in BB Dadar today, when I spotted this stall opposite Girgaon Panche Depot. A temporary shop had been set up for the evening, using an upturned fruit crate.
The board says: Alibaug che gaavti kadwe vaal yethey milteel. Bitter field beans, from Alibaug, sold here. The word 'gavti' means rustic. Alibaug is known for these beans.

Vaal are soaked overnight, sprouted, and then the brown covering is peeled to reveal a white inner bean that is slightly bitter. A long-winded process, but there are whole armies of Maharashtrian people who love vaal and think nothing of the effort.

Vaal is used to make various dishes, but one of the most popular ones is valache birde. It's a sort of gravy curry with garlic, chillies, coconut, kokum and spices. Super yummy with hot chappatis. The CKP-style vaalache birde is well known; so if you know someone who is from the CKP community, try and get an invitation for a home-cooked meal :)

My friend Shekhar owns a farm, and they have a tradition of "popti", which is a sort of village style barbecue in an earthern pot. A fire is made with dry coconut fronds, placed upside down. Vaal and various other leguminous pods, pieces of chicken or meat, potatoes, sweet potatoes, and special edible leaves are placed in an earthern pot. The mouth of the pot is blocked with a set of leaves, from the almond tree, and the pot is placed upside down on the fire. Shekhar says "Its a heady meal goes down very well with beer deep into the cold night on a farm" :)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Inside the big dome of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (Victoria Terminus)

- by Aishwarya Pramod

Recently, I went for the heritage tour of Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST). It was quite a sudden decision - I happened to be on a train heading home, when I thought of going on the tour. I got off the train, and took another one right back to CST! :) At the last minute I called my mom to join me too.

I had to ask around a bit to find the start point. But eventually we found the entrance, and our tour began at 3:30 p.m. The tour took us through the Heritage Museum, the interiror of the Central Railway Headquarters building (where all the paperwork and government managerial stuff happens), and finally the station itself.

The tour was led by Ms. Lata who was in charge of the place that day. She conducted our tour herself, as the usual guide (an architecture student) wasn't available then.
As we entered, we saw the facade of the Central Railway Headquarters, with the round carved heads of the 10 GIPR directors.
The Heritage Museum has displays on the history of Indian Railways, old engine types, etc. There are interesting old photos, models, letters, artifacts and objects. As a bonus, the museum is air-conditioned!
An engine model. And look above for the (rather cute) GIPR
logo in stained glass. GIPR stands for Great Indian Peninsular
Railway, the predecessor of the Central Railway.
Old telephones and other gizmos
Some other interesting objects displayed were the Mangalore tiles with which the CST ceiling is made, an old money collection box (on which someone had put stickers, before it was rescued and placed in the museum), inkpots, teapots, cutlery, a slide rule, a range finder, and other instruments.

After the museum we continued further into the Central Railway Headquarters building. There were many rooms and offices, and I'd have liked to know what exactly was going on in each one. But all I got was someone who worked there "tch"ing at me for walking too slowly while admiring the architecture, and blocking them :P. (Then I got out of their way quickly.)

The Headquarters building is majestic: towering dome, winding staircase, high stained-glass windows, solid old wooden doors, and intricate stone carvings of animals, birds, plants and flowers.
A beautiful door set amidst carvings
Entrance to the hall
This proud-looking lion holds a shield bearing the 
coat of arms of the Great Indian Peninsular Railway.
The high Central Dome
The wrought-iron staircase
We climbed up...
...reached the top...
...and had tea and biscuits.
We were then taken to the station itself. We went to the high corridors around the ticket booth area (I have always wanted to go here!)

This area is called the "Star Chamber" (notice the ceiling). 
Down below, people queue for tickets.
 We also went onto an open balcony.

On the balcony we got a better view of the lovely peacock carving...
... and the jutting gargoyles.
We were also shown this grand dining room within the building.

The luxurious dining room. Somehow this room took me by surprise - I wasn't expecting anything like it at all!
In the dining room, there was also this wooden bookshelf packed with thick, official-looking gazettes and other publications on the railways.
After visiting this last room, we said goodbye to Ms. Lata and left.

All in all, I'm glad I went for the tour. I got to see the gorgeous interiors of this building, that I had passed often but never entered before. I also learnt quite a bit about the history of the railways, of CST, and of Mumbai.

When, where, and how much does it cost?
The tours are conducted between 3:00 PM and 6:00 PM, Monday to Friday. Tickets can be bought between 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM. Each tickets costs Rs. 200 normally, and Rs. 100 with student ID.

The ticket counter is at the Heritage Museum. To reach the counter, there's no need to enter CST station. If you stand facing the Central Railway Headquarters, you'll see the main gate with two lions. Walk to your right and you'll see an arched entrance (photo below). This is the entrance to the Heritage Museum.
The lions at the gates of the Central Railway Headquarters. From the gates, walk towards the arch. The Heritage Museum is right under the arch.
Gates of the Heritage Museum
More information

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Where to go for thin crust pizza in Shivaji Park

- By Deepa Krishnan

Shivaji Park finally got a nice place for super-thin crust pizza. Terttulia actually opened last year sometime in the monsoons. But I only made it there yesterday, when Vinita came to the office and we decided to go for an impromptu girl's lunch. 
The pizza was called Terttulia-aah! and it was excellent. Lots of arugula, just the way I like it.
The lavash was also wafer thin and crisp, and the mezze dips were pretty good too. In the photo below, there are 4 dips - hummus, tzaziki (sp?), mushroom pate and olive tapenade.
Will go back again for certain. Very laid back and nice on a weekday afternoon. Vinita lives nearby and she tells me weekends are super-busy. So if you are going Sat/Sun, please call ahead and reserve.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Inside-Out Vada Pav at Dadar

- By Deepa Krishnan
If you walk from Dadar Station to Hindmata, you'll come across this little khau-galli type scene. There are motorbikes and scooters parked in a row, and behind that, under the shade of some trees, you will see a series of bright umbrellas with food carts.
In one of the stalls, there's a vada-pav seller. At first glance, he looks like any other vada-pav guy, selling batata-vada, palak-bhajji etc, but if you have a keen eye you'll soon spot his larger than usual batata-vadas (see them at the back?).
It turns out that those are not your regular batata-vadas at all. What they are, is Inside Out Vada-Paos. This little stall has flipped the regular vada-pao inside out. They've taken the batata-masala, and stuffed it inside a bun. Then they dip the bun in the batter and fry it.
This simple reversal trick has created a delicious Inside-Out Vada Pav, which I have become addicted to. I went shopping with my mom and sister, and stopped to eat it. Then I went with my aunt from Bangalore, and tried it again. And then I went by myself and had it yet again :)
By the way, I've also had a very upscale (and very expensive) version of this is at Masala Library @ BKC. That was pretty awesome too, but it didn't have the crazy chutneys that I got in Dadar. The Inside-Out Vada Pao at Dadar is served with a green chutney and a strange orange chutney. Both are delicioso, but I have no idea what the orangey thing is. It felt like tomato and kaddu and god knows what else. I have to charm the guy into telling me. Usually he is pretty busy and tends to not talk much. I'll report again if I get him to speak :) :)

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

More street art from Bandra

- By Deepa Krishnan

I enjoy walking through Bandra, because I am always surprised by something new. I don't mean new cafes or shops. It's all the new street art that's everywhere (ever since the St+ART Festival that happened in November last year). It changes my experience of Bandra each time I go there.

Take this wall in Ranwar Village, for example. I don't remember seeing anything when I went there some months ago. Then all of a sudden, on a walk last week, I turned a corner, and there it was. A woman in black and white, adding drama to the wall.
I found out later that this artwork is by Luis Gomez de Teran from Venezuela. He called this artwork "Veronica". That's the name of the lane where this wall is located, by the way. Sort of bringing the lane to life, giving it a dark, smoky, interesting personality :) :) I'm not sure what exactly Ms. Veronica is holding in her hand. Can you figure it out? And check out the cat at the bottom!

Near the turning into Veronica Lane, on the main road, you'll definitely spot the colourful Jude Bakery (well, ex-bakery. The guy who ran it died a couple of years ago, and now it's owned by a guy in the hospitality business, who is not baking bread here). The street art here has a tongue-in-cheek prayer, it says "Hey St Jude, please help me. I am really a lost cause." You can only read the whole message when the shutters are down. The artist is a guy called AkaCorleone. He's Portuguese, I think. A lot of his murals are lettering-based.
This graffiti below is older, but I hadn't photographed it on my earlier visits. I don't know who the artist is. The text alongside is in Hindi, it says paidaishi junglee (born wild). I smiled to myself when I saw the real bike parked under the graffiti, and I wondered which Bandra junglee owned that one :)
This one is from Chimbai Village. It was at the entrance of a tiny lane, and it made me want to immediately turn into the lane, to see where the little boy would lead me. It's by an artist called Tona, from Hamburg in Germany. Tona does stencils, so replicas of this little kid are in other cities as well.
I walked down to the edge of the water in Chimbai and found lots more street art to photograph. Here's one of them, also by Tona.
We spoke to some of the fishermen sitting nearby, and they told us about the artists who came from abroad and painted in Chimbai. The fishermen seemed to find the whole thing amusing but irrelevant. I bet a lot of people in Chimbai think that.

Personally, I'm all for street art, because I think it's great for art to come out of the expensive and elite gallery spaces, and into a place where it can dialog with people. Street art is such a powerful (not to mention potentially subversive) medium. We're just beginning to see street art in Mumbai. Maybe over time the people of the city - the ones whose walls and streets are being decorated - will become more engaged. It would help if the effort was more participative somehow. It isn't enough to just take art to poorer, dirtier parts of the city. There's got to a be a more two-way process if this whole exercise has to have any meaning.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Sheera special at Ram Ashraya, Matunga

- By Aishwarya Pramod

Ram Ashraya in Matunga is more than 70 years old. It's well-loved not just for idlis and vadas, but its array of sheera flavours.

Pineapple, strawberry, guava, grape... they make different flavours on different days.

This picture is from my mom's latest visit there: pineapple, butterscotch and chocolate flavours... sweet! I've even seen jamun sheera on the menu once. The daily sheera special is listed on the whiteboard outside, so check out the flavour and see if it tempts you to walk in :)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"Heritage" is for everyone. Or should be.

- By Deepa Krishnan

Recently a lady from Business Standard interviewed me. She asked me the about preservation of Mumbai's heritage buildings; and whether the common man was aware or interested in it. 

I replied that there is a small, highly educated, elite group in the city which is interested in heritage preservation, but the common man of Mumbai has far more pressing issues in life and doesn't really care.

Then last week, we did a Fort Heritage Walk for a group of women from very low income backgrounds. None of them had a college degree. It was also the first time we did a tour in Marathi. So far, our heritage walks have been in English, which is the language of the elite in India.
This group of 24 women came from Pune by the Sinhagad Express. They were brought to Mumbai on a picnic by Yojak, a non-profit that works in education in Pune's slums (Renu who runs Yojak is in white in the centre). The women are teachers, they teach small children in their respective neighbourhoods, in an after-school learning program. For which Yojak pays them a monthly salary.

I found that our guests were highly interested, engaged, and motivated by the beauty of the monuments they saw. They wanted to listen to the details. They wanted to hear the stories. It opened my eyes to the fact that "Heritage" is really for everyone. You just need to talk about it in a language that everyone can understand. You need to make it accessible.

It's time to demystify "heritage management", time to make it less elitist. Time to take it to a larger population. And language is the key, I think. I am now considering offering the walk in local languages.

Maybe this is the next mountain I should climb?

For this group of 24 women, we did a free tour. Later when I thought about offering this tour commercially in Marathi, I felt that these women probably would not pay even Rs 50 per person for such a walk, and would much prefer to use those 50 rupees for their families' basic needs. So to take heritage to the public - many of whom do indeed have other pressing issues to think about - I need to find a creative way. Ideas, anyone?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Plaza Cinema, Dadar, Mumbai

- by Deepa Krishnan

Somebody in their wisdom has decided to redesign Plaza Cinema in Dadar. I am not happy.
Here is the old design that I used to like much better. More fun and interesting. And it acknowledged the beauty of the stupa at Sanchi, not to mention the big role of Ambedkar in reviving Buddhism. Ambedkar's chaityabhoomi is nearby in Shivaji Park. 
I understand the desire to turn it into a multiplex. Single screen theatres are not going to make money. I just wish the new design was not so "modern".

Also, it has all these little holes that are going to suck in dirt and I predict it will soon be a cobwebby mess. The dust and smoke at Plaza cinema signal is no joke. The rectangles sit oddly on the curved facade, if you ask me. The vegetable vendor in the sculpture thankfully is spared this modern thing, since his back is turned to it!
Plaza has a history of makeovers. The famous movie director V Shantaram bought it from a Parsi owner in the 30's. Several of Shantaram's hit movies ran here successfully. After his death, the theatre was leased out and became run-down. There was a bomb blast at the theatre in 1993, then it was shut down for 3 years. It was acquired by the Shantaram trust in 2005, redesigned and opened again, but has probably not been making much money since then. The trust has now again sold it to a corporate entity who has converted it to a multiplex.

Anyway - after this I consoled myself with a good home-style thali at Mama Kane. That is another old Dadar institution, and one which has not changed much!

Sunday, January 04, 2015

Hara Chana Roast, Chor Bazaar

- By Deepa Krishnan

One of the pleasures of wandering around in winter in Chor Bazaar: this is Hara Chana, roasted in hot sand, over a chulha (wood fire). They're lightly salted. Simple and super-yummy. What a pleasure to eat them hot!
Chickpeas are available all round the year, but usually in dried form. The fresh form is only there in the markets for a few short winter months. Make the most of it! You can make the most awesome chaat with it. You can add it to salads. You can sprout it. In recipes that have peas, you can replace the peas with chana. I'm even putting them in upma. Enjoy :)

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