Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pigging out at Elco Arcade

- by Deepa Krishnan

I'm quite certain there are two women for every man you see on Hill Road. It's all the shopping, you see? Makes for a skewed gender ratio!

Hundreds of big and small stores, selling clothing, bags, footwear, purses, hair accessories... it's absolute paradise for female shopaholics.
But for me, what makes this chaotic experience extra-special is this: the restaurant at at Elco Arcade!

Home of the special pani puri, Elco is a destination unto itself, a fast-food Mecca, so to speak.

Space is at a premium, given the almost permanent crowds. So the management cleverly uses little red stools. Whether you're out with the whole family, or just with a friend, the stools lend themselves to amazingly creative configurations, doubling up as both tables and chairs. And if you're dating someone, the stools allow you to cozy up. Who wants a big table in between?

One of my little pleasures at Elco is sharing food. When you order something, you can say "Five spoons, please!" - and the waiters understand perfectly. When the item is served, you plonk it on a common stool, share it with friends, and when you've polished it off, you then order the next interesting thing. This sort of sequential ordering and eating works because the waiters are lightning fast, everything is served ultra-quick, and there is hardly any thumb-twiddling. Here are three happy shoppers digging into a shared sev-puri.

But sev-puri is not Elco's trademark dish. It is the pani puri that catapulted Elco from a small street-side stall into a thriving restaurant. There are 2 pani-puri counters, and as the guy at your counter works his magic, your entire system floods with anticipation. Little crisp puris with their spicy-tangy-sweet can barely wait. In fact, look at the careful concentration on the girl's face in the photo below :)

While the pani-puris are really good, my favourite at Elco is their pav bhaji. This is the only place in the city that I know which serves pav bhaji along with dahi-vada and a gulab jamun. I remember how surprised and pleased I was the very first time I got it! It was an unexpected bonus, and one that made perfect sense to me. The dahi-vada is cooling on the palate after the spicy pav bhaji, and the gulab jamun rounds off the meal delightfully.

This is my cousin Sheela with the cheese pav bhaji that she and I shared. She was visiting from Malaysia, and I decided she should experience the delights of Elco. The entire plate was sinful, yes, but worth every calorie. When you come to Elco you really need to check in your diet at the door.

This Sunday I went back to Elco. Sheela's brother Juggi was visiting from the US, and so five of us piled into our Innova and went to Elco. It was quite warm outside, so we were ushered upstairs - where to my surprise, there was a very modern-looking, air-conditioned space. Not surprisingly, here too, there were more women than men.

We ordered five different dishes, and we shared it between us. I managed to click photos of my bhelpuri and my mom's dahi-puri before they vanished in an all-out attack by five spoons.

The bhel was just the way I like it - with little slices of green mango to add that extra tang.

My mom loved the dahi-puri, but Aishwarya didn't. She thought the dahi was too sweet.

We polished off the whole affair with mango-kulfi (yes! it's that time of the year! the Alfonsos have started to arrive!) and falooda, before heading off to Carter Road to watch a street play (more of that later perhaps).

The menu at Elco has many more interesting things that I have not yet tasted. Makai Pattice, Basket Chaat, Double Chaska (whatever that is!), Tava Aloo Chaat...take a look.

I'd like to try all of them at some point. I guess I'll simply *have* to go shopping more often, then, won't I? he he.


Jahnsen said...

Thank you so much for this mouthwatering post. I also enjoy every visit at Elcos. My tip is: Basket Chaat or Tokri Chaat!

Roopa Satish said...

Yummy... am going there this week end !

Anju said...

Deepa, you are killing me!!! :( Please send parcel.

Haddock said...

Eating out is fun, provided you know where to go.
That pani puri looks yum.

Chitra Sharma said...

Deepa - I agree with Anju. Parcel 2 please!

SoulSpace said...

mouth watering

food sends us into throes of ecstasy...and Yours is making me ecstatic...
street food..yum!

Shobna said...

Reading this article and gazing at those photographs - I've left my diet behind. Double Chaska and Chinese Bhel - worth investigating.

Deepa said...

Shobna, next time you're in Sion, let's go to Hanuman Hotel at the circle. They serve a mean Chinese bhel, not to mention an outstanding "American" chopsuey.

Stafford said...

I like the way you have portrayed this. I remember going here as a small child. Brings back great memories.

Tamanna said...

I love Hill Road and Elco too!

Sapna Kasat Patil said...

Thanks Deepa- Those pics are mouth watering and yummy! Elco was the first pani puri/chat corner where i saw the guy wearing plastic gloves while serving!

My evening ritual with each area in Mumbai i have worked, shopped, lived in, is to find the best Chaat guy around and for Bandra - it is Elco.

Momma Moose Diaries said...

Hope you dont mind me commenting. I stumbled across your blog online and the pictures just inticed me.
They reminded me of when I went to India - Chenai!
We experienced Burri (Is that how you spell it!?) oh my goodnes the food there was just wonderful!
Great blog by the way!

Deepa said...

Yes indeed, in Chennai, the puri is called burri :)

That's a deep-fried thing similar to the puris in this post, but it's bigger and it is eaten as a substitute for bread. Looks like this:

Momma Moose Diaries said...

Yes those are them. Oh, they were yummy! I really enjoyed them with all the different dips and so on!
I just wanted you to know that I think your blog is wonderful!

FifthBeatle said...

Sounds like the perfect pick-up place!

Silvia Martin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The wealth of the mind is the only wealth.

George Mason University

Anonymous said...

Oh, now I cant wait to go back again to India and oh that food, shopping and the atmosphere...
Miss u India.

( I went like a year ago and can't wait to go back again...cant concentrate on my studies!!!)