Bombay seems to have a new restaurant opening almost every week. Being a food writer, I say this in all seriousness! In the whirlwind of new openings and events, it is easy to forget the older restaurants that have stood the test of time. Earlier in the week I decided to do something different and go back to one of the oldies.
Mahesh Lunch Home (MLH) has come a very long way from it’s a humble beginning in 1977. The one vocational Mangalorean Seafood Specialty restaurant now has five outlets in Mumbai and Greater Mumbai, one each in Pune, Bangalore and Dubai. Going all the way to Fort was an effort unless I was already in SoBo and I was very happy when their suburban outlet opened right next to JW Marriott Juhu, some years ago.
My previous experiences at Mahesh Lunch Home Juhu (MLHJ) have been great for food and average for service. It might have had something to do with visits over weekends when they are packed and scrambling for cover. But this time, we have dinner plans for a Monday night, so I am sure the restaurant would be quite empty. Boy are we in for a surprise! While the eatery is not packed, it was about 80% full, which says a lot about its staying power!
We wait for our food sipping on Solkadhi, the wonderful digestive drink made with coconut milk and kokum. This is the first time we have been to MLHJ during the Crab Festival and I must say it is a revelation. Having done the Butter Garlic and Tandoori crab to death over the years, it is a refreshing change to try crab meat in different ways. Here is a list of what we eat:
Appetizers: We decide to try two special items from the Crab Festival menu.
Kitam Bungkus – Indonesian style crab meat wrapped in plantain leaf and charcoal grille. This one reminds me of Paturi Machh, the Bengali steamed fish cooked in banana leaf. A variation of the very popular Ketam Sumbat which is stuffed, baked crabs, this one is a lazy persons dish since the flesh has been scooped out and cooked.
Thai crab boneless– Shelled crab meat tossed in Thai ginger, lemon grass, lemon leaf and yellow curry paste. The tastes of ginger, garlic and lemon grass add new dimensions to crab meat. I love this dish!
Bombil Fry – Strangely enough this is my first ever Bombil fry at MLHJ and I like what I get! Softer than soft, fresh bombils, fried crisp with the thinnest possible coating.
Mains: We come back to the standard menu for mains. I am leaning towards Balti Fish, an old favourite but am outvoted and hence succumb!
Prawns Ghee Roast – I am not very sure I want to order this but my son insists. Maybe he has food in his genes or maybe he is lucky, but this turns out to be the dish of the day! King prawns in a spicy, tangy, velvety red coating gravy. I expected something oily and am pleasantly surprised it is not. The appams we have ordered are a perfect foil for this delicious dish.
Chettinaad Fish – Chunks of surmai cooked in a very intriguing gravy. Originally from the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu, Chettinad cuisine is one of the spiciest and the most aromatic in India. My previous experiences with Chettinaad tell me to expect dark, fiery, peppery gravy. But this dish is a surprise. Much lighter than expected and less peppery but delicious all the same. The Manager explains that their gravies differ slightly from city to city in order to cater to local palates, which I feel is surprising but sensible.
Dessert: There is no room in the stomach for more food but dessert is a must!
Caramel Custard – The right amount of wobble with bittersweet caramel, a good choice every time.
My restaurant blogs usually have a recipe but MLH will not part with their trade secrets. They are however generous in sharing cocktail recipes so here goes one.
Mampalum Karila Martini
You will need:
Smirnoff – 45 ml
Mango Juice – 45 ml
Mango Crush – 10 ml
Lime Wedges – 02 numbers
Black Salt – a pinch
Curry Leaves – 3-4
Green Chilli – 1 number
Put sliced green chilli and curry leaves in a shaker. Muddle.
Fill shaker with ice cubes.
Add vodka, mango juice and mango crush.
Squeeze in lime juice and drop in the wedges.
Double strain in a long stemmed glass.
Garnish with curry leaves.
**MCT verdict – Tried; tested; approved. **