The sounds of silence. Mahesh Lunch Home, Fort

I was at bit of a loose end for lunch this afternoon. So I decided to go down and meet an old friend.



I heard of Mahesh soon after I landed in Mumbai more than a decade back. I knew of it as part of the triumvirate of seafood joints - Mahesh, Apurva and Trishna in South Mumbai. Trishna was reputed to be the expensive one. Apurva the mediocre one. So we used to end up at Mahesh. I had gone there with friends, with Kainaz and I think that I went there with my mother too on her first visit to Mumbai. Didn't go there for years after that as the focus of our lives moved to the suburbs. Trishna and Mahesh opened branches at places such as Juhu and Andheri. K and I once went to the Mahesh at Juhu. Didn't feel the same. It didn't have the grunge of the original restaurant. The one at Juhu looked larger and the clientèle wealthier. After all these years I am back working at South Mumbai for a few months. And Mahesh is just opposite my office after Bombay Stores. A trip was due and today was the right day.





I walked in. This was a two storey restaurant. Much smaller than the one at Juhu. There were no windows. The lights were bright and yet gloomy. A couple of aquariums. The crowd consisted primarily of regular office folks. They didn't have the posher trappings of the Juhu crowd. The service was efficient. There were an array of waiters. Almost three to a customer. All standing in a line, intrigued by the photographs that I took.



I flipped through the menu and was interested to see that they had a health angle going on. Not only for fish but for spirits too!





I didn't need the menu. I knew what I wanted to order. Butter pepper garlic, Kainaz and my favourite. Mahesh is comparatively more expensive to the eateries I go to at Fort these days. I thought that I will treat myself to celebrate Simon Majumdar's kind words about Finely Chopped. Still I drew the line at crabs (Rs 300/ 6 USd +) and went for squids butter pepper garlic (Rs 200 4 UD) with neer dosa. The entire meal with a Pepsi cost me less than Rs 400 (8 USD)



The dish arrived soon. It looked exactly the way I remembered it. Smelt exactly the way I remembered it. A dish I had once replicated successfully at home with lobsters. The recipe was in the name after all... butter, pepper, garlic. I took my first bite and immediately felt ten years younger. It tasted exactly the way I remembered it.



A sharp surge of rock salt hits you when you take the first bite. Then the heady taste of the crunchy deep fried garlic wafts through your palate. Dispelling any notions of getting lucky after that. Squids are cut into rings and fried in a typical Indian style. Different from the small squids which are steamed and kept whole in dishes at Thailand, Singapore. Let's not forget the 'butter' bit. The dish swims in a pool of oil, presumably butter.



This is a completely decadent dish. Reminiscent of the famous 'Dance bars' of yore. Quite a coincidence given that the decor at Mahesh reminded you of a 'Dance Bar'. You could almost bite into the raunchy, sinful  butter pepper garlic dish, close your eyes and see the dance girls slithering out of the blue lights, breaking into a wild jig as a Bollywood number played in the background. The squid butter pepper garlic came with a solid, robust red curry on the side which was enough to cut your daydreams short.
 
Meal polished. Memories rekindled. Cursory chat with the desultory cashier ..."It is 35 years old", "The food is Mangalorean", "The owners name is Kerakar" ... and I crossed the street and went back to work.

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