|Photo credit: Google Image search http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_63mUyNce2ag/Sao65IJE0TI/AAAAAAAACOs/i9gOXwCx3-U/s1600-h/crab.jpg|
Mahesh Lunch Home formed a part of the famous trinity of sea food joints at Mumbai, along with Apoorva and Trsihna, when I came to Mumbai ten years back.
These restaurants were in the fort area of South Mumbai. It was a favoured haunt of ours in the early days and I used to go there with friends and then with Kainaz when we were dating. Our favourite dish was the crab in butter pepper garlic. Followed by the prawn gassi. The fare is Mangolorean from the Southern coast of India.
Our Mahesh visits reduced after we got married and moved to the suburbs. Mahesh opened a branch at Juhu, close to J W Mariott and Amitabh Bachchan's house, a few years back. We tried going there once but it was too crowded and we left without going in.
We didn't attempt to go there after that given the crowds and the fact that we are lazy, snobbish, Bandra'ites. Then we went there last Thursday as we were returning after watching this fantastic, edgy, Hindi Film called DevD.
We reached at 1115 at night and found that the restaurant was quite crowded. The crowd was mixed as you had a few of the swish set interspersed with some swarthy businessmen types. The ambience was a bit seedy - dark and gloomy lighting, cream coloured tapestry, candles which had burnt out - not the place to come to if you were planning to pop the question.
It's another story however if you love food as the events which unfolded showed.
Let me start with the Bengali (!) steward, Abhijit Dutta, who took our order. My biggest grouse while eating out is that people who took the orders seem to be quite clueless on the dishes which are on offer. Nor do they have a point of view on the menu. No such issues with young, bespectacled, Abhijit.
He first tried to get us excited about having the 'biggest crab' in the restaurant and promptly came with a huge, live, crab. The crab was jiving and gesticulating with its claws. I shrunk against the wall and timidly asked the price. I don't know what was more scary - the jumping claws or the price of Rs 1000 (20 USD). The same was repeated for the medium crab Rs 750 (15 USD) and fiesty claws. He finally came with a 'small' crab which was more in our league - Rs 450 (9 USD) and claws kept to itself.
As we took our first bite into our favourite butter pepper garlic crab, ten minutes later, we wondered how we could have stayed away from Mahesh all this while. The dish was as wonderful as we remembered it. The recipe is simple - crab in a base of finely chopped garlic, deep fried in butter and pepper with red spices. (I have made it at home years back and my gut led to results which were quite close to the original result). It was good to see that they have maintained the taste of the original restaurant in their branch at the suburbs.
We had it in the shell. As Abhijit said, crab tastes much better in the shell. The break it and get it so it is quite easy to eat, though again not recommended if you are about to pop the question. Messy fingers and garlic breath are not what Cupid would order. They have a deshelled version too.
You can also have prawns, squids or mussels in butter, pepper, garlic if jousting with crabs is not your idea of a hearty meal.
I copied the picture from the web (owe this to an anonymous blogger) which shows a whole crab. They get to this to the table for effect if you want to and then take it away, and break it for you if you think you are not up to taking on the whole crab without help.
The crab meat was fresh and combined wonderfully with the buttered garlic base. This is definitely one of the most memorable dishes that I have ever had.
Abhijit said that the barbecued butter pepper garlic crabs were even better. According to him it was 'more advanced'.
It was quite clear that Abhijit knew his stuff so I let him suggest our second dish. He claimed that he had figured out our tastes and suggested that we order a chameen porichatu (Rs 500, 10 USD). We went with it and weren't disappointed. The dish had about 8 large jumbo prawns with the tail. The prawns had a very thin batter coating and came in a fiery red, dry masala with green chillies, deep fried onions and mustard seeds. It was quite a nice dish which had a wonderful blend of fresh Sumolike prawns, with a fierce red chilly base and a faint sweet, ketchupy, undertone. It went very well with the soft neer dosas.
The only problem was that we, or at least I, were quite full after a long day and had to pack half the prawn dish.
In hindsight a medium crab with dosas would have been enough between the two of us.
Head to Mahesh if you love food. It is a classic when it comes to sea food. It is expensive. A meal for two will not cost less than Rs 1000 (20). That too if you order skimpily. But I can guarantee that you will have a memorable meal. They have a few Chinese and continental dishes but I would advise you to stick the original Manglaorean fare. Check the prices of anything you order as the prices would defer by size of the catch. And, as I said, the decor is nothing to write home about. But it is hygienic and air conditioned.
And, if you go to the Juhu outlet, ask for Abhijit Dutta and let him navigate you through their oceans of delight.