Off with his head ... Persian Darbar, Byculla

It was Friday and one's always in a playful mood with the weekend coming up.

We didn't feel like eating the canteen food. So four of us headed to Persian Darbar at Byculla.

Persian Darbar (P D) encapsulated all the values of secular India. It is run by Muslims. And is located just before a majestic Catholic Church and a Parsi Colony. I got excited when I saw the place as the layout - non air conditioned section at the ground floor with a little, air conditioned, 'family' section above it - reminded me of the legendary Muslim restaurants of Calcutta. Nizams, Zeeshan, Shiraz, Aminia. The joints in Calcutta were famous for their ethereal biriyanis.

P D raised visions of these in mind as the four of us went up to the, marginally more expensive, air conditioned section.

We started with a crispy chilly chicken. Frankly I don't know why we ordered Chinese in a Muslim joint. But strangely enough, that was the only good thing that we ate. After all, how wrong can you go with chicken doused in ajino moto, chilly sauce, painted red, doused in batter and deep fried?

We then had butter chicken with roomali roti. The roti was nice and soft. The thing about Butter Chicken is that it tastes different in every restaurant. The best ones that I have had are at Delhi where the chicken is juicy, the gravy is in the sweeter side and is redolent with wicked ghee and butter.

And the butter chicken at Persian Darbar?

The picture below does full justice to the gruesome butter chicken in P D. It was salty as hell. Redder than the gaudiest polyester. The sauce reminded me of the debris of all the construction work going on nearby. It had thin strips of chicken which were harder to find than a road without traffic in Mumbai.

Chicken tikka biriyani followed. Biriyani in the Muslim joints of Calcutta is a delicate, subtle affair, coy as a celestial virgin... those of us who are from Calcutta cherish the memory of its biryani.

The briryani at P D was deceptive and my hopes soared as I saw the beautiful rice an top of the dish ... it looked angel white and tantalising. Then I took a bite and realised that under the rice was the same angry, red chicken goop that passed off earlier as butter chicken ... salty, gaudy with pebble like pieces of stale chicken. Paradise lost and how.

We shared a caramel custard and a regular custard, which were passable but not up to Noorani standards, and ran like hell.

I doubt whether I will ever go back to Persian Darbar.

And I can't see any Persian Emperor tolerating such barbaric food.

Damages? About Rs 200 (4 USD) per head for four of us - 1 starter, 2 butter chcikens, a few rotis, 2 biriyanis, a few soft drinks and two desserts. We all felt that it was money down the drain.