The last empty table at Bandra on Saturday night ...Gondola, Hill Road Kebabs

I was at a loose end this evening and jumped onto an impromptu Finely Chopped Knights (as I call them) or Food Commando (as they call themselves) dinner tour of Bandra.

They reached just as I left the gym and we all came up to our place. They were quite bemused and amused to hear about my being in the gym. For a while we were like the Zoozoos in this ad  as we discussed the gym. I can imagine their consternation though. Gym or Gai-eem is a strange thing in our food world. It does bad things to us. Sample this. I took a call from the FCs after the work out on my cell phone and absent mindedly looked for the phone at the same time! Fifty minutes of walking and cycling on the same spot does that to you.

The four of us - Rahul, Jini, Maity and me - set off on our hunt. First stop was the newly opened Lucknow Kebabs at Hill Road, beside Karachi Sweets. It was a sit out place. Jini with feminine common sense told us not to go to any non air conditioned place. So this was ruled out.

We were hungry by then. I saw smoke wafting up a bit ahead and remembered the road side kebab guy near Balaji at Hill Road. We often used to take stuff home there to have with a drink in pre- Lipid Profile test days. The Khiri (cow's udders?) are particularly good here. Soft, blubbery, mildly seasoned cubes ...  cocquetish pleasures reminiscent of the Hindi film actresses of the sixties and their kohl lined eyes. We shared a plate before we set off again.

I couldn't get a full shot of the khiris as we were all quite hungry. Still, you can get a hang from the remnants in the plate above.

Our next stop was Efhesan on the Khaane Khaas Road. I had read mixed reviews of the place. But Maity had read that the chelo kebabs were good here. We went there and saw that there was a queue to get in. It was a 'multi cuisine'  restaurant. Whatever that we saw of the Chinese being served didn't evoke much confidence. 'Bhokti hochhe na' as Jini summed it up.

We walked up to Yellow Tree. The three storied continental restaurant cum pub. The restaurant, which normally looks empty, was packed too. We weren't in a mood to wait.

I am yet to go to Yellow Tree and Ehfesan so no reviews yet. Doubt if I'll ever go to the latter though.

That's when Maity got the idea of going to Gondola at Pali Market. This place is empty whenever I pass it by. It ha a little kebab and counter outlet outside the restaurant. I think that it is own by actress Perizaad Zorabian whose family owns a poultry called 'Zorabian Chicks'. I last went there more than four years back though I live opposite the place. Maity, Rahul and Jini have often been there though and approve of it.

So we walked down. Even Gondola was packed when we reached at 1045 PM. Luckily one table was empty. A six seater. We grabbed it. And were soon politely moved to a four seater which opened up.

Gondola is an old school restaurant from the time when Mumbai was Bombay. Maity said that it was the first continental restaurant in the suburbs. I wouldn't know about that. But the ambience was classic. Most of the crowd consisted of peaceful family groups. The staff seemed like they had been here for ages. Simple acts such as constantly filling our glasses with water spoke of a different era.

I was very impressed by the comparatively young Maitre De who took our order. He had a point of view and would respond to our orders with suggestions. He pointed out that something that we had ordered was shredded and deep fried and  best avoided. He suggested something called 'dragon chicken' and could fully explain it when I asked what it was. Didn't seem up our street. The overall experience of interacting with him was a rare pleasure in Mumbai where I have come across very few waiters who are well versed with their own menus.

This Parsi owned pioneering continental place now has a Chinese dominated menu with a few sizzlers, steaks and sandwiches representing the Continent.

We went for a Chinese heavy meal.

My chicken sweet corn soup was 'extra hot' as requested for my bad throat. The chicken bits added on top. The soup thick and starchy enough to be eaten with a fork. Did soothe my soar throat though.

Our starters and main courses got mixed which ended up with everyone tasting a bit everything which was fine by us. As usual, we had over ordered. In fact it seemed like he read out the whole menu when the Maitre De repeated our order.

The chilly chicken was classic. Green chillies, soy sauce, garlic bits, good chicken. Brought back happy memories to our table of ex Calcuttans.

Our 'starter' of continental beef chilly followed. It tasted Chinesy too me. The French Fries and fried onions were the 'continental touch' I guess.

The 'Chinese' beef chilly fry consisted of batter fried beef in sauce. The sauce and spongy batter gave a break in taste to the dry fried dishes that preceded. It was a bit salty. The fried rice was again nice and old school. Firm rice the way I like it. Slightly salty. Largely uncomplicated and reminded me of the fried rices one grew up on in Calcutta.

Maity ordered a 'Chinese Chop Suey'. An interesting mix of the whitish sauce of 'chowmein' of Chinese restaurants of Calcutta and deed fried noodles of Chop Suey. I found a tiny strand of hair/ eyelash after we'd finished more than half the dish. The staff apologised profusely. Offered to get a replacement or another dish. We refused as were quite full. I was pleased to see that they didn't charge us for this even though we hadn't told them anything to that effect. A mistake was made. But addressed. That's fine in my book.

The only non Chinese order was a steak for Rahul. They got it as a sizzler which is not what he wanted. They changed it and got it back without the sizzle. The steak was fairly good. Rahul liked it. I enjoyed the bite that I had. I am not too much of a steak person as I can't handle so much of concentrated meat. I need my carbs.

It was a nice experience overall. Not sure whether it was worth coming all the way from Wadala for Rahul and Jini. But the four of us did manage to catch up and chat in a relaxed manner over good food. That counts for something.

The dessert scene wasn't inspiring so I invited folks over to our fridge which was loaded with chocolates. That's when my sins caught up with me. Beef is not quite kosher for Hindus after all. I discovered that I had left me keys at home. So I couldn't get in. The others didn't have the chocolate in their fate either.

Rahul and Irin dropped me across town, I picked the spare keys and here I am. In my study. Well into Sunday.

Enjoy your Sunday. Eat well.