Criminal Minds. At Modern Lunch Home with Mumbai Central

I was accosted and questioned by commandos the last time I came to this street for lunch. This time I came with a criminal lawyer. A pure coincidence though.

My lunch mate yesterday was a lawyer with a sharp sense of humour who Tweets under the handle of Mumbai Central . Her 'bio' reads "I'm the reason why all those lawyer jokes exist." Her tweets are not always about the law. You would find gripes on Taxi strikes, odes to rain, laments on upturned umbrellas, Tweets during camel rides at Rajasthan on her page.Yes, food featured too and that's how we first connected. Then I moved into Fort to work. Which is where she practices. Soon we begun to make lunch plans through DMs and texts.

"Is it all right to eat fish now?"
"There is only one way we can find out"

"It's raining today".
"Rain doesn't bother me".

Well obviously she didn't share my very Bengali safety first approach to life. We finally met up yesterday with plans to try a new place which neither of us had been to.

"Court lunch begins at 2 PM so let's meet if you are not dying of hunger or have work"
"Not a problem. Beware, I shoot what I eat".

I took the elevator down. Stepped out. My huge umbrella, the trees and the awnings keeping me shielded from the rain. I crossed the street and entered Modern Lunch Home ...Air Conditioned & Family Restaurant"

"I am in a black shirt, denim, sandals. Rain gear."
"You won't miss me when you come in" 

Which I didn't as MC was sitting in the non air conditioned non family section. A room the size of a garage, typical of the restaurants at Fort. Stark and plain furniture. She was the only woman there. Surrounded by a few world weary wizened men taking a break in the midst of a hectic day in the Mercantile Centre of Mumbai. Some of them nursing beer bottles by themselves, early in the day. A soulful, solitary moment of calm. A picture of pathos and contentment. And our lawyer who tweets sitting between them.

There was very little leg space between the chairs and I soon tackled the awkwardness by sitting diagonally opposite to MC. I looked around the humble surroundings and something told me that some really good, heart warming  food was on the way. I have a nose for these things.

"This is the best time to come here. It's Shravan (when locals don't each non vegetarian food) and you get a place easily. Restaurants here are packed between 1 to 1.45. That's the only time I don't resent the fact that courts close for lunch at 2". She introduced herself with an infectious smile.

We exchanges stories. I'll keep it relatively vague. In between calls where she scolded other lawyers and excitedly told me what to order I found out that MC was a meat and fish loving Goan. Her husband was a vegetarian. That she had landed in Mumbai after Pune and Bangalore. And, yes, she was a criminal lawyer. So I know whom to dial next time I am picked up in a Black Maria for taking photographs.

Modern Lunch Home was a Mangalorean place unlike Pradip Gomantak next door whose fish bone curries with rice and fish fry MC would run to when she missed home. MC was pretty familiar with Mangalorean lay of the land as well. By now I had read enough of her tweets and heard her speak enough to know that this was a lady who was seriously into food. So I did what I rarely do, I left the ordering to her. She ordered two dishes which were spectacular. I ordered one. The only disappointing one.

We started with Kori Roti. The first thing that struck me was the huge portion size. What you see below is half the dish as they thoughtfully divided the food into two.Kori Roti according to MC was a 'crisp roti'. The dish consisted of chicken curry served over a very crisp dosa like roti.

I took my first tentative bite and then took a double take. I was immediately transported away from the unpretentious restaurant to the palace of a Deccan Chief. How evolved was this dish? So regal and yet in such simple surroundings? The curry was the sort of food that they feed you on your first day in heaven. It was delectably creamy. Understated and yet bursting with flavour. The texture of the sauce was the stuff of legends. The chicken pieces extremely tender. The dialectics of the calm and peaceful chicken curry and the crisp no nonsense dosa was revolutionary.

The dish matured as you continued your meal. The curry slowly began to seep through the roti/ dosa. It begun to shed its tough visage and started to mellow down. It was almost as if you were seeing a young tempestuous girl blossom into a woman. The roti had a certain maternal, nurturing feel to it as it softened. No, it did not become soggy.

The Kori Roti was reason enough to make getting to know MC worth your while. Not that one needed one.

Next on display were the mutton masala and neer dosa that MC selected. I took my first bite of the masala and yelled out first in surprise and then in masochistic joy. I had bit into a fiery chili. One bite and I was energised for the week. Monday blues a distant memory.

I started to appreciate the masalamasala with the neer dosa was inspired. The masala was so good that one could enjoy it even by itself. I was so loving this meal. If there was a dish that could be described as voluptuous then the mutton masala at Modern Lunch Home definitely qualified.

I must confess that the Bombil or Bombay Duck fry that I ordered was mediocre in comparison to its predecessors. Oily. Over fried Over spiced. But then Modern Lunch Home was a Mangalorean place. Bombay Duck is the birthright of Gomantak joints after all and no one got it right the way they did.

We were a bit tentative about ordering fish thanks to the recent oil slick at Mumbai. The waiter assured as that the fish came from Gujarat and Hyderabad. I challenged him saying that Bombay Duck is native to, well, Mumbai. He shrugged.

As MC said as she took the first bite, the fish didn't taste off or of oil. Our seas are so polluted that the oil probably cleaned up the fish was my conjecture.

Overall it was a mind blowing experience. All of which came at the cost of a princely Rs 245 (5 USD) and I hopefully got a new lunch mate for my stint at Fort.

And no, Mumbai Central doesn't live at Mumbai Central.

Stepping out of office on a rainy day. Walk for a few steps. Make a new friend. Eat a blockbuster meal. At hardly any cost. Back at work in just about half an hour. No surprise that I love Fort.


Anonymous said…
That looks like an amazing meal. Lucky you! I think I really need to plan another trip to India soon....
Mumbai Central said…
Oooh - am hungry already!

Trivia: Neer dosas and Kori Rotis are made with the same thing - rice flour - so this was a gluten free paradise!

Thanks for the lovely bio, KK. Let's hope you don't get almost-arrested again :D
Pinku said…

this was such a happy post...
zenrainman said…
Great post and thanks for introducing MC too.
The food description got this vegetarian salivating too..:).
Next time vegetarian?
Shaswati said…
Nice post. Thought as a true Bong I must point out that Bombay Ducks in a different name is very much loved and savoured in Bengal! Loittya as the East Bengal people call it and prepare it in a mashed up spicy way whereas the same fish is known as Niharika (nihere - local) and enjoyed in parts of south Bengal - though the preparation is very very different and this particular fish is very much available in that part of the country miles away from Bombay! Just thought I can share this trivia :))
Ugich Konitari said…
As a pucca veggie, I totally enjoyed this post. I've been a lurking tweeter who enjoys Mumbai Central tweets and travelogues greatly. I am delighted to now actually see her. And I enjoyed reading about this tweeters lunch; a bunch of us bloggers met a year ago without having the faintest idea of who looked how, and have continiued the eating tradition.

I look forward to reading more such wonderfull posts....
Scarlett said…
Kalyan! The "Bengali safety first approach to life" needs to be dropped. Now :)
Molly said…
Very nice post Kalyan..making me drool here as am having baingan bharta for lunch :(((....Love gomantak and mangalorean food esp Neer dosa with anything is amazing! Molly.
~j~ said…
Thanks for the link, Kalyan. And I'm so grateful I was born into this kori roti/neer dosa loving Mangalorean family... :) I can imagine the joy felt eating all of that.


PS: Word verification threw up "shorma". Sounded oh-so-foodie! :D