‘New’ Bombay … Chili's, Hira Nandani Powai

Went to sleep to the sound of rains last night to wake up to a two hour drive to work from Bandra W to Andheri E, fortified by chicken sandwiches and a quiche from Candies. But I was more harrowed the other day when I had a headache followed by a meeting followed by another headache and then our driver landed us at Ghatkopar when I asked him to take us to Powai! He said he forgot as when I asked him. I burst out laughing while reeling under the headache and lack of lunch.

Hiranandani at Powai is fast emerging as a favourite spot of mine to stop for lunch if I am out at work in the central suburbs. There is something about the architecture, the cleanliness and the range of mid to upscale restaurants here which is comforting. I remember a time when the then newly opened Great Punjab was the only place to eat at Hira Nandani. Nice to see the way the place has grown.

Thanks to our driver getting us lost I gave up on our Bengali lunch plans at Bijoli Grill. It was post 4.30 pm. We walked into Chili's, the Tex Mex place we once ate at at Dubai.

We flipped over the pages of tequilas and margaritas on the menu which seemed out of place given that we were still on a time sheet and of course, the frikking headache.

The ambience was reminiscent of the TGIFs of the world… spacious, carnival-like, a pub area where a few expats taking advantage of the Happy Hours. My Bong colleague looking at them with wonder and a touch of yearning … beer in the middle of the day at four in the evening seemed so good yet unreal.

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We focused on the food menu instead. I must say that the waiter earned the pre-applied service charge as he explained the menu to us and answered my questions. Though his advice on the portion size was a bit off and two fajitas & soups were a bit to much for us.

We started with a green chili soup with chicken, My Bong lunch mate, who cooks regularly at home for himself, commented on the untidy way in which the soups were served. Both the bowls had unwiped soup marks on the rims. Made me wonder if this was deliberate. Perhaps they were trying to recreate a Mexican street feel? Rest of the restaurant seemed well quite well designed.

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The clear soup with capsicum, dried rice and chicken bits looked messy and unimpressive. Luckily looks were deceptive in this case as the soup won us over with is delicate heat, ethereal tartness and an overall mood elevating taste experience. The two cook at home, very particular about what they eat, Bengalis approved.

Then came the fajitas. We had ordered two different ones. Sizzling platters of chicken and mushroom in Jack and citrus chicken and prawn. What floored me was the sheer juiciness of the meat. Not what I had expected when I was confronted by my old enemy, chicken breasts. This was nothing like the crusty, dry, taste and flavourless cuts of meat that I have often admitted defeat to. At Chili's they make chicken breast taste really good.

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The menu came with suggestions on how to eat the fajitas and the waiter explained what the condiments were. This was good as we were not familiar with these. Ironically two men who often cook at home had to assemble their dishes in the restaurant too as we spread the guacamole and sour cream on the soft tortillas, placed the meat, onions, shrimps and mushrooms from the fajita platters on them, added the tomato and cheese and made our little rolls.

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The riot of colours livened us up our surroundings as Ritwankar and I munched away while chatting about the mix of colours, condiments and textures in cuisines such as Mexican and Asian which contrast to the often monochromatic dishes of India.

The fare livened up the day but didn't tantalise up to the promise. The chicken was great no doubt and the fried onions which I just love but there was something missing in the chopped tomatoes and cheese. The taste didn't exhilarate the way it could have. I will put that down to the local produce. Does anyone else think that tomatoes today are redder and firmer than we remember but are completely devoid of taste? (No puerile thoughts please!!!!)

In retrospect we didn’t miss our planned Bengali lunch as few things are as Bengali as discovering new cuisines.

The meal for two without desserts or drinks cost about Rs 1100 (25 USD). And as our waiter confirmed, it was Tex Mex or ‘American Mexican’ as he put it.

Now for the streets of Mexico.


nice ..like the picture..
I had mexican food last night..
"Le tres Amigos"
it was fun!
Scarlett said…
I'm glad you got another chance to try Mexican cuisine, even if it was Tex Mex.

Maybe your colleague should consider moving to Australia...beer in the middle of the afternoon wouldn't be an out of place thing here at all.
Anonymous said…
Chili's, really?

Out here, it's the sort of place you take a bunch of 14 yr olds to, the sort who don't care about the food in other words
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Harman, still new here. my camera battery had run out so depended on the phone

@Ash: Must say that I enjoyed the 'non Gringo Mexican of Sancho's here and Mamasita at Melbourne more

@Anon: apparently there is not here
sassy fork said…
When I go to the US,I always make a visit to Chili's.Their ad goes "I want my baby back,baby back,baby back ribs" :D
Unknown said…
chilis had something interesting on their menu that i was initiated into called awesome blossom. A huge entire onion peeled open like a flower (all the layers) dunked in batter - deep fried and served with ranch or blue cheese. I find it interesting that places that are now considered junk food in the US are innovating here. I hated hard Rock in Chicago - absolutely love it in Mumbai. (also my classmate designed the interiors).
Kalyan Karmakar said…
@Sassy: hmmm don't think I spotted ribs here...but then as they say in Oz was buggered when I went there

@Curry Spice: Not sure if they have the cheese onion pakora here.

Well Starbucks is aspirational here while the done thing in the West is to look down upon it
Anonymous said…
same anon here

Yes, there is not here.

That wasn't the point, really. The point was how the brand can actually hurt the company. I will probably not eat - unless forced to - in a Hard Rock/Chili's/McDonalds anywhere because of the blandness/ordinaryness of it here.

But this may not always be so. Starbucks, on the other hand, the one on the campus where I study, has this one slightly older Cuban gentleman - a break from Starbucks' usual strategy of hiring cheap undergrads - who makes excellent cappuccinos. So identity can matter, even in a homogenized brand.
Anonymous said…
Hi Kalyan,

I have been following your blog for quite a few months now. Started off with coming across it during a random google search and now seems like Im addicted to it!! The URL is saved on my favs tab and i check it religiously every morning hoping for new updates!!!
I also choose to spend idle hours going through old posts and just keep re-reading posts!
I'm also a foodie and on a recent trip to italy, the only shopping I did was foodstuff - olive oils/spices/pasta/mixes, etc and then last weekend called over a few friends and cooked up lunch - pasta in pesto sauce, 'your sausage starter', a cheese platter, etc etc and the maid chipped in with help for some desi main course :)
Took a couple of your tips, and cooked up some pasta again last night. And finally, told myself I MUST pen down a comment just to share that there's one more person who enjoys ur blog SOOOO much!!

Each of ur posts is a treat!!

Looking fwd to reading a lot more on Finely Chopped :)

- TD
Sharmila Das said…
I tried mexican food once in Dubai.Didn't like it much. I like the Lebanese and Thai cuisine.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Just realised that I was not getting mail notifications on comments

@Anon: well don't the Mc D, HRC etc brands define the companies? In which case one either buys into them or one doesn't

@TD: thanks so much for writing on. wow that did really make me feel good.

Even I keep buying ingredients when I travel. Don't always end up using them when i returned. Woudl love to go to italy again. It seems to have such a fantastic culture of food

@Sharmila: Mexican cuisine is fairly unexplored for me too. And then you have this Tex Mex which is in concept like Indian Chinese
Meenakshi said…
I live near Powai and agree- Chili's aint that great! Their margheritas are better than most of the food served. But yeah, if you just want quantity and are not that fussy about quality, it's ok. I really like Tex Mex but Chili's didn't make me jump for joy either.

As for tomatoes- I couldn't agree more. It might as well taste like Cleenex!