‘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.