I was a bit sceptical when I first Heard about Hometown at Juhu and its Malay food. I am quite in love with the food at Malaysia and am unforgiving of ersatz stuff. Given the chance of that happening at Mumbai I gave Hometown a miss for a while.
I recently bought a Canon eos 550 after much dithering and buying a Power Shot first and then exchanging it the next day. I had to put my Sony nex to bed as I just couldn’t get hold of a new lens after damaging the kit lens. I wanted to try out the camera. Hometown seemed to be a good option.
I got in touch with Soumik, who rustled up a group, and we headed there on Sunday night. The range one can order is limited when one goes alone so this was better. The mix was interesting. Apart from me there was a couple who had lived at Kl for a short while and had fond memories of the food there. And Soumik who has a pathological dislike of Malaysian food and doesn't have the best of memories of his trip there thanks to an attack of fever when he was there.
Hometown at Juhu is where the exquisite Del Italia used to be. It has got nothing to do with the Hometown chain at Malaysia. Or the Sichuan restaurant of the same name at Singapore. The one at Mumbai is run by the China Gate folks.
Well let’s get the camera report out first. I felt a bit like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commando with his bazooka but soon the camera to talk to me. I slowly got a hang of the focussing. Felt great to use the manual mode while I let the camera adjust for the restaurant lights. I was quite happy with the shoot that I managed on day 1. Made the food look much better than it was. I miss the lightness of my Nex but this chubby is good too. Still a bit unwieldy though and I am sure I will slowly get used to it.
Coming to Hometown, well it was largely as disastrous as I expected it to be. I got an inkling of it when I placed our reservation on phone.
“So what sort of food do you serve? Asian?”
“Malaysian sir. And continental”
“Malaysian Chinese or mamak?.”
“Malaysian sir. It is a bit like Chinese.”
The same story continued after we entered. We finally managed to get the waiters to come to our table and had to place our order over the loud jarring music. The waiters had no idea of the the dishes. We had to refer to our dishes by the numbers…so it was more R2D2 than the, absent from the menu, rendang or roti canai. Some of us knew what to order but for others this would be a problem with a new cuisine. A contrast from Del Italia which had some lovely service.
Our starters of prawn sambal and a very juicy and succulent pepper lamb helped soothe hungry stomachs. These were competent dishes similar to what you get at good Chinese restaurants here. The sambal was not really spicy. It was the lamb that won our hearts.
The chicken rice was nice …the chicken juicy and well flavoured and up there with the stuff at Ipoh Chicken Rice at Bangsar. The rice could have been better flavoured. Ling’s with its chicken rice is better if you ask me even though you have to order the chicken rice in advance.
The noodle broths were disastrous. There was blood on the floor here. The prawn mee which I ordered basis my fond memories of the same from Kafe 78 at Penang turned out to be egg noodles in dish water here. This salt less flavourless bilge was nowhere like the prawn mee which had made me fall in love with Penang.
One of us ordered a chicken curry mee. Well the curry mee at Hometown was neither here nor there. It didn’t have the heat and punch of the Malaysian original. The taste of coconut was overpowering. All of us who tasted it, including the poor guy who ordered it, couldn’t go beyond a second spoonful. The curry mee didn’t look like the picture in the menu. That actually looked like the real deal. But the fine print in the menu had a disclaimer saying that the food might not look exactly like the menu pictures.
J who ordered the curry mee gave up on the Malay food and ordered a spaghetti bolognaise. Turned out to be a decent kheema noodles but had neither the zest nor the juiciness of a good robust bolognaise.
The char keo tway ordered by our ex Kl couple turned out to be a good comeback as were the glass nodes. The best of the lot was the steamed chicken char keow tay which had a nice soy based balance to it. Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of that.
I didn’t taste the other stuff. Those who ordered the continental food seemed happier.
Our table largely was a disgruntled one.The music too loud. The service slothlike. The food patchy and served cold in one case…a bit of angst expressed by some led to a free dessert…a chocolate mousse.
I skipped the mousse and went ahead with our couple formerly from Kl and ordered a kaya toast. I had memories of the Kaya toast at Ya Kun at Singapore in mind. While Lopa & Ratul, the ex KL folks fondly remembered their Kaya toasts at Old Town cafe.
Our faces fell when we saw what the waiter got. The Kaya jam looked nothing like the stiff peanut butter textured jam that we loved. The one here looked like the moong daal halwa served in North India and tasted like something the cat dragged in.
The jam was had no resemblance to the original. What worked for me was the delicious soft chunky bread butter. Reminiscent of summer holidays at grandparents and toast butter jam and sugar. At Bengal though and not Malaysia or Singapore.
A very disappointing end to the evening.
One of the folks in our group chastised the waiter and jibed him being saying that the menu should have a disclaimer which said “not for those who have been to Malaysia”.
To which the waiter said with disarming honesty “Sir, if we serve the food the way it is cooked in Malaysia then people won’t like it”.
Well good luck to them and I guess the next time I want food from the Archipelago in Mumbai I will head to Tasty Tangles at Khar.
Hometown does a disservice to the food of Malaysia in my opinion. Something their consulate should take up.
How did you find the photos? Worth a king’s ransom? This was just the first day of course. And artificial lights.