My friend, Soumik, had recently called me to tell me about a new restaurant he had been to where he had apparently got a very good deal on prawns.
He told me that the restaurant is called Me So Happi and is located beside the Guess Showroom at Santa Cruz Linking Road. Soumik and my plans to go there didn’t materialize but I zeroed in on Me So Happi when I went to meet another Bengali, Sougata Sengupta yesterday.
|Saugata of Feast@East|
I met Sougata recently at the Bandra Durga Pujo. Sougata is a corporate hand, on a sabbatical, who is now trying out his luck in the food business. ‘Mathai poka dhorechhe’ he says. The Bengali equivalent of the Hindi kira laga or ‘bitten by the bug’. He has started a chain of outlets called Feast@East all over Mumbai and in Big Cinemas. From here he retails Kolkata street food items like rolls, chops, mughlai parathas as well as Kolkata Chinese. He is eying a larger market though and doesn’t want his chain to be typecast as a Bengali only one. I had had the fish fries, egg rolls and Moghlai parathas at his stall in the pujo and liked them so much that I made the Feast@East stall our Pujo pandal base in the Bandra Durga Pujo walk this year. Yesterday we met up to discuss our experiences of moving from the corporate world to an uncharted one in the world of food. A typical Bengali adda.
Seemed like a good opportunity to try out Me So Happi.
The first thing which struck when I entered Me So Happi me was that the look of the restaurant matched up to the cheerfulness of its name. The seating plan was rectangular and the whole place was brightly lit with the big windows giving it an airy feel. The colour scheme is pretty chirpy too. The seating primarily on high bar chairs. I love the floor tiles which give a very Catalan feel to the place. The tables have charging points below which is so important these days. They don’t have wifi yet.
I bumped into food blogger Reema Prasanna while looking around.
|Blogger Reema Prasanna|
There has been a lot of discussion on food bloggers twitter in India over the last few days. One of the questions raised is the impact of food bloggers on deciding the fate of restaurants. I normally go by the recommendations of people I know and whose tastes I trust when it comes to choosing a place to eat. Soumik in this case or Sue for Nido the day before. I then look to my Twitter and Facebook circles for ideas on where to eat and only then search for blogs. Unless someone sends a blog link of course with ideas on where to eat. The other grouse on twitter about food bloggers was that of free food. Those refer to hosted reviews I guess. I normally avoid those these days as I find the experience too artificial. Plus I like to blog about things that happen in my life and hosted invites don't feature naturally there. I don't enjoy writing about hosted meals. I have seen some bloggers mention that there meals are paid for. I do the reverse and indicate when they are no paid for and are hosted by the restaurant. In this case it wasn't.
Coming back to Me So Happi, the bar chairs and the joyful ambience gave the feel of a young pub to Sougata and he strongly missed an afternoon beer to go with our lunch. They don’t have a liquor license here yet. Me So Happi is an all day dining place which opens at 12 noon though I am told they plan to start breakfasts soon.
We decided to go for starters than stuff ourselves with the mains. Frankly none of the latter looked that interesting. They have no pork or beef on the menu unfortunately.
We started with a Bombilo (Rs 300) which the menu described as Bombay Duck fried ‘chilli style’. Sougata asked it to be served extra spicy.
The dish that arrived was not particularly spicy and we realized that it was served in a Chinese style with a soy based sauce on the side. The menu hadn’t indicated that. We were both pretty happy with the dish though. You bit through the crunchy batter, which had a Chinese restaurant like flavour to it, and then reached the jelly like, thankfully deboned, Bombay Duck. The alternating bites of crunch and pulpiness were quite pleasing. It was served with rings of onion and capsicum seasoned in soy sauce which tasted pretty good with the fish. Both of us preferred the dish without the sauce.
The other dish that we tried was the ‘Goan connection’ or potato chops (Rs 250).
K and I first had Goan potato chops at Mark’s cold storage where these used to keep home made beef potato chops. They were so huge that we used to call them ‘bombs’. They were full flavoured and juicy. You don’t get them at Mark’s or even Jude’s anymore but you do get Goan potato chops at Candies…mutton and vegetable both and we are really fond of these. The mutton one consists of flavour packed, juicy mutton mince in a mashed potato casing which is crisp outside. This is how it looks.
|Goan chops at Candies|
The one at Me So Happi looks a lot a paler and fell fully flat. The mutton mince was very dry. The potato casing very sticky and pasty and near plasticky. Nothing like the potato chops of Candies that K, my in laws and I love. Sougata who didn’t have a context to Goan chops, and who sells Bengali chops at his outlets, was very disappointed with the dish too and we sent back the plate unfinished.
|Goan chops at me so happi|
At this point a gentleman came to ask us for our feedback. Turned out he was Aniruddh Patil, the chef here. He took our feedback on the chops. He then explained that the menu here is pretty eclectic. That they try to serve dishes, which they like. What they consider comfort food. ‘Some have said our menu is all over the place’ he said. The next planned introduction, Aniruddh, tells me is dhansak.
|Aniruddh of Me so Happ|
Yes, one can’t really typecast Me So Happi as Western, Asian or Indian though the look and feel of the place was decidedly modern and Western. The menu does have a 'new age' Indian feel without any foam or deconstruction though.
On hearing we were Bengali, the Marathi Aniruddh told us that most of his kitchen staff are Bengali and asked our suggestion on what Bengali dishes he could introduce here. I guess the Bengali chops, rolls would be good and luchi kosha mangsho/ alur dom/ chhlar daal if they can manage would be good bet given the café like feel.
After consulting with Anirudh we ordered our third dish of the day. We stuck to starters again. This time I chose the dish which Soumik was probably referring to. Prawns on fire (around Rs 450 I think). The menu described it as being fried in chilli and curry leave bits and Anirudh said it had a light rice flower coating.
This dish was a good come back after the chop. 5 or 6 large prawns. Fried just right. Very juicy. Not rubbery at all. The casing was like a mild savoury film which added to the experience. The curry leaf flavour was not over powering, or even evident come to think of it. The chilli kick was there though and you felt the heat at the end of each bite. It had a slightly fiery aftertaste but the overall experience wasn’t overtly spicy or overpowering. ‘Perfect bar food’ said Sougata still missing his beer.
I had ordered some buttery garlic bread to add in a carb quotient to our meal.
They don’t have a coffee machine yet so Sougata and I continued our chat over a couple of (Lipton tea bag) green teas served with honey on the side. It was mid week, not too crowded and we were left at peace and the food was also just right and not too cumbersome for an adda or even a meeting.
The service was attentive and yet unobtrusive.
The service was attentive and yet unobtrusive.
Most of the dishes range between Rs 300 to Rs 500 and our bill of three starters and two green teas came to about Rs 1200.
On the way out I bumped into Anaggh Desai from twitter. Anaggh pointed out that the pricing at Me So Happi is above café (coffee shop) levels and below upscale restaurant levels. The food that we had here, if one overlooks the chops, is of course way better than that of coffee shops. Anaggh, from what I understand, is consulting them on the service delivery.
Overall Me So Happi lives up to it’s cheerful name and seems like a sweet place to hang out in.