Does the new Khar Social capture the classic food heritage of Mumbai?

If you remember, I had gone to the newly opened Social at Khar for breakfast soon after it opened and wrote about it here.

I enjoyed myself so much that morning that I said that I'd go back there for lunch.

We actually did go back to Social a couple of days later. Just that I'd not got about to writing about it all this while.

We went back on a Sunday afternoon a couple of days after we went there for breakfast. The place was reasonably crowded and we got the same table on the ground floor as we did the last time. The three of us, K,  me and our friend M, were back again. This time to celebrate my FBAI award win the night before.

The menu looked pretty interesting and we had a though time deciding on what to choose. K wanted something light, non-spicy or not deep fried and that was tough to find though.

We started with baida (egg) roti. A dish which is similar to the martabak of Malaysia and Moghlai porotha of Kolkata. Maida or refined flour parathas, stuffed with minced meat, dipped in eggs and deep fried.

In Mumbai you traditionally get baida parathas in old Muslim run kebab stalls such as Bade Miya in Colaba or the India Hotel in Bohri Mohalla. Those places are pretty grimy and are not for everyone. Definitely not for K or for our friend M.

A place like Social, makes the baida roti of the dark alleys of old Mumbai accessible. Especially to those who will never go to old Mumbai to eat.

baida roti at social

How did the baida roti of Social compare with the original stuff?

Well the rotis was fried more neatly than the India Hotel ones and was less chubby and more crisp. The meat filling was generous and well flavoured. I felt that the dish could have done with a tad more salt but K and M lapped it up and declared it the dish of the day.

We then tried a dish which seemed a bit of a misfit given the rest of our orders that afternoon.

 A laksa!

Laksa at Social

The laksa was yellow in colour and looked more like a khow suey than the Orange Peranakan laksas of Singapore one is used to or even the brown Assam (tamarind) laksas of Penang. 

The flavours and the consistency of the laksa was spot on though and made me very happy. We ordered the seafood one and the prawns were cooked to perfection. Juicy and not tough or overcooked at all.

The next dish that we had was something I wanted to try ever since I saw someone at Social, or maybe the owner, Riyaaz Amlani, tweet about it.

Chicken kori roti.

chicken kori roti

I had first had this dish at a Mangalorean restaurant called Modern Lunch Home in Fort where a Twitter friend had introduced me to the it. Kori rotis are crisp and thin, rice flour based flat breads. A gassi like coconut milk based spicy chicken curry is given on the side which you pour on the rotis and eat while the rotis slowly absorb the curry.

I had never seen this dish in a non Mangalorean restaurant and was fascinated to know that Social served this.

The version at Social tasted just like what I remembered from Modern. Right from the piquant coconutty curry to even the chewy and bony curry cuts of chicken which is how the chicken is traditionally cut in Mangalorean or even Malvani curries. Even M said that the curry reminded her of a meal she had had at a Mangalorean friend's house.

The last dish that I tried at Social was the Parsi Sunday favourite, mutton dhansak. I always try dhansak when I find it in a restaurant, be it in an Irani cafe or otherwise. Its presence in Social is understandable as owner, Riyaaz, is half Parsi. The dhansak, I think is named after his mom, 'Nina Aunty'.

M and I liked the dhansak. I found the Dar (dal) to be a bit thinner and sweeter than what I am used to. Minus points were... 1. They hadn't served kachumber on the side 2. The proportion of rice was a bit less given the amount of Dar served. 

Overall the dish seemed like comfort food to me. The meat quality was very good.

But what about the Bawi (Parsi girl) in our group.

K said that the dhansak was different from she has had in her house and that she preferred the one served at the Tea Centre. 

She did however say that dhansaks can vary from house to house and if this is how Nina Aunty makes it then so be it!

For dessert, the girls enjoyed a dish called the cronut, a sticky cross between a croissant and a doughnut which was the international rage last year. Cutting it was bit of a task as it was sugar syrup drenched. Tastes pretty nice in small doses if you like caramelised toffee flavours.

Here's a fun video on how to cut a cronut:

If I was to think back to our lunch at Social, then the key point, would be that they reprised dishes from old Mumbai and its Irani restaurants, it's Mangalorean lunch homes or its humble Muslim eateries and served them in a modern environment without interfering too much with its original form. Add to this the kheema ghotala we had had earlier for breakfast and you will find a lot of dishes from old Mumbai served here.

The good thing is that the baida roti here is a baida roti and hasn't been 'improvised' or 'reinvented' unlike the eggs Kejriwal of Bombay Canteen or SodaBottleOpenerWala.

The cronut or the laksa doesn't fit in but then who could have a problem with a good laksa? They serve a bit of Chinese too but you could argue that the thelas or carts of South Mumbai have made 'Chinese' a part of the city's landscape. In fact I was at the Udupi, Amrut Sagar, the other day and while I was having a dosa, most others were having Mumbaiyya Chinese. Anything goes here in a city where people are willing to try new things but it's good to see some old favourites being brought back at the Social at Khar without the taste being compromised. I am told that the menu is same at the other Socials too.

I still have no idea why they have to serve the food in those gawky aluminium utensils! Interestingly I met a young seafood exporter who said he loves the cutlery at Social and it struck me that most of us who don't like the utensils there are in their mid to late 30s or their 40s

2015 will go down as the year when Indian food became sexy once again in for the youth of Mumbai and the Social chain played a big part in this.

Update: I went back to Social for lunch on 12/12/15 ordered  the laksa again as I liked it very much the previous time. I do agree with the comment below that it is on the sweet side and giving some sambal on the side would help. This time they got the seasoning right in the baida roti. We tried the pork belly pops which I had during the launch party and remembered as being dry. This time it was juicy, fatty and well flavoured. The Vietnamese soup acts as a good version for those looking for something light


Jo said…
I agree. I thought the baida roti needed more seasoning, too. I completely ignored the laksa, sure that it would be akin to eating mumbaiya Chinese at an Udupi, but after this review, I most definitely will! It's one of my favorite comfort foods.
(I have only been to the Todi Mill Social)
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey Jo, funny you felt the same about the seasoning. The menu did leave me a bit confused. There is pork belly too. Makes one wonder what to order or what the USP of the place is. The food that I have tried over two visits is hearty and good
amasc aka Anne said…
I'm glad you enjoyed your laksa, it's one of the great comfort foods of the world. For me it was overwhelmingly sweet and with no sambal to cut through it I wasn't a huge fan. Everything else ordered including the crispy cubes of pork belly went down very well.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Hey Anna, I actually went back yesterday and had the laksa again! I get what you said about the sweetness. I jokingly said I didn't need a dessert after that. I did get a bit of chilli heat as an after taste though but yes they should give Sambal on the side. The social folks should take note if they are reading this. That's the heart of a laksa. I had the pork belly cubes yesterday and I found it nice and fatty and juicy unlike during the launch party. I don't think one gets a feel of a place during a launch
Harnoor said…
Try the gunpowder calamari next time. And the fish tacos. And butter chicken biryani. And when you're realllly hungry, the tenderloin crazy burger. Oh and the bbq board.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
I had had the gunpowder calamari at the launch party. Very nice