|This is now one of my favourite seafood dishes in Mumbai|
Read on to know more about it
Mocha Mojo 2013. The conception of The Travelling Belly
A few days back I met Poulomi Chatterjee of Hatchette India at Bandra’s Sassy Spoon Restaurant.
We had last met at the same location way back in mid 2013. A lot has changed since then.
At that time, I had just begun had begun exploring a career in food writing. Writing a book was on top of my agenda as it then was for very every food blogger.
My one meeting with an editor before I met Poulomi, arranged by a well meaning mentor cum godmother, didn’t add to much. Which is when Rushina Munshaw Ghildayal, who had just published her own book, 'A Pinch of this, A handful of that', introduced me to Poulomi at a book event at Rushina’s studio in Andheri.
Poulomi and I met up a few days after that at Mocha Mojo, Bandra, and discussed book ideas over coffee and pancakes and waffles too.
I submitted a proposal basis our chat and a few months later had a contract in hand.
The Travelling Belly was conceived. The name given by Kainaz of course as she had named this blog, 'Finely Chopped', before.
A new life began for me from that day. I would come to Candies every morning, typing away with a new purpose in life. Then first draft of the book was done and my transition from being a market researcher to a food writer was on its way.
The Sassy Spoon, 2016. Many chapters later
It has been more than three years since our meeting at Mocha Mojo.
When Poulomi and I met this time, I felt a sense of peace and relaxation, different from the anxiousness and uncertainty that swamped me back then. While we discussed possible ideas for a book last time, this time we were closing on the cover for a book and on ideas for its launch.
It was the calm before the storm now. Our job was done for the moment. Now it is over to the audience once the book is released this Christmas.
In case you are wondering what The Travelling Belly is all about, it is a food travelogue written by me based on my experiences while eating across India and is going to be published by Hatchette India.
To new beginnings
The change from market researcher to food writer, blogger, columnist, would be author was not only change that in play here.
Mocha Mojo, one of our favourite cafés at one point, had shut shortly after Poulomi and I had met (no connection to our meeting though).
In Mocha's place came up The Sassy Spoon. It's original outpost is at Nariman Point. Soon, like Mocha Mojo once was for us, Sassy Spoon too became a favourite place of ours and a preferred place to meet friends. We love the vibe here and have our favourites in the menu.
The Sassy Spoon was shut till recently for renovation and has opened again. This was the first time I was back after the renovation.
The Sassy Spoon refreshed
The first thing that struck me was that Sassy looks even more (!) pink than before. The new décor looks warmer and more granny’s parlour like with drapes and blinds and slightly heavier furniture than before when it had more minimalistic feel. Sassy Spoon was always cute, but feels cosier now.
|The pastry counter is called Sassy TeaSpoon now |
and has been brought to the gate
|The pastry counter has shifted|
The new menu at The Sassy Spoon has our old favourites such as scrambled eggs and the spaghetti with lemon beurre butter. The popular Goan sausage mac and cheese burger is there too. I was a bit unhappy with my recent scone (pasty and crumbly) and spaghetti (over-cooked and under flavoured) experiences and I hope they bring the magic back.
There are a few Indian dishes on the menu now too which were not there before. I found this exciting as I had once had Indian dishes in a private party thrown by the chef, Irfan Pabaney, and that food was brilliant.
And now, the new menu
Poulomi had quite enjoyed her kokum based mocktail which she had ordered before I had reached. I had a sip and found it to be refreshingly fizzy and the sweetness levels well balanced, unlike in local kokum sherbats which can get too sweet. This was perfect.
The advantage of having a Bengali as your editor/ publisher is that her food palate is pretty broad and you can order pretty much anything from the menu during work meetings without being worried about food restrictions.
We started with the grilled tenderloin chilli cheese toast. We both marvelled at how tender the meat was. The tenderloin was of buffalo of course but done so juicily. I have had the tenderloin burger here in the past and that was superb too.
The toast was nice and crisp and the cheese, cheddar I think, very liberal and indulgent. The kitchen had gone a bit overboard on the garlic though and that, along with the thick cheese layer, made it tough to have more than one toast each as the combination was a bit overwhelming. It’s a good order if you are in a bigger group if you ask me.
Both of us tore off the meat from the remaining toasts though and didn’t let that go waste. This was seriously good quality meat treated with tender love and care in the kitchen.
|Coriander and rava crusted bombil|
For our mains, I ordered the coriander and rava crusted bombil as Poulomi is from Delhi and they don’t have much access to Bombay Duck (bombil) back there.
The plate of bombil brought in front of us looked so pretty. I like the efforts made by folks such as Soam in the past, Bombay Canteen more recently, and now Sassy Spoon, to present conventional Indian food in a more modern and refreshing way without compromising with the integrity of the food. What I mean is that the food looks pretty and yet like something you would like to dig into and not art, modern or otherwise, that leaves you perplexed and puzzled about what to do with it and how to eat it.
If you shut your eyes and had the fried bombil (Bombay duck) at The Sassy Spoon, you would think that you were eating in a good Malvani or Gomantak joint, not in a modern western influenced cafe.
The fish was succulent and juicy. The batter, thin and crisp, showcasing the fish rather than overpowering it. The inner surface of the batter had a slightly fiery, but not scary, green chilli and coriander masala coating which livened up the Bombay duck which has a jelly-like texture.
This dish is a must eat to get a taste of Mumbai.
The green chutney in the batter intrigued me. Normally Malvani places have a red chutney, if at all, under the batter coating Bombay Duck fries. On seeing the picture on Facebook, Promilaa Bhatia told me that she has seen a similar green chutney being used in Goa.
|The mystery of the green chutney|
The Bombay Duck was served with a very Thai som-tam reminiscent raw mango chutney which added a brilliantly burst of freshness to go with the chilli heat of the fish and blew both our minds.
Continuing with the seafood motif for my lunch mate from landlocked Delhi, I chose the thengal arai with appam for our other main course. It consisted of prawns cooked in a tangy and flavoursome coconut and tomato paste which reminded me of the Andhra tomato chutneys that I had in the past. The sauce was tempered with typical red chilli, mustard seeds and curry leaves spicing favoured in the south.
While the curry looked very red, it was not too high on chilli heat and combined beautifully with the freshly made appams that it was served on. The appams were crunchy on the edge and soft inside. The appams tasted lovely by themselves too, and exquisite when the curry soaked into them.
The other thing that I noted about the dish, is that the prawns in it were very juicy and not tough or over cooked at all. Clearly an example of Chef Irfan Pabaney’s experience in western cooking, where seafood is rarely overcooked, gelling harmoniously with his understanding of native Indian spices.
I would call the prawn and appams that I had at The Sassy Spoon one of the best seafood dishes I have had in Mumbai.
|Wasn't planning to photogrpaph the tiramisu |
but changed my mind after a bite
Neither of us wanted to have desserts, but they got us a tiramisu on the house from The Sassy Teaspoon counter, just we were leaving. Poulomi and I looked at each other awkwardly as we wanted avoid desserts and I muttered to her, “let’s have a spoon each so that they don’t feel hurt.”
The tiramisu was so boozy and moist and rich that we had 4 to 5 spoons each!
Irfan's business partner, Rachel Goenka, is the person behind the desserts here.
|That's Poulomi Chatterjee and me by the way|
At the same place where we had earlier met
way back in 2013
What I like about the new menu at The Sassy Spoon is that they have retained old favourites and also introduced great new dishes and have thereby, expanded their horizons. Which is a wonderful approach to have to life.
And I do hope that you are as excited about The Travelling Belly as we are. Releasing this Christmas as I had earlier said, and, if anyone has Santa's email id then do let me know.
Since Poulomi treated me to the lunch, I am posting pages from the menu so that you get an idea of the prices. Service charges and taxes are added to these