Food that does not try too hard and thank God for that! The Thai and Japanese flavours of Seefah, Hill Road
|Salmon nigiri & sashimi at Seefah|
Not so passive homebodies for a change
Last evening we did something that we have not done for a while. We stepped out to a neighbourhood restaurant for dinner. That too, to a place that we had not been to before.
With a desire to eat more home cooked meals, with me cooking more often these days than I had for a while, with our cook Banu upping her cooking game finally, with the emergence of Swiggy as a delivery option and the arrival of Netflix (and Hotstar and Amazon Prime) in our lives, we tend to have most of our dinners at home these days.
Older? Wiser? Lazier?
You tell me.
Last night we decided to go out though. In memory of an evening from a time when we (my wife & I) had dinner together outside every night. On that night, nineteen years back (no, it wasn't our wedding anniversary), we had gone to Leopold in Colaba. We had probably had the beef chilli fry, prawn fried rice and the brownie. That was our order there. Perhaps a drink or two with it.
|K & me at Seefah. 19 years after our Leopold, Crystal, Churchill, JATC days|
It's all about serenity now at this chef's tableWe went to a restaurant called Seefah at Bandra, last night. It is named after Seefah Ketachiyo who is the owner and chef here. A Thai lady who has made Mumbai her home and has married a Mumbai boy too, chef Karan Bane. They had met at the Four Seasons from what I gather. They later moved out of the hotel and were with a small independent restaurant called Blue at Bandra's 16th Road. They have moved out since then and have opened Seefah on Hill Road. Again in Bandra. This time at Hill Road.
We (K&I) had eaten at San Qi at the Four Seasons twice. I am not sure if Seefah or Karan were there at that time. We had the Japanese food there once and the Thai the other time and had a good experience both times. We had gone to Blue a few months after it had opened. Really enjoyed a couple of dishes that we tried. Were not so excited about a couple of others that we had. Most importantly, there was something about its cramped atmosphere, which did not make sitting there a very joyous experience.
|At the TTAT cooking workshop with chefs' Seefah, Black & Vicky Ratnani|
I finally met chef Seefah and Karan at a cooking workshop organised by the the Thai Tourism Authority at the Mag Street Kitchen recently. The workshop was conducted by chef Black from Chiang Mai. It was quite an enjoyable session.
I was very impressed by the husband and wife duo, i.e., Seefah & Karan. They were both so friendly and unassuming. We were divided into groups to cook (the part I hate in workshops). Chef Seefah was in our group and I sat back, smiling and saying, "we have Tendulkar in our team." One thing I noticed that morning, and was inspired by, was how chef Seefah, despite being an accomplished Thai chef, went and asked questions on what to do to chef Black. Looking at her you would have thought that she was an intern, and I mean this in a good way. She had no hang ups!
That is when I instinctively felt that their food would be good and wanted to try it out.
There was a problem though. Seefah is not available on most delivery options (apart from Scootsy). Chef Seefah told us last evening that this is so as their food is largely of the sort that does not travel well.
This meant that I had to shake my inertia and go to her place for dinner and I was so glad that we finally did so.
Reliving holiday memories while back on home groundWe walked in to Seefah at 10 pm (the phone number listed was engaged when we called and we tried our luck). The restaurant was 2/3rds full and quite buzzy. I met a chef friend of mine who had come with his wife. Saw folks at a table celebrating a birthday. The place was a tad noisy, but then settled down. It was impressively lively for a mid week (Thursday) rainy evening. A good sign for sure.
Let me tell you about what we ate.
Izakaya are small drinking places, informal pubs in Japan. They are popular for their bar eats which accompany the copious amounts of alcohol consumed there. Going to an Izakaya was one of the few recommended experiences that we missed out during our trip to Japan last year. Neither K nor I drink much these days and hence did not not end up going to one.
A dried seaweed salad, tossed with sesame seeds. Topped with tobiko, flying fish roe. This was the first dish that we tried. Loved the burst of freshness, the slight touch of tanginess, the faint memories of the sea, the pop of the roe, that it offered. This is what they call umami I guess.
I was a bit wary about whether K would like it as she has a more conservative palate than mine. Turned out she loved it too.
Roasted tenderloin salad
|Roasted tenderlon salad|
I loved the way the dish was presented. The firm, yet juicy slices of meat combined well with salad dressing on it. There was a curious flavour of onion juice in it which I thought was a nice contrast to the robustness of the meat. When I later asked the chef about it, she told me that the dressing did indeed have onions in it. I was rather pleased at having cracked the case of the invisible onions!
Sushi and sashumi
Salmon nigiri & sashimi
When I had written about our Blue experience earlier, many fans of the place then had told me that I should have tried the sushi. I did so this time at Seefah.
I asked the chef about which fish was fresh and she suggested the salmon. True to her word, the salmon did turn out to be beautiful. Fatty, firm and yet with a spring in its texture. Much nicer than most of what I have had in India. Specially in mid range, non five star, restaurants as Seefah is. 2 nigiri for Rs 370 of this quality is truly rare. We took a sashimi portion too for K.
I liked the fact the the rice in the sushi was still a bit warm, fluffy and that it held together well. Not cold or clammy. That spoke of good technique.
I decided to go in for the chicken gyozo at Seefah in memory of what we had had on our first night at Osaka.
The flour skin/ casing was thin in the gyozo (fried dumplings). This was was lovely as we hate dumplings where the casing is thick and lumpy and dominates the filling thereby. They had a ponzu sauce dressing which added a citrusy and refreshing touch to it. I would have liked the chicken mince filling to be a notch juicier, but overall it turned out to be dish that both K and I relished.
Talking of Osaka, there was Okonomiyaki too on the menu at Seefah. We had eaten that at Osaka as well. I had preferred the one that we had at Hiroshima a couple of days later, and neither of them too much, and hence skipped that at Seefah last night.
Grilled salmon teriyaki
|Salmon teriyaki with stir fried vegetables|
I was rather full at this point of the meal but was keen to try to the salmon teriyaki. Seeing the look of uncertainty on my face, chef Seefah offered to get us a small portion so that we could have the Thai curry that we wanted to order too.
She told me that she kept this dish on the menu as many Indian customers (understandably) were not keen on 'raw'/ cured salmon. The salmon was of good quality. I would have preferred it if the fish was done a bit less and kept a bit juicier. Having to sear a smaller portion than they normally do in the Seefah kitchen, could have led to its drying out a bit yesterday.
While I did miss the buttery, fattiness of salmon a bit, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the sauce was not too sweet. I have always found teriyaki dressings to be on the sweeter side. Not that I mind that. This was a more balanced rendition though. To me, this is a mark of a thinking chef.
Thai red curry with prawns
|Grilled Thai red curry with prawns|
This was the only Thai dish that we had last night and it turned out to be a glorious finale to a lovely dinner.
The curry offered a beautiful balance of flavour, with no one flavours...sweet, salt, heat..dominating the other. They were in perfect harmony. An example of the principle of unity in diversity working at its best.
K felt that some of the curries that she has had in Thailand (she has gone there more recently than me) were 'spicier' (hotter). Seefah explained that green curries were usually spicier than red ones as dried red chillies are often used in the latter. 'Not spicy,' works for me in any case!
The prawns were cooked beautifully and they retained their juiciness. The curry was not as thin as most I have had in Thailand. Nor as dense as many that I have had in Mumbai. It had the consitsency and warmth of a soft hug.
The curry came with Jasmine rice (or roti if you wanted) and we did not need to order it separately. I liked the fact that the menu offered the option of half portion of rice too.
Being the only rice eater among the two of us, this has been a 'problem' whenever we have gone out to eat in the last 19 years. Thankfully, our love for Thai curries match each other's!
There was a nice and cosy feel to the Seefah even though it is much, much larger than Blue where we had gone earlier when Karan and Seefah were associated with it.
Both K and I were happy with our choice of venue and felt that it was a lovely place to spend the evening. A reflection of the spirit of the lovely people behind the restaurant you could say.
The feeling that the restaurant left me with was that of what we call 'mashir hotel' in Kolkata, 'maushi mess' in Mumbai. Small street corner joints. Run by a lady (maushi/mashi/ aunty) who serves food which reminds those staying away from home, of home, and which is reasonably priced.
Seefah's restaurant is a million times plusher than a mashir hotel of course. Nor is she an 'aunty' by any stretch of imagination. Though she is so polite that I doubt she would protest being referred to as one.
Japanese and Thai is not 'home food' for us you could argue. Yet the flavours struck a chord, as K and I are both fond of this sort of food.
What we ate that night was simple, uncomplicated and stuck to the basics.
This was not food that was trying too hard. Thank God for that!
|Who's the happy camper?|
Note: This visit did not end up being an anonymous one
Update 13th July, 2019
On seeing this blog post, some of the earliest friends that I had made through the blog decided to go to Seefah last night and I joined them. We are all sushi fans and early on in the dinner, we decided to focus on the sushi there. We had salmon, tuna and yellow tail nigiri. When the fish is good and the sushi chef an expert, then nigiri is the way to go. Mayo and bhindi rolls don't work for us!
We chased the sushi down with a soba noodle soup. Among other dishes had the tenderloin salad, the chuku wakame and the Thai red curry again and at the end we were all smitten.
Chefs Seefah and Karan were both there yesterday too.
1. My post on our visit to Hiroshima (the second half is on Okonomiyaki)
2. My post on the cooking class that I had attended at Chiang Mai
3. The amazing sushi meal that I had had at the Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo