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Taste like Home Food - Crystal

19, Easter Emporium, Near Wilson College, Chowpatty, Mumbai

"This quaint like little place overlooks the Chowpatty Beach and is a dream joint for every student in Mumbai, who crave for food which tastes like home food at affordable prices".

Crystal, is one of those places in Mumbai that has home style cooking at an external environment. It is opposite Chowpatty, near Wilson College, where you see people lined up for lip - smacking food and not for the view or anything else. Crystal could have given up its stature and become modern like other Irani Cafes have reinvented themselves with times, but their origin is their beauty. In the afternoon they open from 12 noon till 3:00 pm and you might also get a free table. However, if you arrive in the evening when they open from 7 pm till 10:30 pm, be prepared to que up for a little while. 
A canteen / mess type ambience with Plastic Chairs, Iron Tables and steel crockery. Fast service and the waiters are straight forward. Don't expect courtesy as you normally do while going to a restaurant. You will not get a place after 7.30 on weekends.

Lets get down to the Food -
When I stepped inside I could get clues to the kind of food I would have got here. We ordered the "Dal Makhani" , "Paneer Masala" , "Pav Bhaji" , "Paranthas" , "Roti" & their Famous "Kheer".

Buttered Roti's and Dal Makhani are the local favorites. I did not like much of the Paneer Masala though but loved the Pav Bhaji and ordered few extra Pav (Bun Bread).

If you are the one who needs air conditioner, folded napkins like a fine dining experience then this place is not recommended for you. The service here is very quick and the food is good.
As the old saying goes - Save the best for the last and they make it happen. Howsoever, full I was, I ordered their Trademark Kheer. Its a must must , must have. Highly recommended! I finished the entire bowl without thinking about my calories. I will get your money back if you tell me you did not like it. 

Conclusion - Damage to the pocket is minimal. For two people you pay Rs 200-500 apart from the generous tip. Excellent service. Manageable portions for two people. Well priced. No A.C and frills for ambiance. Non spicy, basic flavor preparations of food. Its closed on Monday. 

If you miss home food , you know where you can find it now! :-)

Gujju Flavor @ Swati Snacks

248, Karai Estate, Opposite Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo Road, Mumbai
Featured in Pocket Friendly Collection
A meal for two costs Rs. 500/- approximately.

40 years ago, a little restaurant started in Bombay. Food was cooked at home and served at the restaurant. Over the years, it has grown in size and reputation. Today it has become an institution with Additions to the Menu (so I've heard from people who have been going from the time it started), Hygiene, Quality, Delicacies, Service and Mouth- watering Gujju food (a cuisine which the Gujarati's eat at home).

The restaurant has become so popular and is frequently visited by Celebs. There is always a huge crowd waiting to get inside. They also provide catering services for weddings, etc. 

I happened to be in Bombay (Mumbai) to explore good places to eat and after a tough day, my relatives recommended we dine at "Swati Snacks" for dinner. We reached the venue at 8:30 pm on a Sunday. Like I said, huge crowd is always waiting to get inside. Seeing the crowd was a big turnoff for me and made me wonder what made these people wait so long to get inside a restaurant which serves the same cuisine which they eat at home. I mean what was the big deal ?!? And I found my answer...

Parking was not a problem as they have Valet Service to take care of the needful. 

The service is good and the staff smiles. Since I had heard so much about "Swati Snacks" already, I did not care to look at the snacks section of the menu (which contained South Indian dishes and Chaat) but my relatives ordered Gol Gappa also known as Puchhka / Pani Puri to which the first thought that came to my mind was that there are other better places in Mumbai to have it, until the plates were served!

Gol Gappa ( Puchhka / Pani Puri)

Crispy Puri is made from Semolina (Suji) or Wheat (Atta). Served with chilled mint flavored water. With Mint I could taste a lot of Coriander too (Dhaniya). The plate also contains Hot Ragda (it compliments the chilled mint water), Sprouts, Boiled Chickpeas (Kabuli Channa), small pieces of Potatoes mixed in very little chilly powder and Tamarind (Imli) Chutney (sauce). When my favorite "Panipuri wallah" is serving me these delightful little puri's one after the other, I go on eating till I get no more. This too was fairly Good! 

We then ordered the Panki Chatni. Its a corn pancake which is steamed between Banana leaves. Frankly, I have never had this before but now I understand why people love this traditional dish so much. Served with Green Chilly and Coriander Chutney. The uniqueness lies in its Flavor. Plus with the caliber with which it is spread on the Banana leaves so that when you remove the Panki from the leaves to eat, it comes out so smoothly that it melts in your mouth. It is so different that its certainly capitalizing on their secret Panki recipe. 

Panki Chatni
Panki from the Inside

After this, we ordered the Satpadi Roti - Gatta nu Shak, one of their most popular dish. Gatta being made of Besan (Gram Flour) Rolls in Curd Gravy. Satpadi Roti is made of Plain flour, coriander leaves and cooked with a lot of Ghee. Though I did not enjoy much of the Roti but I enjoyed the Gatta ki sabzi. Its spicy and gives a whole new taste. Takes time to make this Saag, as I recall my mother informing me about the procedure to cook this dish, back home. 

Satpadi Roti - Gatta nu shak

Ice Cream - The Ice creams at Swati are all freshly Hand - made and they do not pack for take - away. And believe me when I say that the staff is polite enough to tell that the ice - cream will start melting in less than 10 minutes and it is not a good idea.
We had the Seetafal Ice Cream, also known as sweet apple / custard apple, which again is very famous here and an excellent source of Vitamin A, C and Calcium :P
Simply WOW!!

Seetafal Ice Cream

I enjoyed every bit of the meal here. Since these were dishes one cannot find at regular joints. The ambiance is pleasant, cleanliness is evident and service is decent. I would really like to go again and so should you.

"Go again if you already have, go once if you have not already"

Feel Royal @ Maharaja Bhog

7/1, 1st Floor, Above ICICI Bank, Vittal Mallya Road, Bangalore, Karnataka 560001
The Chain currently has over 7 outlets. 2 in Mumbai, 1 in Bangalore, 3 in Dubai and 1 in USA catering to the Traditional dining needs of India. 

I would really like to Thank Mr Rajender Singh - Guest Relation Manager. He was friendly, helped and supported me. This was my first visit to Bangalore and he gave me "Whats up" , the official lifestyle guide book of Bangalore. It was a Complimentary copy just for me. 

Maharaja Bhog, located close to the most famous Vittal Mallya's Mall, UB City. A pure vegetarian restaurant doing pretty well in terms of business for itself and having a niche for themselves. Parking is taken care with the Valet Service. The entrance to the place is through a basement of the building which houses a bank. The lift takes you directly to the restaurant. 

Waiting Area

The delightful Indian Ambiance is perfectly done to please your mood. A lot of detailing and attention is paid to the seating and the decor. The Chandeliers look lovely and the walls are upscale. They have a little Indian touch to the walls. Most of the Indian spices are framed separately. I called it the Indian Spice wall.

Spice Wall
Zoomed in Spice wall

The restaurant is known for their prominence when it comes to serving authentic Indian food from the North - west of our own country. I had only heard about it and had to give it a shot. So, undoubtedly I happened to be at the UB city mall when my window shopping spree ended and I walked by this place.

The cutlery is all of Brass, its huge and heavy. Its not like a run to the mill kind of place. They tag it as a "Premium Thali Restaurant" and I so agree to the tag now. I had always know Thali to have an enormous menu and this was no different.

The armed men (staff) starts by bringing a jug and a huge bowl for you to wash your hands.

The Food Affair - It starts with Rose Water, mixed with Lime juice as a welcome drink and Butter Milk. They then start filling up the plates with lucrative colorful food and apparently they do not take "NO" for an answer. 

For the Lunch, here is a list of what was served. The long list of items that I devoured on.

Farsans (snacks) - Two kinds - Rajasthani Mirchiwada and Khatta Dhokla, with mint and garlic chutneys. The Rajasthani Mirchiwada had spicy flavor which made it a great start to the meal.

The meal comprises of 5 vegetables.

# Sabzi (vegetables) - Five Kinds - Dal Bati Churma, Veg Jal Frai, Rajasthani Gawar, Aloo Rasawala, Jodhpuri Gatta. to be had with Indian breads - Fulka (roti), Satpadi Roti, Makai Rotla. My favorite out of the Sabzi's were Rajasthani gawar and Jodhpuri gatta. Though for me the gatta had a little extra salt, yet I had 2 - 3 servings more. Dal Batti Churma was the special dish served in the Thali. 

The 4 variations of Dal (Pulses).

# Dal (pulses) - Four Kinds - Rajasthani dal, Rajasthani kadhi, Gujarati dal, Gujarati kadhi. All of these were delicious. I did not favour the Gujarati dal and khichdi merely because it was sweet but the staff guided me to team it with something and then gorge. It was satisfying but did not gratify my taste buds. 

# Rice - Three Kinds - Plain rice, Khichdi, Curd rice. 

# Sweet - Two Kinds - Chana dal Halwa, Khiran. Right density and sweetness. An absolutely lip smacking Halwa (This is coming from a person who does not have a sweet tooth). 

Papad, chutneys and pickles always go without saying.

Rose Water

Premium Thali

Maharaja Bhog, aids to those hungry souls who come in with the thought of experimenting with food. A mini LCD screen on each table gives you an idea of what the menu for the day is. They have like 30 rotating menus which was such a fascinating fact. The staff is like soldiers. They know what they are doing and they do it well. They are super active. Before you know they appear from nowhere and know when the plates need refilling. Like I said, they do not take "NO" for an answer up to the point where they see you struggle in agony which ironically is convinced here by ecstasy or bliss. 

A meal for one costs Rs 349 + taxes. A Maharaja bhog thali for kids costs Rs 199 + taxes. Need I say more? 

It was indeed a meal of the Kings (That Royal Feel) and the whole experience made me feel on seventh heaven. There is nothing that goes wrong here. They manage to nail every dish, hospitality and service. A perfect place for family outings for Lunch / Dinner to gorge on some sumptuous feast. Go and give this restaurant a try! 

On a scale of Food I would give them an 8.5!

Le Déjeuner with Cafe Noir

Featured in Great Coffee and Great Breakfast Collections
Cafe Noir, Bengaluru

Cafe at the Airport
Cafe Noir, one of the most sophisticated kind of place I visited for the 1st time in an unknown City, Bengaluru, that made me harmonize into the music that played, the wonderful colors of Macroons, catch up with the thoughts in my head in the most comforting and spacious environment, the airport. 

I have heard this cafe is always buzzing with people and one has to be very lucky to find place. I was at the Vittal Mallya's UB City Mall too, but was not lucky enough to find a seat. My wishlist hence had the cafe added for my next visit to Bengaluru. 

The two day trip came to an end. My work was completed and I had packed my bags to go back home, Delhi. My flight was at 5:25 pm and I reached the airport by 1 pm because I was told to keep a buffer of 2 hours when traveling within the city. While stepping out of the cab at the airport, I spotted this Cafe again. Being a foodie and receiving recommendations to try the place out, I was not able to stop myself when I saw empty seats. Seemed like my Luck had turned! :-)


The staff is friendly and serves you at the table. They will help you place your order when you are confused reading their big display menu which is tucked at the corner of the cafe while your stomach is growling with hunger.

Big Display Menu

And just below the Display Menu are shelves placed with Sandwiches, Desserts and Salads. 

After a lot of thought and reading the entire menu board I finally made up my mind and ordered a Vegetarian Arrabiata Penne. I was starving by this time and wanted something to fill my stomach. 
The pasta dish is a spicy homemade Tomato and Basil Sauce, Olive topped with Parmesan Cheese and fresh Basil Leaves served with their Garlic Bread which is more like a  long slice of Toast. 

Arrabiata Penne

I loved it, le Déjeuner. The Arrabiata sauce was so fresh. It had the right quantity of  herbs. A little more cheese and a little more pinch of chilly would have made the dish Just perfect for me, yet I enjoyed the real taste of how it was cooked and served. The Basil leaves made the dish light and enjoyable. I had dived myself with every bite that now while I sit with my laptop and a cup of coffee writing this, I feel hungry and would want to have it again n again.. I walked up to the counter to order some Iced tea, but the thirst I knew would not have been quenched. The staff smiled and knew I am in deep thoughts again and probably he figured out I will miss my flight :P 
Alright, I will have some normal water to go please. "Perfect, water is the best option, you seem to be health conscious Ma'am" with a big smile on his face. 

It was now 2:45 pm and I had to check in my luggage. If I had time I would have sat there for an hour more and had some Dessert or a Sandwich. I have also heard their Breakfast Menu is very good. So now I will wait for my Luck to turn around again so that I can visit Bengaluru and dine at Cafe Noir. The only thing is I have no idea when that will happen.. 
Tell me if I am pushing my Luck by asking if Cafe Noir has any plans of opening an outlet in Delhi? Am I ... ? 
I would be Lucky to have you in my own City.. because I for one am sure to be a regular customer at the Cafe :-)