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Mumbai - A Tale Of Two Restaurants

During a recent transit through India, we found ourselves in Mumbai. We’d been advised by a fellow passenger on our flight to try out Fresh Catch, but as she’d told us it was far from our hotel, and since it was getting late, we asked our hotel reception staff for a recommendation of a restaurant within walking distance, and they suggested Aroma.

That-Man and i had been discussing what we’d have to eat for a few days now, and he was insistent that we should have authentic Indian food. On the other hand, i'd been craving Western food for some time now, and was definitely not in the mood for anything else. Aroma, however, offered only Indian and Chinese options, and i eventually opted for a regular paratha and Dum Aloo Kashmiri. In the menu it is described as “Scooped potato barrels with cashew nuts, sultanas and simmered in a tangy tomato sauce,” which does no justice at all to the creation which was soon produced at our table. “Aloo” is the Hindi word for “potato.” It seemed to me that whole potatoes were scooped out and filled with a mixture of curd (yogurt) and cashew nuts. Then it was presented in a bath of an aromatic, curd-based tomato sauce. The Kashmiri sauce had been recommended by the waiter as being mild, and indeed it was. This curious creation was topped with what seemed to be a glacé cherry, but turned out to be a fresh sultana grape.

All i could do initially was to smell the marvelousness of the Dum Aloo. Yes, you heard me, i revel in smelling my food, and i encourage you to try it yourself. If you’re not comfortable doing so in the presence of others, try it when you’re alone. Just hold your plate in both your hands, lift it ever so slightly from the table, close your eyes and your mouth, and SMELL YOUR FOOD. You’d be hard pressed not to find yourself with a contented smile manifesting out of nowhere. Allow me to immediately correct myself. That smile won’t come from nowhere. It originates in your innermost, primal consciousness. Smell is a powerful sense and it enhances my enjoyment of food exponentially.

Back to the Dum Aloo: The combination seemed a bit weird to me, but then i've heard of people who eat raw-onion-and-apricot-jam sandwiches, chocolate-and-cheese pizza and even raw potatoes (as you’d eat fruit), so i dove in to explore. No cooked potato has ever disappointed me, and this dish didn’t either. Adding curd and nuts was an extremely satisfying taste, and the sultanas added to my enjoyment, but the coup de grâce was hidden in the tomato sauce. The delicate balance of flavours simply delighted every single taste bud one by one, over and over, until there was no more Dum Aloo left to savour. That-Man even had some of the sauce with his Chicken Tikka, and he agreed that this was an exceptional discovery in our culinary explorations. By the second bite, i had forgotten my cravings for Western food completely and when we left the restaurant, i was thankful that we’d been directed to Aroma by the hotel staff.

That-Man decided on Chicken Tikka with butter roti and butter naan. Although the waiter made his best attempts to encourage That-Man to add something with a bit of sauce to his order, he refused the suggestions and found himself just as contented with his choice as i was with mine. The meal was served with a mint sauce, and the Dum Aloo sauce completed his plate. The chicken was cooked to absolute perfection: Not dry, although not undercooked either; perfectly spiced and fragrantly delicious.

As to the breads: all of these were decent, although we’d had better of all of them elsewhere.

We were still interested in dessert, but decided to see if we could find another restaurant where we could complete our meal. So off we went in search of sugar, and soon we came to Grandmama’s, just down the road from Aroma. It catches your attention immediately, as it seems so utterly un-Indian in every aspect. The décor could be characterised as country chic, and it literally beckons you inside with promises of the kind of comfort you haven’t felt since you’d learned to bake cookies in your grandma’s kitchen. We decided to sit outside, as the weather was good, and there seemed to be quite a crowd inside. After a few minutes without service, That-Man enquired inside, and was told that we’d only be served inside as it was late in the evening. So we found a cozy table for two inside. While the décor, the extensive menu, the choice in music and the attention to aesthetic detail continued to impress us, the music was extremely loud and the sheer amount of people screaming (not exaggerating here) at each other in order to be heard over the music grated my senses. i was longing to leave as soon as possible.

We decided to try the chocolate mudcake and were soon presented with a vision of cocoa. The cake was a proper deep, dark brown. Although it was light, it was moist and salty. The ganache that enrobed it was produced from good quality ingredients and the cake was heated before being served to us. On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the Chocolate Mudcake to rival all others – a story for another day), this one would be a solid 7, and the best we’d had since leaving South Africa nearly 5 months ago. That being said, the noise drove us out as soon as our feet would carry us, which says a lot when “out” is the streets of Mumbai. Please, restaurants, lower the volume. Food is meant to enjoy with good company, which is impossible if you can’t hear what your friends are saying. The joy felt through the sense of smell and taste is stunted when the sense of hearing is assaulted beyond repair.

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