All Stir Fry is known for it’s “You can eat what you squeeze into that bowl” model of participatory cooking. Quite simply, the Quick Wok is what makes this place. Before we discuss this unique dish, lets give you a proper introduction to the place.

ASF is located on the ground floor of a beautiful boutique hotel – The Gordon House – in a leafy bylane of Colaba Causeway. Enter through the main door and you are greeted by a minimalist main seating area and a slightly more plush lounge area. The lounge area comes with the obligatory tealight candles and dark leather sofas, while the main eating area has spartan wooden benches and tables.

The other thing which immediately draws your attention is the Show kitchen, emblazoned with the place’s logo. Inside a chef is typically firing up a wok for a hungry patron.

This place is hugely popular for lunch and so we recommend getting here early. Get a table, and order some starters (suggestions later) -but don’t get too comfortable. You have to try the Quick Wok.

Amble over to a buffet-like place and get yourself a bowl. In this bowl, heap in as many veggies as you can – Mushrooms, babycorn, broccoli, bamboo shoot, carrots, etc. Also choose a noodle which you like and heap it in. Then make your way to the cooking station, through sliding glass doors which keep the aromas sealed inside the show kitchen. Hand it over to the chef, and tell him you’re a vegetarian. He will actually use a separate wok and utensils for the vegetarians. Classy!

Choose a sauce, and he tosses in your bowl of veggies. 2 minutes later – voila, your bowl of noodles is ready. Hot, steaming and smelling yummy.

Troop back to the table and your starters are probably there by now. We recommend the Geoza, a potsticker with tofu and veggies within. Another nice starter is the steamed Tofu buns. There are a long list of other appetizers, including satay, papaya salad and mongolian dumpling noodle soup. If you are repeat visitor, definitely work your way around the menu.

There is a long list of main course items including Crackling Spinach and Golden Fried Tofu. Another pick is the Rising Rice – a big bowl of stir fried rice.

The service is polite and helpful, and the drinks menu is decent. We recommend you grab a simple beer or soft drink to wash down what should be a very flavourful meal.

My recco – Go here for lunch and enjoy the Quick Wok with some starters for the table.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Matunga’s King Circle is definitely the home of authentic “South Indian” cuisine in Bombay. By this, we mean Tamilian and Udupi food focussed on breakfast, sapadu (full meals) and snacks. One mainstay, which has refused to upgrade, modernize or change in any way shape or form is Cafe Madras (better known as Madras Cafe).

Still bearing the original signage outside and inside, reminiscent of a bygone era, Madras Cafe draws in the crowds by the car, van and truck load. Reach this place after 9am for breakfast or after 1pm for lunch, and you are doomed to wait for an eternity for a place at one of the tables. There must be seating for 30 people at the max, and be ready to share a community table with someone you don’t know.

Cramped, dimly lit and lacking space for folks to maneuver, the place has the most divine smells imaginable and is guaranteed to drive you nuts in your short wait for the food. The place is incredibly clean and the emphasis on hygiene is clear. The manager serves as the head waiter and barks out orders to get you a table or food.

Come here for breakfast and the options are incredible. You could go for the standard fare such as upma, idli, vadai or dosai. If you are in the mood for something more exotic, ask for the pesaratu dosai. A spicy batter is used to make this delicacy. Otherwise, you always have masala dosa, uthapam or rava dosai, which is my personal favourite. All these dishes are served with a freshly made coconut chutney and sambar. The only way to end such an awesome meal is with a tumbler of filter coffee. Amma would be proud!  

Special Tip: On sundays, they serve pongal and this is something you must order. With a generous portion of ghee on top, this tamilian khichdi is a must-try. 

The lunch served here has several bhaaths (mixed rice preparations) which are very nice. The Bisi Bhele Bhaath (equivalent to a fancy sambar rice with veggies) and Dahi Bhaath (curd rice) are very good. They also have fancier dishes like rasam vadai which is nice and spicy.

The pricing is very nominal and you will leave here feeling truly satisfied.

The service has a distinct focus on getting you processed and on your way. They are very polite. However, speed in delivery of food extends to delivery of the bill too. You are gently encouraged to move along and let in the next batch of hungry diners.

My recco – Go to Cafe Madras for breakfast and show up just after 8am. Get a table, and enjoy a sumptuous meal of idli, vadai and coffee.

 Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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This is a plush luxurious eating experience.

Spices is located in the uber-upscale JW Marriott hotel which actually sits on Juhu beach. This killer eatery sets the mood from the get-go. It teased us in, with a long candle-lit corridor greeting us at the entrance. The walls are lined with silk cushions and there is a water channel on either side of the dark wood floor which forms the walkway.

The main seating area is soothingly lit and has ample spacing between tables. No need to jostle for space here. The dark wood and silk theme continues with the tables and apholstery, ensuring you are suitably inspired for the meal ahead.

The menu is actually quite diverse with good offerings from Japan, Thailand and China. We recommend focusing on the Japanese or Thai food. There is actually a Spices Sushi bar as well, and this emphasis on Japenese food continues with their Teppanyaki menu, with food prepared at the table. Teppanyaki is not vegetarian friendly and the server had only one tofu teppanyaki suggestion, which he seemed unconvinced with himself.

On the other hand, the sushi menu has quite a few vegetarian options, and the Kappa Maki (cucumber rolls) are actually excellent. The presentation is top notch, and the wasabi (green horse-radish paste) and ginger were fresh. There are very good avocado sushi and mixed veg sushi plates also available.

A good accompaniment is the miso soup, which is top notch. Probably the most famous, traditionally vegetarian japanese dish, this tofu based clear soup is delivered impeccably at Spices. Delicately flavoured it balances out the striking flavour of the wasabi, which I always tend to overdo anyway.

The piece de resistance was the Vegetarian Udon soup, which has thick meaty Udon noodles in a thin soya-flavoured broth. The authenticity of flavours is unmistakable and the chefs have resisted the urge to spice up this delicacy.

The Thai food has limited vegetarian options and we recommend asking the server to guide you through it. We had some wonderfully silken tofu red curry and veg thai fried rice. Both were pretty good. The highlight was the tofu itself which seemed freshly made.

The bill was high as expected in a top 5-star hotel’s restaurant. It seemed worth the hit – the ambience, the aromas and the flavours made for a singular experience. We give Spices a full 5 bones.

My recco – Go for dinner on a special occasion or for a “pick me up” meal. Pamper yourself in an authentic japanese or thai meal, just don’t have a bit of both!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Yet another entrant in an incredibly busy restaurant causeway at Pali Naka, Mia Cucina has its work cut out for it. Bandra has some very good Italian eateries and this makes their task that much tougher.

Italians take their kitchens very seriously, so the naming definitely intrigued us. The decor again worked well to separate it. The main eating area is like an authentic italian restaurant gone contemporary. The wine bottles on the shelf, the arches over each passageway, naked brick walls and the frescos adorning the outside eating area all suggest an old italian eatery. The minimalist tables and seating add the contemporary flavour.

The menu is made to look like a notebook with little caricatures signifying vegetables, meat etc.

The very first dish on the menu was a major highlight. We have had pizzella in Rome, and have never seen it anywhere else. Well done to the team at Mia Cucina for bringing this dish to Bombay – it will definitely do well here. Pizzella is basically small pieces of pizza dough, fried and topped with small amounts of tomato based pizza sauce. You will want to order more than one plate.

There is also the Bruschetta Caponata which uses eggplants on this favourite dish. A 3rd antipasta we would recommend is the Suppli di Riso which are balls of Rissotto & Mozzarella. Very innovative stuff indeed!

The pizzas looked excellent and authentically thin crusted, as they arrived at the next table. We went for two other rarities in Bombay. The Cannelloni Imbottiti is an excellent version of the baked dish with spinach and ricotta cheese inside pasta sheets. They have baked it perfectly to retain the moisture within the pasta rolls while keeping the surface browned and crisp. We also had the Parmagiana di Melanzane (Eggplant Parmegiana) – photo shown below – and found it to be well made with authentic preparation techniques, using bread crumbs as the top layer of the bake. The flavour was good, the tomato flavours came through well and the eggplant held together well. Good job!

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We had no room for much else, but if we did, we would have recommended the Cannoli (a fried roll with whipped cream inside). Ssssinful!

The uniqueness of this eatery is the menu itself. Full of authentic, unique dishes that remain rare to Bombay, and priced very economically, this restaurant is bound to be successful. A brief conversation with the restaurant manager showed the pride they showed in fresh ingredients and in sourcing. He even claimed that the tomatoes were imported. Interesting!

The big hole though was also highly ironic. The perfect Italian meal would have led to a 5-bone rating, if only they had a decent wine to go with the meal. Sadly, though many empty wine bottles adorn one wall as decorations, there is no wine served here. This is one shortcoming they would do well to fix. Do this, and the menu’s uniqueness will truly come to life.

My recco – Definitely try the Pizzella to start with, and then wander through dishes which are new and rare to this city. A must-try eatery!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Japanese food is the rage in Bombay and a number of high-end eateries have entered with the goal of servicing this demand. Origami, on the top floor of the upscale Atria Mall is one of the better ones.

Many people associate Japanese food with raw fish. The truth is that the Japanese like all their food fresh and well presented. The actual raw material includes many vegetarian staples and several dishes are meant to be vegetarian.

There are several courses in traditional japanese food, and Origami provides good veg dishes in all courses. We strongly recommend the veg sushi and mainly kappa maki (cucumber rolls). They also offer avocado rolls and other mixed veg rolls. The wasabi is sharp, the ginger is literally in the pink of health, and the soya sauce is Kikkoman – need I say more?

There is also the fried veg tempura which is served with an excellent tempura sauce. The veggies themselves could be better, however.

For the main course, we recommend the Veg Bento box. This delightfully presented dish, comes served in the compartments of a wooden shadow box. The edamame (steamed snow peas) was a pleasant surprise and was fresh and crisp.

Another couple good options include Tofu & miso steak and the Veggies in teriyaki sauce.

There are some good sake options, and the servers can assist you in making that decision. If undecided, you could always wash the food down with some icy Asahi beer.

The service is prompt and courteous and reasonably helpful. I only wish they stopped trying to push the thai dishes and recommending “spicy” dishes. The delicate flavours of the japanese food actually comes through very well.

The main downside is the astronomical pricing. Authentic Japanese food is still rare in Bombay, but this pricing still keeps it out of the reach of most.

My recco – Go here for a smart business lunch or dinner with someone close. This is an impressive experience all around.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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This is simply the best Gujarati canteen style restaurant in the city.

Rows of plastic seats on the pavement outside are for patrons willing to wait, over an hour at times, to get a chance to enjoy the top class gujju fare inside. Snacks, as their name suggests, are their forte and for well over a decade they have excelled at that.

They prepare a very good sev puri, but we recommend the bhel puri, with an additional request to make it spicy. The pani puri is very good as well, but the dahi puri is marginally better. The service is lightning quick for these dishes, so order one if you have been waiting a while.

What’s truly unique to Swati is that they offer rarely found authentic gujju dishes. They offer some excellent bajra roti with guava shaak (vegetable). This can be a bit dry for some. The highlight (and must have dish) is the Panki. Batter steamed within banana leaves, and served with a green chilly pickle – the name does not reveal just how tasty a dish this truly is. Peel back the banana leaves, and peer through the steam to see a thin layer of batter clinging to the leaf. Scrape it off with a spoon or by hand and savour it without the pickle first. When done, we were left with the question – what does this go best with? The answer came quickly – another round of Panki.

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 Do ask the busy waiters for any specials. In mango season, definitely try the traditional gujju puri & aam ras.

For drinks, we pick the sugarcane juice. They have several excellent fruit juices as well as jal jeera. Take your pick – you really can’t go wrong here.

The service is fast, helpful and courteous. The ambience is basic with steel and wood for the tables and benches. Tables are close to each other, so dont expect privacy – that is not what you should want anyway.

My recco – Get here early to avoid the crowds. Order a Panki, a seasonal special & one of the gujju chaat dishes.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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We love Thai food and so the premier Thai restaurant in Bandra is a place we visit occasionally.

Thai Ban is a quaintly decorated eatery located in the restaurant rich neighbourhood of Pali Naka. The smells in the restaurant conjure up images of a sumptuous treat to come, and it is not too far off the fact.

The appetizers and soups section is pretty decent and we recommend the Steamed Veg thai spring rolls and the Fried corn cakes. They have also recently introduced a Tofu & Bell pepper satay which is not bad, though not 100% authentic. The Tom Yum (fiery clear thai soup) and Tom Kha (coconut  milk soup) are decent without being spectacular.

For those in mood for something different, try the Spicy young papaya salad.

The main course at Thai Ban is very good in depth and authenticity. One of the few restaurants with a good vegetarian Masaman curry, you also get a good spicy green curry. We would recommend the Tao Hood Thod, which has fried tofu in a spicy and sour sauce. Its got a tangy flavour and the tofu is just perfectly succulent. Another favourite is the Pahd Kraw Prik Je (Veggies in chilly garlic basil sauce). Fresh thai basil makes this vegetable really flavourful. They have now introduced a “make your own main course” section and we would suggest trying the Kapprao sauce (which uses Thai bird chillies).

The rices and noodles are decent, and we would recommend the Thai fried rice. Have the non-spicy option. Thai food has many subtle spices and we recommend resisting the urge to just fire up the spice on all dishes. Your digestive system would probably thank you too! The traditional favourite – Pahd Thai noodles- is only ordinary and not the best in Bombay.

Thai Ban has very few tables and is always full for lunch. So, get here early or book in advance.

Tip: This is the best eatery in the area for a working lunch. Good ambience & food and it cannot get too crowded!

The one major negative with Thai Ban is the pricing. The food is very expensive, especially for an eatery of this category. Adding to this, the portions are woefully small. They recently upped their prices and so you can expect major damages on the bill.

Tip #2: Order home delivery from here. They don’t keep the 30 min standard delivery timeline, but they do give a 10% discount on home delivery.

My recco: Go for lunch and try multiple courses – appetizers + main course + rice/noodles.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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