Italian/Mediterranean


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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A true “old school” restaurant that has been around for ages, Gaylord is a restaurant at which a few generations of Bombayites have grown up.

Situated on the road from Churchgate station to Marine drive, Gaylord has prime real estate to command a presence. While the opposite pavement has a scrap between about 6-7 restaurants & lounges, Gaylord has this pavement pretty much to itself.

Laid out over 3 mezzanine levels, this restaurant has both punjabi food and some continental bakes. While the baked dishes evoke memories of the railway club (in a good way), we would recommend you concentrate on the punjabi food and desserts.

The punjabi main course is quite stellar here and all the traditional dishes are prepared consistently well. Paneer tikka, dal shorba and harabhara kabab are good ways to get started here. The main course has many delicacies from the simple bhendi masala to a more rich dum alu kashmiri. We would recommend the paneer makhanwala which sinfully melts in your mouth and the veg jalfraizy which compensates for its peculiar name with some great spice. For once, we would recommend the Dal Tadka instead of the black dal.

Gaylord has great accompaniments from a fantastic punjabi mix-veg pickle to masala papad. Unlike some punjabi joints, both the rotis and the rice are equally stellar. We recommend the butter naan and the peas pulao.

Having gorged yourself on this much butter and cream, we would still recommend saving space for dessert. The malai kulfi is quite superb, as is the rabdi.

For those in the know, the bakeshop outside is one of the best smelling places on earth. Freshly baked bread, pastries and snacks make it a must for you to take some of this away with you.

A tip: Show up around 10am or 3ish when the freshly baked stuff is wheeled in. Mmmmm…

The service unfortunately has been slow and unhelpful for about as long as this joint has been in existence. Most people serving seem as old as Bombay (not in the nice way), and seem in no mood to tolerate questions or to even put on the pretence of service. One chap (tall with a moustache) IS very good and uses his experience to guide you through the menu (and off-menu) items. But, if you don’t get him, it can get frustrating. We dock them one bone for this.

My recco – Go here for dinner, when the sea-breeze from marine drive hits you in the face as you enter and exit. Show up hungry, and don’t expect to stick to your diet or any urgent appointments afterwards.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Some restaurants open to big hype and conjure up big expectations. Rarely do they actually match the hype with quality. Monza is yet another example of a restuarant with great hype and true potential, but that in the end fails to deliver.

Monza is located in the hub of central Bombay – Phoenix Mills. It has a nicely done contemporary chic decor with diffused lighting, dark wood paneling and nice tableware. The entrance to the restaurant passes by a huge plate glass window which shows the decent sized wine cellar & tasting room within. A great way to set the mood and create a niche, Monza gets full marks for ambience.

The food looks very interesting as well. Largely Italian, as the name would suggest, the chef has been creative and there are a few fusion dishes which introduce asian influences and spice to popular Italian dishes. Sadly, many other dishes simply fall in “no man’s land” – not authentic, and just not good fusion either. The bruschetta we started with is one such sample. What should be a nice balance of fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and olive oil on a slice of a baguette, turns  out to be a bit too garlicky, and our plate seemed to have been spiced up. Normally a big fan of spice, the Hound did not like this creation at all. There was a daily special of mushrooms in herbs and olive oil and that was actually quite nice, allowing the delicate flavour of the herbs to come through.

The main course had a few good options. The Pesto Penne was cheesy and much more thick than the traditional genovese option. Very much similar to the Italian American interpretation of Pesto, which tends to favour cheese, it still makes for a tasty, albeit heavy, meal. The Penne Arrabiata is again an instance of the normally spicy tomato base being fired up even more. In this case, the Indianised interpretation seems to work quite well and the Hound gives this a thumbs up!

The real star of the show was the mushroom rissotto. Not too creamy, not too dry, and just perfectly mushroomy, this dish is a not-miss.

We had the Tiramisu for dessert, but the consistency was more that of cheesecake. The light marscapone cream seemed to be either missing or insufficiently whipped. The other desserts did not seem too appetizing either.

The wine cellar created much of the hype around Monza, and it was quite a disappointment. While many old world wines (wines from France, Italy, Germany) were present, they seemed to lack good representation from the New World (Australia, Chile). The lack of a good Riesling or Chianti was also immediately apparent. The Hound is a fan of Sula, and the lack of the full Sula bouquet also did not speak well of the sommelier.

The service was a big disappointment for a restaurant of this class. Slow and lacking creativity, the server had few recommendations and that will cost them one 1/2 bone.

Pricing was high and given the holes mentioned above, we do not believe they managed to justify the cost.

In the end, a nice place to soak in ambience, but Monza is not the best place for good Italian food in the city – not by a long shot!

My recco – Go to Monza for a light lunch or dinner. Try the rissotto, and expect the overall experience to be good but not exceptional.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Its always tough to review a chain restaurant and so we will talk about the one franchise we have visited most often. The one at Kala Ghoda, Rampart Row or Fort (depending on whom you speak to).

Bombay Blue has been around for years now and has its passionate fans. Its the place you take your friends to get a taste of pretty much every style of cuisine urban India enjoys. Chaat, Punjabi, Mediterranean, Sizzlers & Mexican – they all have their place in this joint. Multi-cuisine restaurants are typically “masters of none”. Blue does a decent job of maintaining authenticity, except in Mexican which is rubbish.

If I were you, I would stick to one of the Indian dishes or a sizzler for the main course. The appetizers have a wide range too, and here we would root for the onion rings. The correct amount of extra flavouring makes it a great start to the meal and easy enough to share. The Nachos were much hyped but the cheese seems canned and a bit too “readymade” for my taste.

The main course has several good dishes and the punjabi range is actually very good. No surprise, considering they share a kitchen with the legendary Copper Chimney. Try the black dal or the paneer butter masala and you will be very happy. The naan is also excellent.

But, this is Bombay Blue, not your regular Punju joint. You must do it their way – hence we recommend the Veg Mini Meal. Basically a thaali, with limited portions, but more than enough to fill most of us. Drinks to accompany can be anything ranging from a thums up(not coke) float to lassi to fresh lime soda. All are consistently good.

The service was very good for us. This is one thing on which I have heard (& read) mixed reviews. However, our server was excellent, knowledgeable & helpful. The speed was good and they were courteous, so we will not ding them for this.

The only downside is that this place has now become too successful for its own good. What used to be 2-3 restaurants across Bombay has grown to become a nationwide chain. With it has set in, what we call the “Mickey D effect”. Like McDonald’s, the food is consistent, and middle of the road. It neither excels nor does it suck. So, what was a great breath of fresh air and deserving of the early praise it earned, has now become India’s answer to the fast food chains of the US. Much like those places, families gather here in a place of familiarity and seek out their favourites.

So, for the lack of romance and the “element of surprise”, we dock one half bone for what used to be a fine 4 bone eatery.

My recco – Go with your family and enjoy the good variety and flavours, but don’t expect anything extraordinary.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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This is quite simply THE ONLY PLACE we would recommend to visit after a Saturday morning jog.

Crepe Station Cafe in Bandra is a great place to grab a nice breakfast while enjoying a soothing sea-breeze and the beautiful people of Bandra will keep you company. The windmills on the awning and the fans to keep you cool are all components of this true cafe experience.

Food here is very good. Breakfast from omlettes (for those veggies who do have eggs) to various toast and bread options make for a nice start to the day. Wash it down with one of their signature fruit juices. The top picks would be either watermelon juice or lime juice.

For lunch or dinner, try the namesake of the cafe – a nice french crepe. Technically, they mainly have galettes (salty “crepes”), though they do have a few sweet crepes too. The farm fresh crepe (Spinach and cottage cheese) is very good and so is the one with the tomato concasse. Avoid all “indianized” crepes – somethings were just not meant to be!

There are some nice Italian options including a nice spaghetti alio olio. Garlic bread and bruschetta is also pretty good.

Another nice option are the burgers (veggie burger in particular) and sandwiches. So, as you can see, lots of cuisine options for veggies here. And they all stay consistent with the cafe feel and flavour.

The service can be slow but we really seem to be super relaxed everytime we visit. Pricing is just perfect – not too high, but enough to make it count.

Time for a review in a review:

Crepe Station, (Above Croma), Malad(W)
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We recently visited the newly opened outlet in Malad with all the passion of a loyal fan. Boy, were we disappointed!

Right from the get go, this division is located in a mall and does not retain the cafe feel of its Bandra cousin. There was a sizeable Indian section to the menu. Did I mention that Indian food + crepes = bad idea? Well, it is.

We dont frankly care if the food is good or not. They killed whatever is nice in the Bandra original by introducing -hold your breath now – an Indian lunch buffet, full with naans, dal and the works. The servers were also keen to push us in the direction of the buffet. When we did order crepes, it took us a good 30 minutes to receive the 1st crepe.

Fruit juices were limited, ambience limited, service missing. The only thing that rang true was the quality of the crepes. Excellent as always!
We say – avoid the Malad(W) outlet at all costs.

*End of Review in Review* (Don’t ever accuse of not innovating!)

My recco – Visit the Bandra outlet on a Saturday lunch or early evening. Spend a good 2 hrs enjoying a juice, a crepe and a whole lot of ambience

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Step into this modern restaurant on a small bylane off Pali Naka and you are transferred instantly to a Pizzeria – no, not in Italy – in Little Italy, New York. The mix of modernity, big city feel & traditional and authentic italian cuisine is a great mix.

 The ambience is modern & minimalist. Large sofas, chairs and booths make it a place you feel comfortable sitting in for a while.

The food is traditional northern italian. They have a decent pesto pasta though the quest for authentic alfredo does not find an answer here. The pasta is cooked perfectly to an al dente consistency and that is good to see. My pick of the bunch would be the penne with mushrooms in olive oil with italian basil. The range of vegetarian pasta options is decent enough, thought not incredible.

The bruschetta is fantastic and makes for a great start to a meal. They have great thin crust italian pizza (not quite the giant slices of NYC, but great stuff). They serve pizza by the slice and that is unique to them in Bombay, as far as we know.

The desserts and drinks are good. They push the giant blueberry cheescake, but I would vote for the equally gigantic chocolate mousse.

The one giant catch – they dont accept credit cards. Hope they have that fixed by now. The good news – the bill isn’t that big anyway.

My recco – A great place for lunch with friends. Order some bruschetta, pizza and wine and soak in the ambience.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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What’s in a name? This evidently was the thinking behind the restaurant formerly known as Toss’n’Grill. The brothers who owned the restaurant which has 2 outlets less than 50m apart have split. They both retain the same menu. One gets the original brand name and the other retained the original phone number. Funny!

 Anyway, back to the food. This place has an eclectic menu and that’s putting it lightly. Kababs, mughlai food, pastas, hummus & pita – they have it all. Typically a recipe for disaster.

But, surprisingly, they have managed to pull it off – to a degree, at least.

The kababs are very good. Multiple paneer tikkas, potatoes tandoori style etc – either as is, or in the form of roti wraps are all very good. The main course mughlai is not too bad and the dum alu is actually quite good.

The pasta is in “white sos” as per them. Not quite an SOS, but not very good either. The pasta is far from al dente and the sauces lack authenticity. Eat only if not in the mood for the other 3 styles of food on the menu. The only saviour is the excellent garlic bread.

The mediterranean food – particularly Hummus & Pita – is excellent. A pleasant surprise with thick consistency and garlicky goodness, the hummus will make you beg for more.

The fact that lebanese food works well in conjunction with frontier food like naans and kababs make the mixture work.

My recco – Start off with hummus & pita, work your way into some kabab rolls and end off with some pasta salad. Your stomach will be confused but the tongue satiated.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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