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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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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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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A definite landmark that is mentioned in every single guide book to Bombay, the Haji Ali Juice Center has been around forever.

Present at the crowded and ever-busy Haji Ali Circle and on the seaface that has the island mosque of the same name, this juice center is easily discernible by the huge number of cars apparently parked on the side of the circle.

A very Bombay version of a drive-in/drive-through, the stewards of HAJC will guide you to a cramped corner of the road to pull your car over. They will then scoot over with a menu wrapped in a “protective” plastic sheath. He will also start reciting the seasonal specials before you have had the chance to turn the car’s engine off. His aim is to serve you quickly and get you on your way so the next thirsty traveller can be serviced.

HAJC also serves some snacks and even pizza (???!!??), but we say stick to the fruit juices and milk drinks. Of the fruit juices, you can never go wrong with the standard fare of sweet-lime (mosambi), watermelon or orange. We recommend one of the cocktails – most famous of which is the very exotically named Ganga Jamuna. A mix of Orange & mosambi juice, this is a must-try. Occasionally, they will even serve the even more exotic derivative Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, with pineapple juice joining the party.

The milk drinks are also very good and both the banana milkshake and the sitaphal (custard apple) milkshake are delectable. They also push the chickoo milkshake but the real gem is the seasonal mango milkshake (available only from about May – Aug). Show up in May-early July and you will get Alphonso mangoes in them. Yum!

Another fabulous try in the humid summers is the falooda. Filled with the gelatinous noodles or balls, and a generous serving of rose syrup, this iced milk dish is rarely made better than at the HAJC.

The pricing used to very modest but has gone up a bit with the fame. The crowds have increased too and summer evenings can be positively painful waiting to get a place to park.

The new additions are the plastic glasses to allow take away. For the purists though, I say walk up to the counter (which is long and wonderfully fruity in smell) and ask for a tall glass mug of juice.

My recco – Take a car full of folks and everyone order a different drink. Try at least one seasonal special and be sure to share with all.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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A gap in the Indian eatery scene has been a decent noodle joint – atleast it was until the advent of Noodle Bar. This highly successful chain has not suffered the same dumbing down effect as its multi-cuisine sister concern – Bombay Blue.

Noodle Bar is a cafe style eatery with long benches serving as seating and plain wooden tables promising a good east asian food experience to come. The ambience here is one of a buzzing eatery serving up generous portions of noodles to grateful Bombayites of all shapes and sizes. The waiters in their black uniforms scoot briskly from table to table ferrying steaming plates and bowls to the hungry patrons.

The food here has a great range, but the prescribed course would be to order some starters for the table and then a noodle dish for yourself.

For starters, Noodle Bar has some great fried wontons, spring rolls and other standard “chinese” fare. We recommend you go for momos. A relative rarity in Bombay (but very common in Cal & Delhi), these steamed dumplings are heavenly. The accompanying sauces are nothing fancy – soya, vinegar chillies and a red chilly sauce.

For the main course, there are many excellent noodle dishes from all parts of east asia. Our pick is the Noodle bowl, which you can build. Choose the veggies of your choice by checking them off on a form + check off the garnishes (ginger, garlic, etc.) + check off the sauce of your choice (we recommend hoisin or black bean) + finally pick the noodle type of your choice. Herein lies the attraction of what could have easily become a plain vanilla mega-chain of chinese restaurants. Of the many options of noodles on offer, we would recommend either the fine ramen style or the chunky udon.

Pricing is moderate and hence they have a good mix of hungry office-goers, students and recovering workaholics.

My recco – Go with a friend who doesn’t like to talk. Order a couple of starters, a soupy noodle bowl and spend the meal slurping and slarping your way through it.

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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When we heard that the Hard Rock franchise was coming to Bombay, we knew we had to take a look. We have seen the cafes in Vegas, Bali, LA and so many other places. How would Bombay stack up?

This is quite simply the best Hard Rock in the world – for an Indian, anyway.

The setting is an old mill that has been repurposed. This means that we have 30/40-ft high ceilings with multiple levels of seating. The performance stage (meant for live gigs) is above the bar.

The attention to detail at this place is amazing. If you have to wait for a table, they give you an old LP cover of a famous old (60s/70s/80s) rock album, to act as a marker.  Now that’s cool!

The food here is surprisingly good. We would recommend you come here for the ambience, drinks and starters. They have a pretty decent Veg. burger, and its ideal for one person with a decent appetite. We would recommend the Santa Fe spring rolls – a great mexican/asian fusion dish. Also good is the Hard Rock Nachos.

There is a full bar and you get pretty much what you want. We recommend – cold beer! This is the HARD ROCK CAFE. You come here to listen to good – nay, great – rock music, have some snacks and snark down several tall beers. Period!

The reason why it’s the world’s best? In spite of being a few years old, its in impeccable condition, unlike the HRCs in Vegas etc which have become glorified dive bars. The version of rock plays to the Indian taste – Def Leppard, Deep Purple, Metallica, G’N’R, Bryan Adams and Aerosmith all get plenty of air time. You also get the best Indian rock bands playing live many days of the week.

My recco – Get your closest friends and head there now for a great evening of rock!

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Each area of this city has a mainstay eatery – a place you go with your college friends, your family, for business, for borthday treats or just for solid food. Chembur has Grand Central.

We have been visiting this place for over 15 years, and amazingly its position remains unchanged atop Chembur’s popular eateries. The food has a range from Punjabi to Chinese and even some seafood. Having tasted it all (except the poor dead fish, of course), I would be very comfortable putting this restaurant under “purely punjabi” and nothing else.

Start your meal with one (or more) masala papads and possibly an aaloo chaat. The punjabi main course has many good options including malai kofta, dum alu, paneer tikka and biryani. The pick of the bunch is probably the Navratan Korma. Roomali roti used to be excellent there but this last time it really seemed to be lacking mositure and was altogether too dry. I would stick to the Lasooni Naan or tandoori roti.

The ambience is of a decent “family” restaurant and that is exactly what it is. Service is pretty average – don’t expect too much and you will be quite satified.

My recco – Stick to the punjabi main course and always start with possibly the best masala papad anywhere.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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A caricature of a real dhaba – Papa Pancho – is the brainchild of ad wiz Prahlad Kakkar. The endeavour to try and imitate/maintain authenticity using charpais and copper vessels does continue onto the food, somewhat.

 Papa pancho, not surprisingly is known for good hearty punjabi khana. They do a good job of setting the mood and the waiters do a good job of keeping the mood going. Our waiter had some dry humour and seemed to personify the place.

Food is good here and punjabi delicacies like sarson da saag and makki ki roti are solid. Don’t miss the dal makhani. Paneer tikka, lassi from tall copper tumblers and great tandoori rotis, this place is good for all of these. The rajma masala with rice is very tasty as well.

The pricing is very affordable and this is a big plus. The ambience is very casual ideal for a casual meal with friends or colleagues. The service can be very inconsistent and I have seen it get a bit sloppy at times. This is no fancy joint – just good steady fare. The lack of beer to down with the paneer and naan is the only downside for this kind of joint.

My recco – Go with a group of friends and expect a casual, fun meal with good, solid food.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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Portuguese vegetarian food is a rarity – especially in Portugal. Its even more rare in the case of a restaurant with a colourful story behind it and famous for african bird’s eye chilly (peri-peri) chicken.

Nando’s has done a great job opening up in a quiet corner of normally super busy InOrbit Mall’s restaurant level.

The experience here is truly one of a kind and that goes some way to alleviate the lack of depth in vegetarian cuisine.

The options are there though. My pick would be the paneer espetada which is a kabab like dish served on a vertical skewer, using capsicums, onions and paneer. Take your pick of peri-peri sauce (which vary from mild to super hot) and the veggies are basted in the same. Yummy! You also get some nice rice to eat with it.

The other options include a vegetarian burger peri-peri style which isn’t too bad. At this point I should give mention of the fact that the 4 levels of spice in the peri-peri range are available on your table and you can spice up in case you wimped out while ordering.

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A nice range of side dishes including a portuguese salad add to the options. We recommend the corn on the cob with peri-peri sauce. The waiter did somewhat kill the romance of the exotic sounding “portuguese lemonade” by drily announcing that it was just lemonade with sprite poured in!

The ambience is nice and airy. There is a general feel of festivity and we definitely recommend a visit.

The location in a mall, near the food court kills a bit of ambience and so does the lack of vegetarian range. Overall, visit once for sure. After that, you take the call.

My recco – Visit with a small group of friends and order the espetada. Take in the exotic flavours of the sauces – a truly unique flavour.

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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