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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A leader in the Bombay eatery scene for several decades, Copper Chimney is a very good restaurant, period! Over the years, the team behind CC have rolled out a number of other restaurants which had varying levels of success – Bombay Brasserie & Bombay Blue to name a couple. But, the main restaurant has been a steady provider of quality punjabi and mughlai food through the same period.

There are a few CC outlets, the best known being the one in Kala Ghoda and the bigger one in Worli. This review will focus on the Worli restaurant.

Copper Chimney promises a “hard core” punjabi meal and does very well to provide one. You can start your meal with a number of vegetarian kababs or chaat options. We recommend the alu chaat or masala papad. Both are accompanied by the top notch green chutney and pickled onions. A great way to whet your appetite.

For the main course, CC are experts at the best punjabi dishes – dum aloo kashmiri, dal tadka, kadai vegetables, dal makhani and malai kofta are all excellent. We recommend the paneer mussalam as the creamy tomato based gravy makes for a great base to drown your naan or rice. The flavours of the spices are clear and you are not overwhelmed by garam masala or dhania-jeera powder. Another dish which is low on sexiness but high on taste is the unpretentious Aaloo Gobi. A must try at CC!

Naans are excellent here but you really should have the Roomali Roti. You can see them preparing all the rotis in their huge show kitchen – a draw for this place for years. The pulao is also quite good, and we would recommend a simple Jeera pulao.

For dessert, CC has some of the best kulfi and rabdi on offer in Bombay.

Another great option is their buffet lunch. Not at all pricey (Rs. 395 per head) and serving the best their kitchen can offer, you do not feel shortchanged for skipping the a la carte option. A great place for business lunches, as it has good food, is not too noisy and has a little ambience as well. I would avoid this option on weekends as it gets a bit too crazy, with all the folks mobbing the buffet table. But, who could blame them!

Portions in the a la carte menu are just the right size and not too small. Pricing is a bit on the higher side, but we would still not call this place expensive. Service is good and in spite of being in business for such a long time, they have not slacked off on this important dimension.

The ambience is excellent and the copper vessels on the wall, along with the large show kitchen set the mood for a great meal. The warm smell of something nice cooking hits you the second you walk in and makes it worth the wait, you sometimes are subjected to (especially if you don’t have a reservation).

The lack of inventiveness is both a good thing and a limiting factor. There meat dishes have made additions over the years, but the vegetarian range has been largely static. For this, we penalize them 1/2 a bone.

My recco – Go here for dinner or buffet business lunch. Expect tasty, well made punjabi fare which has made Bombayites content for years.

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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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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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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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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