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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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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This is easily the best Thai restaurant in Bombay. We have been to Thai Pavilion at the President and Thai Banh in Bandra. Both are very very good. But, given the pricing and quality mixture, no other place fits the bill quite like Joss.

To be fair to Joss, they bring great food from all over South & South East Asia. They even have a decent spread from the Far East. Sri Lankan curries, Sushi and Burmese Khowsuey all figure on this menu and I am very confident that they are all top notch.

However, for the uninitiated, we would recommend you focus on the food from Thailand and Indonesia. Veg Thai Spring rolls and Tom Yum Soup are both great ways to get the meal underway. They also have a good green papaya salad – a must try for those who live spice.

For the main course, we would recommend Thai Green Curry or Penang Curry. The penang curry has a great peanut flavour and is something we would recommend. The Pahd Thai is also good though not the best. There is also a nice option to try the Thai fried rice with pineapples in it. For those who pooh-pooh cooked pineapples, try it!

But, for something truly unique try the Indonesian veg nasi goreng (fried rice). The flavour is quite different and gently fried oconut adds a nice touch to this dish.

Desserts are good and the staple fried banana with ice-cream is there. They also have some good pastries on offer.

Pricing is a little expensive, but the food is well worth the bill. Service is courteous and knowledgeable and can guide you through the many new dishes you should explore when you visit the latest 5-bone eatery profiled by the Hound.

My recco – Go for dinner and explore South East asian cuisine to the fullest. Don’t have anything you have heard of before! 

Check out the Hound Report Card for the final analysis:

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