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Cuisine Review: Budget Bites
Mumbai | Guru da Dhaba
Chances are you will never spend more than a few seconds mulling over the menu at Guru da Dhaba in busy Lokhandwala market. That's because you've probably been thinking about what you want to eat for hours, if not days. On some days, you might be in the mood for their rajma-chaval and arbi masaledaar. On other days, you might fancy a gobi paratha with gatta and mooli raita (like we had on our last visit). Sometimes, you might wake up dreaming of Guru da Dhaba's tomato rice and kadhi pakoda or the karele ki sabzi and maramari daal (a flavourful five-lentil daal). It also serves a thali, allowing you to choose your favourite vegatables. But whatever your food fantasy, if it's vegetarian, and if it's Punjabi, it's here. All the recipes are from Ranjit Kaur, the wife of the proprietor Inderjit Singh Anand.
The eatery was born by happenstance. Around 20 years ago, Inderjit Singh was driving a rickshaw and doing various odd jobs to make ends meet, like cleaning telephones in offices and running a tea-stall. His wife suggested he take her home-cooked food and try selling it at the stall. He laughed it off. She urged him to try it, and he did. Armed with one container of rajma and another of kadhi, he set out that day. All of it was sold out. And Guru da Dhaba was born.
Once the haven of Lokhandwala strugglers, today its regulars include Bollywood celebrities like Madhavan and Nagesh Kukunoor. "They come, they eat and go, " says the owner's daughter, Mandeep Kaur Anand. "Once, Vivek Oberoi stopped by, but dad didn't recognise him. " The ambience is simple and it uses no fancy ingredients. Guru da Dhaba is all about the food - wholesome, real, soulful. "My father makes his own garam masala;even I don't have the recipe, " says Mandeep Kaur. And the pricing is as inviting as the food. All parathas cost approximately Rs 25, all vegetable dishes, gravies and rice dishes are Rs 50, and Mumbai's best chhaas is just Rs 15.
Guru da Dhaba, Shop1, Kamdhenu Shopping Centre, 1st Cross Road, Lokhandwala, Andheri (W) (022 2632-0440 ). Daily 11 am-3 pm & 7 pm-10. 30 pm. Meal for two approx Rs 200.
Delhi | Hot Box
Italian cuisine has been hugely successful in Delhi. So it's only natural for restaurateurs and patrons to explore the food of countries surrounding the land of fusilli and Ferraris. It is unfortunate then that most of the budget restaurants serving Mediterranean fare cannot get spellings right, never mind the cuisine. So it gave us no small thrill to find, in the quiet lanes of Malviya Nagar, a tiny gem called Hot Box.
The restaurant is small and intimate, as all pleasures in life are rumoured to be. Located right opposite the Panchsheel Rendezvous, Hot Box serves an eclectic mix of Mediterranean and Levantine cuisine at a very reasonable price. The walls are adorned with retro posters and graffiti, giving the eatery a bohemian ambience. As it was a humid night, we decided to start with some green apple soda to help us work through our food. The paprika fries that came next were a revelation. The spice in the hot potatoes was perfectly complemented by the chilled jalapeno mayonnaise accompanying it. After emptying our plates of the minutest crumb we waited all agog for our next course, which was hummus with pita bread. Hot Box serves up an admirable rendition in which chickpeas, tahini (roasted sesame seed paste), lime and garlic were perfectly balanced. We have to admit we weren't leaving much work for the dishwashers as we polished off one platter after the other. Our mains were lamb Bolognese and the aptly named Hero Burger. The lamb Bolognese was excellent;the tomatoes were perfectly stewed and the lamb was of good quality (both rarities in Indian kitchens of the budget type). The Hero Burger lived up to its name - it consists of double chicken breast, cheddar cheese, jalapeno salsa, caramelised onions and bacon. Considering we had over-ordered (we were only two people), and Hot Box gives rather generous helpings, we may have been forgiven for skipping dessert. But two-thirds journalistic fervor and one-third sheer gluttony made us take the plunge and share a fudge brownie with ice cream. It's a good thing we did, as the brownie turned out to be a big, warm, gooey slice of chocolate-y heaven. The last and most unexpected treat was the bill. A meal that would have satiated a couple of over-weight Roman senators cost us no more than a couple of PVR tickets on a weekend night.
Hot Box, 498/55/II, Malviya Nagar (088265-88949 ). Wed-Mon Noon to 11pm.
Tue shut. Meal for two approx Rs 400.
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