Craving mutton seekh kebabs at 3 a.m.? Roshni Bajaj Sanghvi taste-tested the late-night food scene for (one of our 24 Best Travel Blogs and Websites of 2014). She'll point you in the right direction.
MUMBAI – In the last week, the places I've eaten, the dishes I have tried, and the people I have shared tables with — at hours when most people sleep — prove that we haven't even scratched the surface of what and how Mumbai eats at night. Forget khau gallis and after-party munchies. Don't pay any attention to the boiled egg sellers standing outside country liquor bars. Instead, try going to a spot outside a mojri stall that opens at 10 p.m. and stays that way until 5 in the morning. Or to a restaurant in town that is over a century old, stays open for 24 hours, and serves everything from chicken tikka to cubed processed cheese in three gravies.
About a week ago, I was at The Light of Asia (Kothari Mansion, Mint Road, behind GPO, Fort.; 022-2261-3572), wondering if the place still served chai and kheema pao, a snack of fiery minced mutton, to advertising folks who walked out of their offices starving at 3 a.m. Not too long ago, I worked at an agency in Nariman Point, and visited The Light Of Asia a couple of times because nothing tastes better than the spicy-mince-and-milky-tea combo after an 18-hour work day. The manager told me that they're open 24 hours even if the shutter is down between 2:30 and 5 a.m. In the still of the night, you find night-shift workers and partygoers from LGBT bar Let's Scream down the road digging into the grub, while a beautiful gray tabby walks around benches with more confidence than the servers.
I would recommend the bhurji pao from Tukaram Kunwal Namdeo (Second Hasnabad Lane, Santa Cruz West). The owner has been doing business there for 40 years, and his thela (food cart) has grown into a large stainless steel-clad mobile stall that looks almost like a station in a professional kitchen. A hill of bhurji (similar to scrambled eggs) is loaded with freshly chopped tomatoes, onions, and tons of not-too-spicy green chillies. With it, there is a potato bread called laadi pao that gets a quick buttery sear on the same griddle. His friend Kiran Jaikar owns a mojri stall ("I supply chappals to all of Bollywood. Designer Manish Malhotra comes to my shop!") that shuts just as Namdeo starts. He told me that people line up in BMWs and Mercedes to sample the fare. "For a dish that's less than Rs100, people give him Rs500 and go," said Jaikar. That sounds like an exaggeration, but I remember that one of the guys at The Light of Asia told me that sometimes, at 4 a.m., you can see a line of people from vegetarian communities waiting at Namdeo's.
There would be no stealth required if they trekked to Adarsh Annapoorna (Ramwadi, Kalbadevi Road, Kalbadevi; 022-2207 -5757) instead. This vegetarian restaurant is attached to Hotel Adarsh in Ramwadi, so it is well within the law to stay open as long as it likes. Owner Manish Purohit was inspired to set it up after the 1992 riots when he saw that people who took refuge in the hotel needed to eat. "The main purpose is to serve in-house guests, but outsiders are also welcome." Folks hankering for a dal baati churma, or mushroom Manchurian, or sarson ka saag and makki ki roti at 3 a.m. can satisfy their cravings here: Rajasthani, Chinese, and Punjabi food are available at that hour.
My best late-night meal yet was with Roycin D'Souza, he of fame. He took me to Nawab Seekh Corner in Kurla (lane adjacent to Delhi Zaika and Kalpana Cinema, off LBS Road, Kurla; also at Mohammed Ali Rd.). They serve but one dish — a mutton seekh kebab that is so fresh you have to pass by the kitchen where barely concealed butchers work on whole carcasses. The seekh comes with a rib-sticking fried puri-paratha hybrid, a whole joodi of mint, a heap of cut limbu, and a saucerful of runny dark green chutney over raw onion rings. The fat gets cut away from the meat, so four seekhs may not do you in, but one paratha will.
Each component is made by specialists. Around the corner, on LBS Road, behind a red telephone box, two paratha handlers roll out discs from a sack-sized mound of dough and barely cook it on a thick iron tava over a charcoal sigdi. Tall stacks of these, almost two feet high, come to the open kitchen alongside the restaurant, where they're in a kadhai that could accommodate three watermelons without any crowding. A separate team prepares the seekhs on a narrow grill that is over a three feet long. Still, a single cylinder of moist, medium-rare meat is cheap. We sat in the restaurant's al fresco balcony area and spent about an hour eating several plates of kebabs. D'Souza told me that this meal is his comfort food; he's there every week.
These sections were excerpted from and were republished with permission.