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The unbearable hype of Bandra and Indiranagar restaurants

There was a question that went viral on social media a few days ago about what is your controversial opinion about food... a question that got me thinking. I feel pork fat is disgusting. I feel Italian food is overrated. I feel a Calcutta Kathi rolls beat the hell out of burritos. Speaking of which, I also think most Indian food critics and writers don’t know a burrito from a burrata and only exist because of a shameless capacity for self promotion and a relentless hunger for free food and drink. But none of this is really controversial. At some level most people agree (okay maybe not on Italian food). 
There is one opinion of mine though that people always disagree with vehemently. When I try to talk them through my reasons  it feels almost like some sort of cognitive dissonance kicks in, the emergency button inside the brain circuitry kicking in and flashing lights signal “This Doesn’t Compute”. 
Here it goes... Bandra and Indiranagar are the two most overrated localities for great foo…
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Hussain Shahzad... A Star Is Born

Over the last year I have had two good friends say they didn’t think much of O’Pedro when they went there in its first year. Both are writers I respect, and experts on Goan food. They both felt that the food wasn’t authentically Goan. I implored both to go and give it another shot and look at O’Pedro not as a Goan restaurant but as a Goa-inspired restaurant, a place where Chef Hussain Shahzad explores and takes inspiration from Goa’s diverse heritage... Catholic, Portuguese and Konkani, to create something stunningly new and original. To look at Hussain as a chef cooking Goan food is like looking at Prateek Sadhu as a Kashmiri chef. Don’t go there to eat what is familiar but go there to find that magical place where the familiar meets the unfamiliar, where cultures connect, where heritage meets imagination, where art is created and born. 
Most of all I said go for Hussain. I remember the early days of Indian Accent at the Manor Hotel, of Masque when it first opened, of Bomras when it w…

Kappa Chakka Kandhari

I thought I knew the food of Kerala. I have been to the state many times. It’s my wife’s favourite cuisine. Bangalore has many many good Malayalee restaurants in every locality. I have been to friends’ homes and visited their estates. Anyone who has eaten over a hundred Malayalee meals KNOWS Malayalee food, right? Then I went to Kappa Chakka Kandhari and I realised I knew nothing.
Chef Regi Matthew serves no Malabar parathas. He serves no biryani. He says that that’s not food he ate at his home in the tiny village of Netta and he serves food from the homes of Kerala, the food cooked by the mothers of Kerala. Homes and toddy shops. He spent 3 years putting together the menu. He ate at 265 houses. And 70 toddy shops. Learnt the recipes. In every district. With every community. He spent months cajoling home chefs to come and cook their food in a restaurant. An idly that only four families make and have made for over a hundred years. A roasted clam that takes you to the deepest backwaters …

#blahvsfood goes to Mustard, Mumbai

I had heard very mixed things about Mustard and I wasn’t sold on the idea of a place that made both French and Bengali food. I had read an awful review on BPB but I also had heard great things about Pritha Sen who created the menu. So I decided to go and try it out for myself and I came back with a huge smile and a full belly. 
I had just one French savoury dish, the classic French Onion soup cooked in Buffalo stock, as good as any you will ever have in this country, full of warmth and comfort. 
But it was the Bengali food that stole my heart. It wasn’t the food of West Bengal that we get in a place like Oh Calcutta but a broader Bengali cuisine with a strong Bangladeshi influence in some of the dishes. There was a degree of refinement to the cooking that was stunning. What really surprised me though is how they were able to create these freewheeling, inspired riffs on Bengali food while still making every dish feel familiar and comforting even if you were eating a very different versio…

#blahvsfood goes to Masala Library, Mumbai

I went to try the new menu at Masala Library recently after being told that many of the things that I disliked in the restaurant were in the past, that the food was simpler and that I would rate it on par with Masque and Indian Accent, my two favourite restaurants in India.
I wouldn’t go that far but I have to admit that the restaurant has definitely improved in terms of both intent and outcome, with cleaner cooking and presentation, fewer gimmicks and more depth of research. 

Not everything worked. The lamb chops were bony. The puchkas and the jhalmoori cookie were good but could have done with one additional notch of flavour and intensity. The paneer dish felt like a poncified paneer tikka. The dabeli went through contortions of presentation to end up as a dabeli yet again. Most unforgivably the gyaan that comes with the amuse Bouche hasn’t changed.. “to amuse your palate” and “made using molecular gastronomy”. An amuse bouche is meant to stimulate the palate not “amuse” it and I have…

The #blahvsfood Guide To Singapore (and yes #blahdrinks as well)

The Definitive Guide To Eating And Drinking Like A Local In SingaporeSingapore is a hard city to navigate as a food  traveler. I must have been to Singapore at least twenty times but it’s only now that I’m getting a sense of what Singapore is about, it’s hidden treasures, the best places to eat and drink, where you feel that you’re going beyond the obvious. Part of the problem is that in Singapore it’s easy to have a great time skimming the surface because everything is so perfectly packaged and marketed. Whether you’re looking for high end dining at Odette or a Singapore Sling at the Raffles Bar, whether you want seafood at Jumbo or a hawker centre at Newton Circus, the things that are easily found are satisfying and fun. Whatever your budget and whatever your tastes, the city seems to have something for you, more often than not thronging with tourists and Instagramers. Singapore guarantees a good time, but it’s almost always a good time within a framework, leading to accusations of …