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On a sunny but relatively less hot Sunday afternoon, I went for lunch at this Delhi Darbar that opened up a few months ago in Thane. What previously was a gym has now been turned into a Moghlai restaurant on the second floor, with outdoor seating.

Not too keen on making food decisions that afternoon, we ordered the buffet, which was for Rs.599 per head. It has the regular buffet menu: a kiwi drink, kebab and tikki starters, vegetarian and meat curries with rotis and rice, and of course, dessert. In addition we also asked for a masala papad.

The starters were quite good, especially the various chicken kebabs. One of them looked far too pink, but thankfully tasted normal. There were fish fingers too, which tasted quite good. When I was done with the starters, I decided to move on to the main course. I was reminded of the fact that I still hadn’t gotten my masala papad.
I was too impatient to wait for it some more, so I went and got some chicken kadai, mutton rogan josh and aalu gobi with naan. All of these tasted quite good, but I still wanted masala papad and reminded the waiter a little more firmly this time.

I proceeded to my second helping of chicken biryani and raita: fairly tasty. At this point, I had neither the time, inclination nor the appetite for masala papad. So I cancelled the masala papad.

For dessert I had gulab jamun and ice cream. I like gulab jamun with ice cream (vanilla), but they had strawberry ice cream. Nevertheless, I decided to give this combination a try (fail). And just as I was wrapping up my meal, they got my masala papad!

Before you begin to think of me as some kind of a masala papad freak, I will have you know that I refused to accept the masala papad: late late late version. Yes, I too dislike having principles, at times.

 

This isn’t a branch of THE Delhi Darbar, which is great. Mainly because it would have been a bitter disappointment if it were. The service is dismal, tardy and the waiters seem confused. The food is good, but then there are places with equally good food and better service. The only benefit of this place is the happy hours on alcohol—that’s the only smooth flowing part about their service.

 

Price: About Rs.1500 for two people

 

It was a regular sultry Mumbai day, and I was on a shopping excursion at Colaba Causeway with my friends when we saw the shawarma at Picadilly’s window. It’s very hard to remember how the hot grilling meat enticed us on such a sweltering day. In retrospect, I am glad it did (in case you were wondering, this place does have an air-conditioned section).

 
I’ve been here several times since, and I must recommend the Lebanese chicken shawarma wrap and the falafel wrap. Their hummus is quite delicious too. While you wait for your food to arrive, you get a small bowl of pickled cucumber and beetroot, which is great to munch on without filling up too much of your appetite. If you come on a hot sunny day, I do recommend the iced tea here. Having tasted the iced teas of a LOT of restaurants, I can tell that this is genuine tea—not the ready-mix powder version—and they serve it with mint and lots of ice. 
 
If you’d much rather go for a whole meal, the fila chicken is a well-rounded dish that you can have with the option of bread or rice. The mutton steak sizzler will fill you up pretty well too. The cocktail pizza tastes like they’ve used the same sauce from the Lebanese main course dishes. Not necessarily in a bad way. Not exactly a cheap place, but it definitely won’t burn a hole in your pocket. 
 
The place is quite small and the ambience is average. It’s one of the quieter, low-key places down on Causeway. But if you do wish to have a meal at your own pace, then you could pick the seat next to the window and gaze down the street.
Image by Ameya Naik

Image by Ameya Naik

 

CCDs are passe. Starbucks is overrated. Everything else is either too expensive or unwelcoming. Which is why you need a D’Crepes. Even though it makes incorrect use of the preposition “D'” in the name, it is one of the least pretentious cafes. Tucked away in a corner at Hiranandani Meadows, Thane, it’s quite a small place with a few books, a guitar, pictures from what could presumably be France and a few cosy tables. But what makes D’Crepes special is the feeling of warmth you get from the staff. And, of course, the food and beverages.

This place has a quite a quaint collection of savoury crepes. There’s one with tandoori chicken and onions, one with noodles and scrambled eggs and one with creamed spinach with garlic and corn. They’re all quite delicious, and the crepes are always light and fluffy.

The pizzas and pastas are delicious:I would thoroughly recommend the spicy portuguese sauce to go with your pasta. But I feel the need to make special mention of the chicken steak burger and the pita sanwiches. They come with wedges or fries and are good enough to take home to your mother.

This is the kind of place where you come on breezy evenings, thinking you’ll have a snack. You then order a crepe with perhaps Organic Melange tea or an Irish Frappe (Did I mention their tea bags have stiches holding them together?) You then wonder whether you should order Italian wedges or garlic cheese toast. And if you’re like me, you feel guilty for wanting a Red Velvet Cupcake or maybe even a Blueberry Cheesecake or Austrian Mudpie, and then order it anyway. Before you know it, your evening snack has turned out to be larger than your dinner, and you don’t regret it for a second.

I believe this post is long overdue, almost as much as a visit to Oriental Spice. This authentic Chinese Restaurant has been there for more than a decade and when I first moved here, it was one of the few nice eateries in Thane. There are numerous new authentic Chinese restos here now, which are better (cheaper) than Oriental Spice. A meal for two would cost about Rs. 1500.

Nevertheless, one redeeming quality of OS is the spicy crabmeat soup. The meat is tender and perfectly cooked, the spices are balanced. It is so good that Ameya and I have it every time we go there. And when he goes there without me, he will take painstaking efforts to inform me that he’s getting some while I’m not. I would also like to make a special mention here of the quality of wantons in their wanton soups, they melt in your mouth.

Enough about soups, moving on to the appetizers. The noodle-wrapped chicken, kung pao chicken and five spice roast chicken are all delicious. Sometimes I do venture into the vegetarian section, and from there I heartily recommend the crispy american corn with red chilli. (Yes, I know that’s a lot of red chilli, but it goes down really well with their iced tea).

There are very few dishes in the main course that you can go wrong with. And in all these years, I haven’t come across any of them. The egg fried rice, an eternal favourite is light and fresh, and goes with almost any gravy dish. The fortune rice is a wholesome dish, and the earthen pot which contains it adds to the charm. The butter garlic noodles, as the name suggests, are obviously not something you can get enough of. The roast lamb in devil’s sauce, chicken red pepper sauce and the tofu and pok choy with red chilli are my picks from the gravy section.

The desserts are what you’d expect to find in a Chinese restaurant—honey noodles with ice cream, sizzling brownie, date pancakes, and they’ll give you a happy ending—but that’s probably not what you’d want to fill up on.

The quintessential sauf is replaced by lychee toffees, which I stock up on. To add to the ambience, they have fortune plants and, if you’re lucky, Chinese-ish music, which involves gongs and Kung-fu Panda background instrumentals. The service is a little slow but the food will not disappoint you.

 

I am not going to be all emotional and teary eyed to tell you, how much this first blog post means. I am rather angry at myself (and even Tanika) for not having written earlier. We promise each other that we’ll write this weekend, next weekend and the weekend after that, but somehow none are in any mood to sit down on a computer and write what we felt in our tummy. We let our tummies purr for a little while longer and enjoy what it has just managed to gorge on. I’ve even had my fair share of tummy aches but that has never stopped me from enjoying what I love most – FOOD!

I have to admit here that I don’t get the time to walk down each alley and search for good food joints(because, that’s where they really are) but I always have help from friends, well wishers and relatives (the tummy achers as I call them) who let me on to new joints where lies authenticity. Tanika’s mum in fact is the Columbus of Thane and she goes around finding new things and recommending them to us and later either one or both walk into these recommendations to check if our modern tastes and those of the yesteryear match. The match doesn’t hit 100% everytime but this time around, it hit the bulls-eye.

She introduced me to this place called Thanjavur Mess near Pawar Nagar, Thane and told me that it is small but the food is crazy good. I took her word for it and marched to the mess to see what it was really like. It takes a while for a person who has just shifted to Thane to move around and search for this place. Though the directions were precise, the GPS in my head was confused and after an hour’s search and further asking people I gave up to head home.

As I walked up the slope from the Neelkanteshwar Mandir, I looked around to see a part of Thane that lived in the peaceful interiors of a busy and noisy city. Then suddenly a faint aroma of sambar hit my nose and hereon I didn’t need GPS – my nose was my guide.

To the left is a whole colony and a small banner tied to one of these houses window grille read ‘Thanjaavur Mess’ The place isn’t too big but it is a duplex, so there is a ground +1 seating arrangement. From what I could see a maximum of 8 people could be accommodated downstairs and a similar number on the top level.

What I have to tell you here is that you don’t get a choice of what you could eat. The cook at Thanjaavur  thinks that ‘you – as a customer’ lack the brains the choose a tamilian dish and so he prepares what he feels like.  All you have to do is sit down and ask for a thali.

The banana leaf is laid in front of you followed by pickle, the vegetable for the day which may range from Aviyal to Potato bhaaji, rice, buttermilk, sambhar, kadi, rasam and my most favourite part in the entire plate(or leaf in this context) fried applam. If you’re expecting chapatis, get ready to be disappointed, because you wont get any (even on request)

I slurrped my way through the food. It’s authenticity cannot be questioned and the staff at Thanjaavur have even maintained the ethnicity of the place. In almost 5 seconds of having taken your seat, you are transported to a different land. The old aunty sitting at the cash counter holds a mobile phone with music blarring through it and voices of some brilliant artists from the southern part enter and fill this small room.

All this authenticity (music and food) comes at a mere Rs. 80 per thali and they even have the option of home delivery for which they charge an extra Rs. 10. Evenings on the other hand are a-la-carte with snacks dominating the menu. 2 types of Dosai, Uttapam, sometimes Adai with Aviyal make their way into the menu. No Thali’s are served in the evening. Why? I dare you to ask the head chef.

Thanjaavur deserves every applause that it gets and in the 2 years that it has been in Thane, it has its share of advent followers and I have just added myself to that long list.

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