Mumbai Munching

National Geographic Traveler has a Forster-like obsession with India, so when IT’s Turkey dispatcher, Michael Lukas, pitched a story about Mumbai restaurants (IT loves its food), we gladly accepted. He writes:

Mumbai is like New York City and Los Angeles combined. A sprawling, multi-cultural metropolis right on the beach, this city of 16 million is the financial and entertainment capital of India. With its bustling mix of Punjabi, Gujarati, Parsi, Maharashtrian, Goan, and European cuisines, it might be the gastronomic capital as well. If not the capital, certainly an oasis, as I soon realized after spending a recent vacation eating my way through the city. My suggestions:

Around the corner from a nightclub called Red Light, Trishna is one of the ten restaurants the late R.W. Apple, Jr. listed in his last article for the New York Times, “An Epicurean Pilgrimage: Meals Worth the Price of a Plane Ticket.” It is casual (in the way that a pink Lacoste shirt is casual) and, despite its reputation for snobbery, I found the wait staff to be attentive. Sensing our trouble with the menu, a waiter recommended the chili and garlic lobster, green chili crab, and butter pepper garlic prawns—rounded off with Hyderabadi-style dal. We followed his recommendation exactly, with no regrets. I’m not a crab man, but I can say that I have never eaten better lobster or bigger prawns.

If you still have money to burn after Trishna, try the Sunday brunch at Indigo. It’s where Bill Clinton eats when he is in Mumbai, and that’s pretty much the only recommendation I need. At 1 p.m. the restaurant was empty—a gorgeous spread of duck liver pâté, roast beet salad, and a dozen other antipasti all virtually untouched. By 2 p.m., after three trips to the buffet and countless free drinks, it was beginning to fill up. By 3 p.m., which was when we got around to ordering our main course, the place was buzzing with upper-class families.

But enough haute cuisine. If you want to try some of Mumbai’s famous street food but are scared of contracting cryptosporidiosis, Swati Snacks (248 Karai Estate, Tardeo Road; + 91 22 249 20994) is the place for you. This chrome and glass lunch spot serves an upscale version of the food being hawked outside on the street. Pretty much everything on the menu is good. On the advice of my waiter, I got a masala dosa and a Parsi-style dal called dhansaak, both of which were simple but very tasty. [IT interjection: Jessie’s Bombay-based buddies go here for the pav bhaji.]

If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, give Shramik Canteen (located inside the Sahakari Bhandar department store on Regal Circle; +91 22 228 25507) a shot. At lunchtime, this unassuming vegetarian restaurant is filled with students, mid-level bureaucrats, and young couples. Most people were having the set lunch (thali) , which includes biryani, curries, and dessert. Contrarian that I am, I got an Afghan-style curry and saag paneer. Although the saag was a bit disappointing, everything else was excellent. Plus, I had the pleasure of sharing my lunch with a businessman who, seeing no empty tables, came and sat down next to me.

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