Having risen to the top of the right-wing food journalism scene solely through reviewing bombil fry at shady bars, people tend to look at us like we’re some sort of proletarian filth. And although we love & strongly identify with our blue-collared brothers, we were determined to prove that we’re anything but lowborn. But alas, our first attempts at proving we were part of high society by showing up at restaurants with monocles and lit cigars were met with harsh resistance from the wait staff and smoke alarms alike.
Still, we were hell-bent on purporting ourselves as sophisticated, cultured restaurant critics, and getting the respect we deserved. Our only option was to commission the help of our resident female correspondent, who has a dark history of ordering wine at shady bars, & much experience in pretending to be more cultured than she actually is. Much to our astonishment, our second idea of hanging out in the Taj Lands End lobby and posting selfies to instagram was also mercilessly shot down.
We normally don’t take advice from women, but in this case, we were in way over our heads. The plan was to move on from bombil fry and misal pav and try reviewing an actual nice restaurant instead. But what restaurant could withstand the wrath of The Bombay Report?; defenders of the truth, guardians of gastronomy, the greatest restaurant review blog in the country. Fortunately, The Bombay Canteen, which happens to to be the #1 restaurant in the country, and shares two-thirds of its name with ours, a worthy opponent, happened to be only a few minutes away.
The Bombay Canteen was started in 2015, and helmed by world-renowned chef Floyd Cardoz, owner of the coolest Indian restaurant in New York city. It was then named best in the country just a couple of years after its inception, and is currently one of the trendiest places to tell your friends your boyfriend took you for dinner. The Bombay Canteen has a small, colourful entrance near the tulsi-pipe side of Kamala Mills, and the moment you walk in, there is a sense of fun and friendliness in the air, which the affable staff amplify greatly.
However, at The Bombay Report, we’re trained to be completely immune to interior design and futile displays of affability. What we were looking for was flavour, and we weren’t about to be tricked into submission by some pretty stewardess and her fake smile. We had great expectations from the #1 restaurant in India, and we knew we had to get our order right. After minutes of fruitless deliberation, we were told about the The Canteen Experience, a ten-course tasting menu which showcased all of their greatest hits, all of the dishes they were willing to stake their reputation on. Given that most of the menu revolved around Cardoz’s signature style of local ingredients and simple, familiar flavours, we knew not to be too optimistic (yet another benefit of being raised middle class) but a part of us still secretly hoped we’d be overwhelmed.
The tasting menu was a long, winding journey that started with a Red Snapper Ceviche and wandered in seemingly random directions before arriving at the crowning glory, the Gulab Nut. However, at two and a half grand, the tasting menu costs as much as a buffet at a five-star hotel, and eating it in the order it was meant to will fill you up a lot earlier than you’d like. We respect the idea of a tasting menu and understand what the chef is trying to achieve, but we’re still Indian, and we’re going to try and make our money back. So we suggest you skip the jowar salad and chicken-omelette curry (actual dishes) and go straight for these big ticket items, repeatedly, and get some of that sweet paisa vasool.
The Chettinad Prawns were cooked in a spicy shrimp paste, not too much unlike sambal. The prawns were well cooked, and although the sauce wasn’t particularly exceptional, this is just an all-round impressive starter which is worth ordering at least four times, at the expense of everything else that the waiter will try to bring you instead.
Mutton Burra Kebab
The Mutton Burra Kebab was a large piece of mutton baked to perfection and then finished in a tandoor, making it not just slide off the bone, but also adding a beautiful, smoky, tandoori char. We thought that the slabs of Lamb Burra would undoubtedly be the most impressive thing that Bombay Canteen’s set menu had to offer, and an impossible act to follow. Until…
A doughnut-shaped gulab jamun with a beautiful pista cream filling, soaked in a sweet Old Monk syrup. It was our favourite dish of the day and, quite unsurprisingly, one of the chef’s signature dishes. It was absolutely delicious & honestly, we’d go back for just this dish alone. We don’t normally agree with Curly Tales and can’t tell you what we think about them because it’d be hate speech, but they’re absolutely right when they say the Gulab Nut is “what you want to finish your meal with at The Bombay Canteen!”
The Decree: The Bombay Canteen has dishes that are well executed, professionally plated, and that feature fresh, local ingredients. But for a restaurant of its stature, those are attributes that we’d normally take for granted. What we were looking for at The Bombay Canteen was bold, exceptional flavours, that extra spice that earned them the title of the best in the country. It seemed like the chef was still catering to his clientele in New York, people who hadn’t tried Indian food before. The Bombay Canteen does its job in creating a menu of delicious Indian fusion food, for someone new to the cuisine. But does adding pretty good pork vindaloo to a pretty good thepla make it the best in the country? You be the judge.
While overall, Bombay Canteen wasn’t as impressive as we’d hoped for, considering it’s supposed to be the best restaurant in the country, the three dishes we mentioned earlier with the addition of the Red Snapper Ceviche, were absolutely exceptional. If you ever plan on trying their set menu, you can’t go wrong with ordering the three items on loop up to the point you die or they throw you out. Whichever happens last.