I have been feeling fairly uninterested to write recently; uninspired, and demotivated. That’s the reason why I have been declining restaurant review invitations left, right, and center. And I haven’t been out scouting for new food places. It’s amazing how inspiration can strike you in the smallest and most unassuming of places, and leave you with the most ingenious ideas. Recently inspiration had been derived from the hullabaloo around the possible closure of Parsi Dairy Farm, which luckily has been stalled for now. Read the post here.
The rumored closure of my favorite Parsi Dairy Farm served as an eye opener, and I’ve promised myself to go scouting for older establishments, eat at hidden joints, explore heritage eateries; so that I don’t lament about them closing later. I recently read Finely Chopped’s blogpost about a Gujarati thali place called Aram in Bandra east, and decided to skip the new fancy restaurants in BKC for some good ol’ thali.
Situated very close to Guru Nanak Hospital, the amount of times I’ve been in that area, but overlooked the existence of this place! We trudged up an old winding staircase, in an old looking building; and were taken aback. We were the only diners on a Saturday evening. A large space with open, airy windows that overlook the road; a clean kitchen that you can look into; and plenty of waiters running around to fuss over you!
The food here is homely, and traditional. The ‘athanu no dabbo’, or the box of pickles and condiments that sits atop every table is proof enough. Reminiscent of Gujarati homes, here you help yourself to the chutneys, ‘chundos’, and ‘achaars’.
Food here is again homely and hearty; simpler than the fare one finds at established Gujarati-Rajasthani thali chains such as Rajdhani, Golden Star and the likes. Start off with the ‘kathor’ or pulse, and three vegetable variants paired with ghee laden rotis and theplas. Take a break in the middle to nibble on some khaman, or tikkis, and other ‘faraal’ items. Slurp up some tikkhi dal or mitthi dal – whatever floats your boat. Round it all off with the star of a Gujju thali meal – in my opinion – sweet kadhi with khichadi and tons of ghee. And of course something sweet in the end.
Again I repeat myself, with the fear of sounding repetitive, the food here is delicious inspite of being simple and homely. It’s the sort of food I have eaten at Gujarati homes, NOT at Gujarati restaurants. The familiarity is evident when the server brings you a box of ‘mukhvaas’ to your table after you’re done eating. The thali is unlimited, and ensures you eat your heart out. But I was left feeling light and the food did not weigh me down one bit. The only downer was the watery, under seasoned chaas.
A thali is priced at Rs 250/- but for some reason they decided to charge us 200 bucks a head. Early bird discount? Or maybe because we decided to skip the rice. Nevertheless, it makes for an absolutely paisa vasool meal.
There may be two major reasons why a restaurant goes empty on a Saturday night. One – Horrible Food. Two – Better Options. Having eaten at Aram, I’d say the first option does not hold true. It is surely the latter. The Bikaner Sweets and Farsan shop opposite was thronging with people stuffing their mouth with pani puri and buying sweets. The greasy Chindian restaurant opposite (whose name I couldn’t be bothered to remember) was packed with diners. On a Saturday evening it pained me that, mom and I were the only two people eating there. The food is simple and delicious, service is warm, and the servers told me the establishment is roughly fifty years old.
I spoke to one of the wait staff there – an old, experienced looking gentleman working there since donkeys years. He forlornly told me, diner count has been dwindling over the past couple of years. I won’t be surprised the next time I drive down to Bandra east, I won’t see the Aram board propped up at the entrance. As we looked back at the restaurant from below, we saw the servers shutting off the fans and lights, leaving us both with a heavy heart.
I urge each and everyone of you to save Mumbai’s heritage eateries. Make a list of old eateries you’ve been wanting to dine at since a while but haven’t gotten around to doing so. Dine at one in a month. Fairly simple, isn’t it? Maybe your contribution will help preserve that place for a little while longer. Maybe not. But at least we tried!