Back from India - Some reports
I realize this board does not get a lot of traffic but I might as well post some great foodie experiences from a recent trip to India, just for the archives. I was living in India for one month and made every effort to check out some of the best places to eat while there. Most of my time was in Kanpur -- a city without much to offer -- but I had a couple of short visits to Varanasi, Bangalore, Mysore, Bombay, and Delhi while there.
Hope that folks find this useful!
There is not much in terms of food near the river and the ghats. In Godowlia, on the main road leading towards Dasaswamedh Ghat, there is a place tucked away in a small alleyway called Keshari. They do passable thali meals. There is a newer place just down the road (towards the river) on the 2nd floor, with a huge colorful sign and similar-sounding name (sorry - not sure exactly). You can't miss it. The food there was pretty good and the Rajasthani Thali was delicious and quite filling. Almost immediately across the street, but set back from the road a bit, was Ayvar's Cafe which is a decent South Indian cafe - dosas, idlis, etc. and good chai. Friendly staff and not a bad place to kill an hour reading the newspaper.
Very near to the Jama Masjid there is a place tucked away off a side road called Karim's -- in all of the guidebooks -- that does a great assortment of kebabs. Get the 'Karim's Roll' which is like a mini-soft-taco filled with lamb seekh kebab and served with a spicy cilantro-based sauce. Place is damn hard to find and I walked all over the place looking for it. Basically: exit the SOUTH entrance of the mosque (if facing the mosque from the prayer ground, this exit is on your left). There is a road leading away from the mosque. Walk down this road but look IMMEDIATELY to your left as you walk -- you will see the signs for Karim's in a courtyard just off this main road. It is very close to the mosque itself although folks around there were not too helpful in locating it. I think there are several dining rooms and one of the waiters will usually grab you to find a table.
In contrast to most other cities in India I have visited, Bangalore is extremely cosmopolitan -- many great food options here. Many of the good restaurants are in the high-end hotels and locals even go to these hotels to get the best food. Unlike many cities the food is not watered down for Western tastes -- can be a real treat. A couple of highlights:
- The restaurant at the Leela Palace does an unbelievable job with both north and south Indian food. I was lucky to be treated to a dinner there by a major VIP in Bangalore and the chef came out to give us some extra bites. Unbelievable. Probably the best Indian food I have had anywhere. Also expensive.
- Coconut Grove - little upstairs place on Church St., just off of the main intersection close to MG Road. They did a really interesting mix of Mangalorean and Keralan seafood -- fish curry, prawns, crab, etc. Get the appams to go with.
- Dakshin (in the Sheraton) features food from the four states of South India and does a really nice job. Get the banana dosa as a starter.
- DEFINITELY check out a place called "RRR" (or "Triple R" to locals) which does a fantastic thali, very spicy, all you can eat, around Rs 100. Can get pretty busy and a longish wait for a table but it is deservedly popular.
Bombay has so many amazing food options -- it is hard to know where to start.
- Trishna, in the Fort area -- a little hard to find. We walked from Colaba and spent some confusing minutes in dark alleyways before finding it. I assume a taxi would be an easier route. Absolutely amazing seafood; around Rs 1000 for a meal for two (including beer). Get the king crab in garlic, butter, and black pepper -- signature dish. Gets pretty crowded, but Mumbaikars eat late so if you show up around 7ish it should not be hard to get a table.
- Mahesh Lunch Home - also in the Fort. Rivals Trishna for amazing seafood options. Despite the name does not only serve lunch. I had a tandoori rawas, something spicy with prawns, appams, etc.
- Brittania and Co. - in the Ballard Estate Area. This place is only open for lunch (don't get confused). Really great Iranian restaurant - the signature dish is the berry pulao which is fantastic. Extremely friendly owner who was keen to know how George Bush was doing. First read about this place in Saveur magazine and unsurprisingly the guy had a copy of the article to show us.
- Chowpatty Beach -- not a restaurant, of course, but all of the food stalls really get going at night. The quintessential Bombay experience is piecing together a meal from the stalls there -- classics being bhel puri and pani puri, topped off with some kulfi. The bhel puri-wallahs get very excited when they see new people coming and it might feel a bit pushy as they shove the menus at you -- but -- they do this to everyone (even Indians), and it's all in good fun.
- Bademiya -- A kebab stall out on the street, in Colaba - down a side road close to the Taj hotel. DO NOT MISS THIS PLACE. Although it is a "stall" they basically have a large, permanent sign and have taken over a building across the road with tables and seating -- so more like a restaurant. Join the hoardes of rickshaw drivers getting kebabs, roomali roti, etc. Everyone from Bombay seems to know this place. Stays open late.
re: jen kalb
Ah. Good question. I really doubt that a vegetarian would be happy at either place. These two in particular are very meat-centric, and are very focused on kebabs and such. Although many Indian restaurants will have both "veg" and "non-veg" food, these are heavy on the carnivore side and may not have much, if any, in terms of veg food.
For a vegetarian ... One of the best things to check out, if you can, is a Gujarati thali -- an all you can eat meal with tons of tasty (and sometimes sweet) veg dishes. One of the best places to try this is a place called Rajdhani in Bombay. It is just down the road from the Crawford Market, heading towards the Jami Masjid mosque there. Basically, if you are walking away from the Market towards the mosque, look on your right and you will see it. This place is quite famous for its thalis and the folks there are really friendly. It's also pretty cheap - around Rs 200 for a meal, if I recall.
I've gone with veggie friends to Karims - they eat what is there, the standard paneer and veg dishes, and breads, and seem happy, although I personally think it is a huge waste...anyway, they also have good sweets, so make sure your guests try the firni and or the kheer.