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Mumbai Express

Polecat Mar 6, 2009 04:28 PM

After seeing Dave Cook's coverage - photos and all - of the Mumbai Grilled Sandwich (http://www.eatingintranslation.com/20...), I knew a visit was imminent. This week's Village Voice review tore it wide open. Given the great weather, and a recent case of cabin fever, I stole off from work today for an extended lunch, and am already planning a quick return.

Mumbai Express is a modest, small, clean joint. Not all that much bigger than a storefront, maybe ten tables in all, some steam tables up front, various sweets and sodas behind glass, and a flat screen tv showing various Bollywood videos and highlights. Turns out the place has a specific hook - an extensive menu highlighting Mumbai street food. The menu states, "Indian Fast Food."

I went for, of course, the sandwich. That, and the pakora platter for good measure. The pakoras came out first, and were mighty fine, the exteriors very crispy, not too greasy. The Mumbai Grilled Sandwich, on the other hand, this is a whole different animal from anything I've previously experienced. Served up quartered, this thing is piled high with three layers of perfectly toasted bread which work very nicely with the potatos and chutney mix within. Put a little ketchup on there - which I did upon being encouraged by the waiter - and, I swear, you've got something approaching a Mumbai Big Mac. Only - trust me on this - better, much better.

Anyone making the trip out here should cap it by ordering a tall, red, psychedelicized bottle of Hajoon's Kashmiri Soda as well. If you dig your spice, and your carbonation, here it is in one bottle - the taste grew on me. The Limca lime soda is good too.

The proprietor was very friendly and helpful, and chatted me up about his favorite Bollywood movies. When I plugged him on the quintessential Mumbai street food dish, he recommended the Special Pav Bhaji. That's for next time.

Mumbai Express
256-05 Hillside Avenue
Floral Park, NY 11004
718-470-0059
(closed Mondays

)

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  1. bigjeff RE: Polecat Mar 7, 2009 07:49 AM

    sorta like the poor man's version of the above sandwich, the place Raja Sweets (I think that's the name, it's the corner place on 37th avenue right next door to Rajhbog in Jackson Heights) was selling something similar, and truly devilish (and cheap at $1 per): samosa filling inside of a thick piece of white bread, folded over into a triangle, then dipped in garam batter and deep fried. nothing subtle about this at all and, amazingly greasy and unhealthy.

    5 Replies
    1. re: bigjeff
      d
      david sprague RE: bigjeff Mar 7, 2009 12:32 PM

      dang. it's three blocks away. i am so there right now to see if it's still on their radar. they do some lovely chana masala as well.

      1. re: bigjeff
        Polecat RE: bigjeff Mar 8, 2009 05:34 AM

        I'll say this: the Mumbai Sandwich may be many things (from a Western POV) - weird, different, otherworldly, stacked, crunchy, smooth, dagwood jr., vibrant, drawn-n-quartered, even strangely beautiful. One thing it isn't is greasy. I didn't leave the joint feeling as if my skin was crawling. I say that, along w/ other menu items, it's worth a trip.
        P.

        1. re: Polecat
          t
          toby1355 RE: Polecat Mar 9, 2009 08:36 PM

          We went Sunday and ordered five dishes based on Polecat and the Voices recs.

          First, we ordered Cauliflower and potato (Aloo Gobi?) from the steam table. Truth be old, we did so because we recognized it and recognized little else. It was really good and spicy.

          Second, We had the mixed Pakora platter (#24) ; four different varieties; nice and spicy altho the flat disk (Potato?) was hard and try

          third, #26, Special Pav Bhali; Thank you PC. It was a container (we took everything home to eat with dinner) of ( I think) lentils, some potatoes, in a tomato-ish sauce. There was bread to dip into the stew/sauce. Really, really spicy and good.

          fourth, (#37) The Mumbai grilled sandwich. Again, nicely spiced. One thingI don't get tho. I've had various breads at Indian restaurants but never white bread. Is white bread found in India? Anyone?

          fifth, (#45) Pav Vada; Carb overkill. but what the hell. It was very weird (those carbs) but fun and good.

          All in all, a great place to have so close to Nassau county.

          1. re: toby1355
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            bruklinboy RE: toby1355 Mar 15, 2009 09:49 AM

            went to mumbai express yesterday after reading the voice review
            definitely worth the trip from brooklyn and will go back for more
            the samosa chaat was great as was the mumbai grilled sandwich
            we're going back to queens today and hoping to find the time to at least go there and get some stuff to go

        2. re: bigjeff
          bigjeff RE: bigjeff Jul 6, 2009 02:25 PM

          about that sandwich at raja sweets; it's called 'bread pakora'. youch! saw it identified in the voice:

          http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkint...

        3. s
          stuartlafonda RE: Polecat Mar 25, 2009 09:58 AM

          I ate there on Sunday with a former resident of Mumbai and had a very good meal. The place was packed, at 2:00, and we had to wait for a table. I let my friend order for the table.
          Samosa Chat was excellent as was the Mumbai Chat,. You will have to take my word for it as I could never identify or recall all the elements.
          Kati Roll was super spicy and good but a third order was requested as mild and it came mild, and with a ton of mint that ruined it for me. The lesson learned was eat like a native. The bhel, something I have never had was not spicy. It contained , like the chat, a million ingredients including a predominance of puffed rice, and was fresh and light tasting. A cheese and barely sweated onion dosa was also excellent. The pakoras were gobbled up by the kids so while I didn't get to try them they must have been good. The only dissapointment was the much heralded Mumbai grilled sandwich. Mine came with three slices of thick bread and ultra thin potatoes with a coriander puree. I didn't taste any chutney and found it boring. As much as I love carbs, for me a potato sandwich is a hard sell and this one came up short
          There is so much to explore on the menu, uttapam, vada and a whole section of Indo-Chinese, I will be back regularly although it is difficult to drive past Fiza Diner one of my all time favorite hole in the wall joints.

          1. Polecat RE: Polecat Mar 31, 2009 11:19 AM

            True to my word, I returned today, and had the Special Phav Baji, which was delicious. This was my first experience with this dish, which is a thick, curry-like mix of potato, peas and capsicum peppers, meant to be sopped up or sandwiched between two slider-like, toasted and buttered (or is it gee?) buns. Think of it as something along the lines of a Mumbai Sloppy Joe. These guys serve it up with cold tomatoes and chopped onions on the side, which add great texture, along with a wedge of lime. The flavor is straight ahead, simple and strong. The heat is residual. You're thinking it's nothing much when, within seconds, your hair starts standing on end. Hot, to be sure, but not unpleasant.
            For anyone who's curious about this dish, which is a Mumbai street food staple, check this out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pav_Bhaji

            I would also urge anyone, anywhere, who loves Indian food, street food or both to check this place out. Mumbai Express, along with a host of other Floral Park/Hillside Avenue venues, are worth the trip. I know these guys are taking part in the Voice Choice Eats (or is that over yet?), so I would definitely recommend that those of you who don't want to travel out to FP and who are attending this event give them a try.

            After my lunch, I strolled one block or so west on Hillside, stopped at Usha Foods, another steam table joint with a host of desserts as well. I picked up a half pound of pink and orange cham chams. Not exactly my speed, but worth it for the name and the pretty colors. Also got a dollar bag of Lilva Kachooli, which are hot and habit-forming. Would definitely like to hit up this place for lunch someday as well, perhaps on a Monday. That's when Mumbai Express is closed.
            P.

            6 Replies
            1. re: Polecat
              Polecat RE: Polecat Mar 31, 2009 11:29 AM

              Did I say "Kachooli"? Yikes. It's Kachoori actually. Damned heat goes to my head.
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              1. re: Polecat
                q
                queenseats RE: Polecat Mar 31, 2009 12:46 PM

                I work near Mumbai Express and would like to try it for lunch. What are the portion sizes like -- for the Special Phav Baji, for example, which sounds delicious? I've walked by and checked out the menu but since I don't know much about Mumbai street foods, I wasn't sure if you're supposed to order a few different things or if one sandwich was sufficient. Also, I'm a bit wary about having such a carb-heavy lunch (potato sandwich) :) Polecat, would you recommend it for a weekday lunch, or should I save it for a weekend? Unfortunately I do have to be semi-awake during the weekday afternoon hours.

                1. re: queenseats
                  Polecat RE: queenseats Mar 31, 2009 01:33 PM

                  The portion sizes are good. The sandwich and the Pav Bhaji, being the two dishes I've tried, each filled me up without stuffing me to the gills. I love this place for a weekday lunch personally - it's a good getaway from work for an hour - but, if you're at all in doubt, go on a weekend. Based on above-posts, it's the same food, ie no evidence of quality fluctuation depending on when you go. Also, Stuart noted above that, on midday Sunday the place was packed; I was just there today at around 1:15, and there were maybe 6 other diners. So keep that in mind if it's likely to effect your decision. Enjoy.
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              2. re: Polecat
                jen kalb RE: Polecat Mar 31, 2009 03:01 PM

                One of those Ushas out there impressed me as having some of the best sweets in town. Their fried sago (sabudana) chips are pretty good junk food too and I am glad they have kachoori, not that easy to find.

                I really appreciate these reports tho floral park is a LONG way from Brooklyn.

                1. re: jen kalb
                  missmasala RE: jen kalb Apr 1, 2009 06:52 AM

                  I want to get to Floral Park, but it is a long way from Brooklyn.

                  How do the places there compare to those in Jersey City (which I prefer for eating to JH)? I figure Floral Park is at least as far as JC from me.

                  1. re: missmasala
                    b
                    bruklinboy RE: missmasala Apr 7, 2009 12:28 PM

                    all I can say, is its worth the trip
                    we've been out there 2x in less than a month and planning on going again real soon

              3. Polecat RE: Polecat Apr 7, 2009 10:20 AM

                I promise that I'll only shamelessly bump up this thread another 30 or 40 times.

                Today I had the Chili and Cheese Uttapam, which is easily the most filling item I've eaten in 3 visits. It is a large pancake, somewhat thin but chock full of the above-mentioned ingredients, plus onions. It's actually quite the looker, served up browned and crispy in parts, with a spicy potato soup and chutney dip for dunking. The server gave me plastic utensils, but this baby is ripe for tearing and dipping. Quite good. The western, pizza-lover in me wanted more gooey cheese, but so be it. It went down well with a tall lime soda and some water.

                Next up: The Paneer Sichuan Sandwich (although I'm also curious to try the Chinese Pakoras).
                P.

                6 Replies
                1. re: Polecat
                  jen kalb RE: Polecat Apr 7, 2009 01:55 PM

                  you mean like fresh lime soda made with limes and soda water or something else? that appeals.

                  1. re: jen kalb
                    Polecat RE: jen kalb Apr 7, 2009 02:19 PM

                    No, not fresh. It comes in a bottle, imported from India. Never seen it anywhere else but here, but it's not made on the premises. As I posted above, these guys also sell a Kashmiri soda that has to be tasted to be believed. It's basically carbonated curry, in a bottle that looks like a red lava lamp. But I wouldn't traipse out from Brooklyn for the soda alone. The chow, yeah, but not the soda.
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                    1. re: jen kalb
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                      deam RE: jen kalb Apr 9, 2009 07:06 AM

                      I miss those sodas. You can make them at home though. Its just squeeze lime with club soda. Add salt or sugar depending on your preference.

                      1. re: deam
                        jen kalb RE: deam Apr 9, 2009 12:36 PM

                        yeah its easy - i just was attracted by the idea that an indian restaurant was offering them since they are so ubiquitous and refreshing there. - the whole ritual with limes, simple syrup and the botle of soda water.

                    2. re: Polecat
                      bigjeff RE: Polecat Apr 9, 2009 09:05 AM

                      is that like the cream of wheat thing, but griddled?

                      1. re: bigjeff
                        Polecat RE: bigjeff Apr 9, 2009 09:47 AM

                        Nah, no cream of wheat. As for basic ingredients, check out this Wikipedia link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uttapam

                        The pancake pictured, however, doesn't really resemble what I had at MXprss; their version is much more browned and crispy. I'm guessing that there's differing styles and approaches. The Uttapam I had wasn't altogether unlike a Korean pajun, only it was less thick and greasy than those I've eaten in NYC.
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                    3. j
                      JFores RE: Polecat Jun 18, 2009 01:00 PM

                      Wow this place is amazing. I went literally straight from the airport to Mumbai Xpress as I've been meaning to try it for a very long time now (first time back in NY in over 7 months, I think.)

                      They don't have quite as many Gujarati items as I would've liked (kichdi kadhi was MADE for today. I believe they've got it on weekends, but today's obviously not a weekend. Terrible rain today.) Nonetheless the place is incredible and the staff are so nice. The Mumbai sandwich, Sichuan paneer sandwich, and tokri chaat were all incredible. The tokri chat in particular was amazing and though the price was a bit high it's still less than what they'd charge in Wembley (think pound dollar.)

                      Going back tomorrow!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: JFores
                        bigjeff RE: JFores Jun 18, 2009 02:05 PM

                        just looked up 'tokri chaat' . . . wow!

                        http://nikhilpant.multiply.com/video/...

                        that looks like a good time; the buildup is insane.

                      2. m
                        mr8989 RE: Polecat Jul 10, 2009 12:24 PM

                        so after reading about this restaurant I went out there for lunch a couple of times...the food is so hot and spicy it overwhelms the taste and flavor...the only items you can taste is the hot spices...what gives?

                        i cannot understand the rave about this place...

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: mr8989
                          j
                          JFores RE: mr8989 May 12, 2010 02:00 PM

                          Sorry to revive an old post, but really? I thought all of their stuff was extremely mild. I've never found anything even remotely hot here, tbh.

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